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The A to Z of Excel Functions: the COLUMN Function

14 August 2017

Welcome back to our regular A to Z of Excel Functions blog.  Today we look at the COLUMN function. 

The COLUMN function

Ah, it’s time for my Lord of the Rings impersonation.  What do I mean?  “COLUMN” (try saying it out loud if you don’t understand – this joke is precious).  This function returns the column number of the given cell reference.  For example, the formula =COLUMN(D10) returns the value 4, because column D represents the fourth column.

The COLUMN function employs the following syntax to operate:

COLUMN([reference])

The COLUMN function has the following arguments:

  • reference: believe it or not, this is optional and represents the cell or range of cells for which you want to return the column numbe

    • if the reference argument is omitted or refers to a range of cells, and if the COLUMN function is entered as a horizontal array formula, the COLUMN function returns the column numbers of reference as an horizontal array
    • to enter a formula as an array formula: starting with the formula cell, select the range that you want to contain the array formula.  Press the F2 function key and then press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER.

      • N.B. in Excel Online you cannot create array formulae

    • if the reference argument is a range of cells, and if the COLUMN function is not entered as a horizontal array formula, the COLUMN function returns the number of the leftmost column
    • If the reference argument is omitted, it is assumed to be the reference of the cell in which the COLUMN function appears
    • The reference argument cannot refer to multiple areas.

 Please see my example below: 

We’ll continue our A to Z of Excel Functions soon.  Keep checking back – there’s a new blog post every other business day.

A full page of the function articles that have already been published can be found here.

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