How to Freeze Rows and Columns in Excel

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Written By Chris

Just a simple "data guy". Changing the world one formula at a time.

Freezing rows, columns, and panes in Excel is a valuable feature that can significantly improve your spreadsheet navigation experience. By using the ‘View’ tab and the ‘Freeze Panes’ drop-down menu, you can quickly lock specific rows and columns in place while you scroll through the rest of your worksheet. 

This is particularly helpful when dealing with extensive datasets where important headings may disappear off-screen as you scroll down or sideways.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of freezing and unfreezing rows, columns, and even multiple panes simultaneously in Excel. Learning these techniques lets you keep crucial information in view and work more efficiently with your spreadsheet data. 

So, let’s jump in and expand your Excel skillset while making your spreadsheet tasks more manageable and organized.

How to Freeze Panes in Excel

Freezing panes in Excel allows you to lock specific rows and columns so they stay visible as you scroll through your worksheet. This is particularly useful when working with cumbersome datasets, as it helps maintain context and makes data analysis more manageable. 

To freeze panes in Excel, or even just a column or row, you’ll need to access the View tab on your Excel ribbon. But to select a pane, a combination of rows and columns, select the appropriate cell in your sheet. 

Your pane is defined as any column to the left of your selected cell and any row above. For instance, if I chose cell D5, rows one through four and columns A through C would be locked in place.

Freeze Panes Drop-down in View Tab
  1. Open your Excel workbook and navigate to the View tab on the ribbon.
  2. Locate the Freeze Panes button and click on it to see the available options (Freeze Panes, Freeze Top Row, and Freeze First Column).
  3. Choose the appropriate freezing option based on your needs. In this case, choose “Freeze Panes,” and our selection of cell D5 has set the parameters.
freezing panes with pane lines

Now, as you scroll through your worksheet, the selected rows or columns will remain visible, allowing for easier data referencing and navigation. 

Freezing Specific Columns

If the columns of your Excel file are the culprit of your frustration, you can freeze those instantly! 

Freezing the first column will keep it static while scrolling horizontally through your spreadsheet. This is particularly beneficial when the leftmost column contains crucial identifiers or labels for your data. To freeze the first column, follow these simple steps:

  1. Navigate to the ‘View’ tab.
  2. Click on the ‘Freeze Panes’ drop-down.
  3. Choose the ‘Freeze First Column’ option from the menu.
freeze first column in excel

Now, you have successfully frozen the first column! The locked column will move with you for easier reference as you scroll left and right through your data. But what if you need to freeze more than one column?

Or a column that is a little further along in your dataset? No problem!

Freezing First Two Columns

Freezing the first two columns in Excel can be quickly done with a minor tweak to the last step. Here’s how you can freeze the first two columns of your data:

  1. Click on the third column (Column C) header to select the entire column.
  2. In the Excel Ribbon, navigate to the View tab, then click on Freeze Panes drop-down, and choose Freeze Panes from the list.
freeze first two columns in excel

Now, your first two columns are frozen and will remain in view as you scroll through the rest of the worksheet.

If you wish to freeze specific columns rather than just grouping your column and everything to the left, you can find a workaround with the following steps:

  1. Select the column you want to freeze by clicking its column header. For example, if you want to freeze column T, click on the Column T header.
  2. Go to the View tab in the Excel Ribbon and click the Split button beside the Freeze Panes drop-down.
  3. If it’s easier to compare your data, place your cursor on the new split line and drag the view over.
  4. Column T will remain stationary as you scroll up and down or left and right in your sheet.
split page view for freezing random column

You might be thinking you could have just hidden your columns. But now you can view them all the time while keeping the data in your desired column present.

Freezing Rows in Excel

Freezing rows in Excel is as simple as freezing columns. It allows you to keep specific rows visible while scrolling through the rest of your worksheet. I use this feature all the time as it’s easy to lose sight of what each column value represents.

If you prefer using VBA to manage your spreadsheets, you can also write a macro to freeze rows in Excel. This gives you additional flexibility and control, especially if you’re working with complex worksheets or have specific requirements for your frozen rows.

But, when you decide to freeze rows in Excel, it’s essential to consider which rows you want to lock and how this will impact your ability to scroll and work with the data. In most cases, freezing only the top row or a few crucial rows will suffice, ensuring that essential information remains in view while still allowing you to interact with the rest of the worksheet effectively.

Freezing Top Row

Freezing the top row in Excel is a handy feature, especially when that row contains your column headers. Let’s walk through the process of freezing the top row in Excel.

  1. Navigate to the View tab and find the Freeze Panes drop-down. 
  2. Select “Freeze Top Row” from the menu, and Excel will automatically lock the first row in place.

That’s it! Now, as you scroll through your dataset, the top row will remain visible, helping you keep track of the information in each column. 

freeze top row in excel

Freezing Multiple Rows

Why stop at one row? Let me show you how to freeze multiple rows in Excel.

  1. Click on the cell in the first column immediately below the rows you want to freeze. For example, if you’re going to freeze the first two rows, click on cell A3.
  2. Go to the View tab in the toolbar at the top of the window.
  3. Find the Freeze Panes option in the View tab and click on it.
  4. Select Freeze Panes from the drop-down menu that appears.

Now you’ve successfully frozen multiple rows in your Excel sheet! And because you selected a cell in column A, no columns have been frozen in your sheet.

Shortcut Keys for Freezing Rows and Columns

It’s great to know that Excel not only allows you to freeze rows and columns through its user interface but also offers convenient keyboard shortcuts. Not that it took much time before but freezing sections of your data can be even faster!

Let’s explore a few of these to efficiently lock specific rows or columns in place.

  1. Freeze Top Row: To quickly freeze the top row in your worksheet, press ALT + W + F + R. This locks the first row, making it visible as you scroll through the rest of your data.
  2. Freeze First Column: If you want to freeze the first column instead, the keyboard shortcut is ALT + W + F + C. This will lock the leftmost column, keeping it in view as you explore other columns in your worksheet.
  3. Freeze Both Rows and Columns: To freeze both rows and columns simultaneously, click the cell immediately below and to the right of the rows and columns you want to freeze. For example, if you want to freeze Row 1 and Column A, select cell B2. Then, press ALT + W + F + F to lock the specified rows and columns in place.

You should know that freezing a row by itself and then freezing a column won’t keep them both locked at the same time. That’s why the last shortcut is so valuable.

Using these keyboard shortcuts, you can easily improve your Excel workflow by keeping relevant data visible as you navigate through your worksheet

How to Unfreeze Rows and Columns in Excel

Freezing sections of your data certainly has its advantages. But there comes a time when the fun must end, and you’ll want to unfreeze your locked ranges. So follow along as I guide you through the process of unfreezing rows and columns using the ribbon or mouse buttons.

  1. Within the “View” tab, find the “Freeze Panes” drop-down menu. Click on it to reveal the different options available.
  2. To unfreeze any previously frozen rows and/or columns, simply select the “Unfreeze Panes” option. This will remove the fixed position of any locked areas in your worksheet.
  3. If you tried your hand at the Split view feature, you’ll need to click the Split button again to disable it.
unfreeze rows in ribbon

Now, your Excel sheet should be free from any frozen rows or columns, making it easy to view and analyze your data. 

Shortcut to Unfreeze Panes

Just like freezing your rows and columns, Excel offers a simple shortcut to unfreeze any sections you’ve locked in. This will enable you to regain complete control over your data layout without any frozen rows or columns. In short (pun intended), you can press ALT + W + F + U.

  1. Press the Alt key on your keyboard, which will enable the keyboard shortcuts.
  2. While holding down the Alt key, press W followed by F. This brings up the Freeze Panes drop-down menu under the View tab.
  3. Release the Alt key, and now press the U key to activate the Unfreeze Panes option.

After completing these steps, your panes will be unfrozen, allowing you to scroll and navigate your worksheet freely. 

Why Can I Not Unfreeze Panes in Excel?

Sometimes, you might encounter difficulty when trying to unfreeze panes in Excel. There can be a few reasons for this problem.

One possibility is that the freeze panes option is greyed out, possibly due to a protected workbook. To resolve this issue, try unprotecting your workbook or turning off shared workbooks.

Another potential cause for this issue is that you might be using the Splitted view instead of the Freeze Panes feature. Remember, the split view is a separate tool altogether and has its own unique settings. 

Finally, it’s possible that you were in the middle of manipulating your data with a formula or something else that has prevented you from unfreezing your panes. If so, complete the changes you were attempting and then try again.

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