What is a range in Excel and how can you use it to master this tool?

21/03/2023 | Santander Universidades

The office automation tool Excel can come in handy for both everyday and workplace tasks; hence learning to use some of its features will open up many possibilities in the personal and professional sphere. So let’s see, can you answer the question “What is a range in Excel?” It is, in fact, one of the tool’s most commonly used functions.

Understanding what a range in Excel is and how to use them will help you to master the tool, as it greatly simplifies anything you intend to do within the program. Thus, understanding the concept as well as how to select one or more ranges in Excel, how to name, copy and paste them, and doing this simultaneously on several sheets, are all key questions when it comes to implementing this function smoothly and efficiently. 

What is a range in Excel exactly?

Before getting down to details, it's important to understand what a range in Excel is: a set of contiguous cells. So, if you're familiar with the program, you will have used this feature before, although you might not have known what it was called or the many possibilities it offers.

A range begins in the upper left cell of all the selected cells, then comes a colon and, finally, the lower right cell of the set is included. Bearing this in mind, if, for example, you group cells F6, G6, F7, G7, F8 and G8, the range will be identified as F6: G8.

What do Excel ranges do?

As well as being highly varied, the main, key functions you can control once you understand what a range in Excel is are all pretty much essential. In fact, with this feature, you can set up functions and formulas using the data contained within the range, use said data to create a new chart, standardise the format of the whole group, generate reports on the included data and create a new table, among other options. 


How is an Excel range used?

Now you can answer “What is a range in Excel?”, it's time to put that know-how to use. You can learn the basics or delve further into everything to master one of the tool's most important features to perfection. Below, you will find some guidance on how to deal with Excel ranges.

Selecting a range in Excel

To select a range of cells, click on the 'Name' box - top left corner of the table - and type the area you want to select. It will show as selected once you press Enter.

Using the Shift key and arrows on your keyboard, you can also select a range if you scroll through the cells. Lastly, the easiest way: click with the cursor on the top left cell of the group you want to select and drag it to the bottom right cell - you can also do the opposite. When the button is released, the entire range will be selected.

Selecting the same range on different Excel sheets 

In this case, the operation is also very simple. To select the same range in different Excel sheets, you only need to select it in one of them and then hold down the Ctrl key and click with the cursor on the rest of the sheets you want to set the same range on.

This function is called three-dimensional references and, if you want to select it in one sheet after another, you can also do so by pressing Shift and dragging the cursor over them.

Selecting multiple ranges in Excel

The most complex, although equally valid, option when selecting ranges in Excel, consists of selecting a range, simultaneously pressing Shift and F8 on your keyboard, and highlighting the rest of the ranges you want to include. Once you have finished, press both keys again to continue.

However, the easiest method to do so is similar to the previous one, using the 3D references, albeit on the same sheet. So here, hold down the Ctrl key whenever you want to select a group of cells following the second selection. When you're done, you will be able to apply the same format to all the ranges at once using a single command.

How to name ranges in Excel

If you are wondering whether it's possible to give a specific name to a set of cells for identification purposes, then the answer is yes. But how do you name ranges in Excel? Take note: select the grouping, go to the Formulas tab, click on Define name and name the range whatever you want in the control panel. Then, select Accept.

How to copy a range in Excel

Copying an Excel range is, perhaps, the easiest of all operations to perform, so even if your Excel skills are extremely basic, you probably already know how to do this.

Firstly, select the range, press the right mouse button and click Copy - or use the keyboard command Ctrl + C. Now you can paste the range wherever you like, either on this sheet or another one.

How to change the location of a range in Excel

To change the location of a range, the operation is exactly the same as in the previous case, with only a change in the command used: instead of Copy, select the option to Cut —or Ctrl + X, instead of Ctrl C. In this way, the data will no longer appear where it was and will move to the new location of your choosing.

How to paste a range in Excel

If you already have some experience with Excel, you probably think that pasting an Excel range is just as easy as the two previous operations. However, in this case, there are a large number of options. If you want to simply paste a range, press Ctrl + V or click the right mouse button and choose Paste.

But you will also find numerous options if you expand the paste options: paste data without formatting, without borders, keep the sizing of the original cells, and so on.

When it comes to functions and formulas, you have the option to move only the operation, or only the result. Likewise, you can also paste as a static image or do the same with the option to later modify, should you make changes to the data. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.


Why is it important to understand what a range is in Excel?

Understanding what a range in Excel is and the functionalities it offers opens up numerous possibilities when you're working with this tool. It can significantly increase efficiency of use, whether you're using it for work or personal purposes.

The thing is, mastering a tool such as Excel can enhance your employability and open many doors in the world of work. That's why acquiring skills such as these through continuous training is essential.

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