By Bill Evans

Range names in Excel 2013 are written with the upper-left cell address, a colon, and the lower-right cell address, as in the example A1:F3. Here A1:F3 means the range that begins in the upper-left corner with A1 and ends in the lower-right corner with F3.

When a range contains noncontiguous cells, the pieces are separated by commas, like this: B8:C14,D8:G14. The range name B8:C14,D8:G14 tells Excel to select the range from B8 through C14, plus the range from D8 through G14.

You might sometimes want to select a multi-cell range before you issue a command. For example, if you want to format all the text in a range a certain way, select that range and then issue the formatting command. Technically, a range can consist of a single cell; however, a range most commonly consists of multiple cells.

A range is usually contiguous, or all the cells are in a single rectangular block, but they don’t have to be. You can also select noncontiguous cells in a range by holding down the Ctrl key while you select additional cells.

You can select a range by using either the keyboard or the mouse. This table provides some of the most common range selection shortcuts.

Range Selection Shortcuts
Press This . . . To Extend the Selection To . . .
Ctrl+Shift+arrow key The last nonblank cell in the same column or row as the active
cell; or if the next cell is blank, to the next nonblank cell
Ctrl+Shift+End The last used cell on the worksheet (lower-right corner of the
range containing data)
Ctrl+Shift+Home The beginning of the worksheet (cell A1)
Ctrl+Shift+Page Down The current and next sheet in the workbook
Ctrl+Shift+Page Up The current and previous sheet in the workbook
Ctrl+spacebar The entire column where the active cell is located
Shift+spacebar The entire row where the active cell is located
Ctrl+A The entire worksheet

Here is an exercise which will help you learn to practice selecting ranges.

  1. On any blank worksheet, click cell B2 to move the cell cursor there.

  2. While holding down the Shift key, press the right-arrow key twice and the down-arrow key twice, extending the selection to the range B2:D4. (See the figure.)

    The row and column headers turn bold when cells within them are selected.


  3. Hold down the Ctrl key and click cell E2 to add only that cell to the selected range.

  4. While still holding down the Ctrl key, hold down the left mouse button and drag from cell E2 to cell E8 so that the range is B2:D4,E2:E8, as shown.

    Notice that the active cell is E2. Its name appears in the Name box, and the selection box appears around the cell in the figure. That’s because cell E2 is the cell you most recently clicked — the starting point of the most recent addition to the range.

    This points out the difference between the active cell and a multi-cell range. When you type text, it goes into the active cell only. When you apply formatting or some other command, it applies to all the cells in the selected range.


  5. Hold down the Ctrl key and click row 10’s row header (the number 10 at the left edge of the row) to add that entire row to the selected range.

  6. Hold down the Ctrl key and click column G’s column header (the letter G at the top of the column) to add that entire column to the selected range.

    Your selection should look like this.


  7. Click any cell to cancel the range selection.

    Only that cell you clicked is selected.

  8. Click in cell C4 and then press Ctrl+spacebar to select the entire column and then click any cell to cancel the range selection.

  9. Click in cell C4 again and press Shift+spacebar to select the entire row.

  10. Click the Select All button (labeled in the figure) in the upper-left corner of the spreadsheet grid — where the row numbers and the column letters intersect — to select the entire worksheet, as shown.

    Instead of clicking the Select All button, you can press Ctrl+Shift+spacebar or Ctrl+A.


  11. Click any cell to cancel the range selection.