Row vs Column in Excel – What’s the Difference?

Many people beginning to work with Excel wonder what the difference is between Excel rows and columns.

This tutorial will highlight the differences between Excel rows and columns.

Difference #1: Arrangement of Rows and Columns in the Worksheet

The most apparent difference between rows and columns in Excel is their arrangement.

The Excel worksheet is made up of boxes called cells. 

The cells that are arranged horizontally across the worksheet constitute rows.

Row arrangement in Excel

The cells that are arranged vertically down the worksheet constitute columns.

Column arrangement in Excel

Difference #2: Number of Rows vs. Number of Columns

The total number of rows in an Excel worksheet is 1,048,576, and the total number of columns is 16,384. 

Difference #3: Labeling of Headers of Rows and Columns is Different

By default, the row header labels are numeric, and the column header labels are alphabetic. 

Labelling of rows and columns

The rows range from 1 to 1,048,576, and the columns range from A to XFD.

Note: The column labels become numeric if the R1C1 reference style is selected in the Excel Options dialog box.

R1c1 reference style

Once you check the R1C1 reference style option, you will notice that the row and column labels are both numbers.

Difference #4: Default and Maximum Size of Rows and Columns

The default row height is 20 pixels, and the default column width is 64 pixels.

The maximum row height can be 546 pixels, and the maximum column width can be 1789 pixels.

Difference #5: Selection of Entire Row or Column

To select an entire row at once, click the row header or select any cell in the row and press Shift + Spacebar.

To select an entire column at once, click the column header or select any cell in the column and press Ctrl + Spacebar.

Difference #6: Keyboard Shortcuts for Freezing

To freeze a row, select a cell below the row you want to freeze and press Alt + W + F + R (Press and release each key in turn).

To freeze a column, select any cell to the right of the column you want to freeze and press Alt + W + F + C (Press and release each key in turn).

Difference #7: To AutoFit Content and Increase Row Height and Column Width

To autofit is to automatically fit the most expansive entry in a row or a column. 

Double-click the bottom border of the row header to autofit content in a row. 

Double-click the bottom border of the row header

Double-click the right border of the column header to autofit content in a column.

Double-click the right border of the column header

Note: Sometimes, we may want to increase the row height or the column width. To increase the row height, left-click the bottom border of the row header, hold down the left mouse button and drag down to the desired size. To increase the column width, left-click the right edge of the column header, hold down the left mouse button and drag to the right to the desired width. 

Difference #8: Application of Filters

We apply filters to data to narrow down the data so we can focus on the data we want to see.

When we use a filter for a dataset, the filter is only applied to the columns and not the rows.

Let’s apply a filter to the following dataset:

dataset
  • We select any cell in the dataset, click the Data tab and select Filter in the Sort & Filter group.
click the filters option

The filter is applied to the columns and not to the rows. 

filter applied to all column headers

Note: If you want to narrow down your data row-wise, you can use the TRANSPOSE function to convert the horizontal range to a vertical range, apply the filter, pull out the data you want and then convert the range back to a horizontal range.

Difference #9: Lookup Functions

To lookup data in columns, we use the VLOOKUP (vertical lookup) function, and to lookup data in rows, we use the HLOOKUP (horizontal lookup) function.

The VLOOKUP function looks for a value in the leftmost column of a table and then returns a value in the same row from the column you specify. 

The HLOOKUP function looks for a value in the top row of a table and returns the value in the same column from a row you specify. 

Difference #10: Application of the Flash Fill Feature

The Flash Fill feature fills in data automatically once it detects a pattern in the data.

However, the Flash Fill feature can only work on data in columns, not rows. 

Difference #11: Sorting

We sort data to find the values we are looking for quickly. The default sort orientation in Excel is from top to bottom or by columns.

This sort rearranges the rows, but the columns remain as is. 

When you click the Sort button on the Data tab, the Sort dialog box appears, presenting you with the default option of sorting by columns.

Sort by columns

If you want to sort by rows, click the Options button on the Sort dialog box and select the Sort left to right option on the Sort Options dialog box that appears.

Setting sorting left to right

Summary of the Differences Between Excel Rows and Columns

We summarize the differences between Excel rows and Excel columns in the following table.

Excel RowsExcel Columns
Are constituted by cells arranged horizontally across the worksheet.They are constituted by cells arranged vertically down the worksheet.
The total number is 1,048,576.The total number is 16,384.
Row headers are labeled numerically from 1 to 1,048,576.The column headers are labeled alphabetically from A to XFD.
The default row height is 20 pixels.The default column width is 64 pixels.
The maximum row height is 546 pixels.The maximum column width is 1789 pixels.
To select an entire row, click the row header or select a cell in the row and press Shift + Spacebar.To select an entire column, click the column header or select a cell in the column and press Ctrl + Spacebar.
To freeze a row, select a cell below the row and press Alt + W + F + R (Press and release each key in turn).To freeze a column, select any cell to the right of the column and press Alt + W + F + R (Press and release each key in turn).
To autofit content, double-click the bottom border of the row header. To autofit content, double-click the right border of the column header.
To increase the row height, drag down the bottom border of the row header.To increase the column width, drag the right border of the column header to the right.
Filters cannot be applied to rows.Filters can only be applied to columns.
Use the HLOOKUP function to look up data in rows.Use the VLOOKUP function to look up data in columns.
The Flash Fill feature cannot work on data in rows.The Flash Fill feature only works on data in columns.
Sorting by rows can be done but is rare.Sorting by columns is the default option. 

This tutorial presented the differences between Excel rows and columns. We hope you found the presentation helpful.

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