How to freeze panes in Excel to lock rows and columns

The tutorial demonstrates quick ways to freeze panes in Excel. You will learn how to quickly lock header row or/and the first column. You will also see how to freeze several panes at a time to make Excel always show certain rows or/and columns when you scroll down or right. These tips work in all modern versions of Excel 2016, 2013, 2010 and 2007.

As you probably know, the recent versions of Excel 2016, 2013 and 2010 allow using more than a million rows and over 16,000 columns per sheet. Hardly anyone will ever use them to the limit, but if your worksheet contains tens or hundreds of rows, the column headers in the top row disappear when you are scrolling down to view lower entries. The good news is that you can easily fix that inconvenience by freezing panes in Excel.

In Microsoft Excel terms, to freeze panes means to always show certain rows and/or columns at the top of a spreadsheet when scrolling. Bellow you will find the detailed steps for Excel 2016, 2013, 2010 and lower versions.

How to freeze rows in Excel

Typically, you would want to lock the first row to see the column headers when you scroll down the sheet. But sometimes your spreadsheet may contain important information in a few top rows and you may want to freeze them all. Below you will find the steps for both scenarios.

How to freeze top row (header row) in Excel

To always show the header row, just go to the View tab, and click Freeze Panes > Freeze Top Row. Yep, it's that simple : )
Freezing the top row in Excel

Microsoft Excel gives you a visual clue to identify a frozen row by a bit thicker and darker border below it:
A darker border indicates that the row above it is frozen.

Tips:

  • If you are working with Excel tables rather than ranges, you do not really need to lock the first row, because the table header always stays fixed at the top, no matter how many rows down you scroll in a table.
  • If you are going to print out your table and want to repeat header rows on every page, you may find this tutorial helpful - How to print row and column headers of Excel.

How to lock multiple Excel rows

Do you want to freeze several rows in your spreadsheet? No problem, you can lock as many rows as you want, as long as you always start with the top row.

  1. Start by selecting the row below the last row you want to freeze.

    For example, if you wish to lock the top two rows, place the mouse cursor in cell A3 or select the entire row 3.

  2. Head over to the View tab and click Freeze Panes > Freeze Panes.
    Select the row below the last row you want to freeze and click Freeze Panes.

The result will be similar to what you see in the screenshot below - the top 2 rows in your Excel worksheet are frozen and will always show up.
A darker border indicates that top 2 rows are frozen.

Note. If some of the rows that you wish to lock are out of view when you apply freezing, they won't show up later, nor will you be able to scroll up to those rows. See how to avoid frozen hidden rows in Excel.

How to freeze columns in Excel

You lock columns in Excel in exactly the same way as you lock rows. And again, you can choose to freeze the first column only or multiple columns.

Lock the first column in a worksheet

Freezing the first column is as simple as clicking View > Freeze Panes > Freeze First Column.
Freeze the first column in Excel.

A little darker and thicker border to the right of column A means that the left-most column in the table is frozen.
A darker border means that the column to its left is frozen.

How to freeze multiple columns in Excel

If you want to lock more than one column in a sheet, proceed in this way:

  1. Select the column to the right of the last column you want to freeze. For example, if you want to freeze the first 3 columns (A - C), select the entire column D or cell D1.

    Just remember that frozen columns will always start from the left-most column (A), it's not possible to lock several columns somewhere in the middle of the sheet.

  2. And now, follow the already familiar path, i.e View tab > Freeze panes > and again Freeze panes.
    Freezing several columns in Excel
Note. Please make sure that all the columns you want to lock are visible at the moment of freezing. If some of the columns are out of view, you won't see them later. For more details, please see How to avoid hidden columns in Excel.

How to freeze multiple panes in Excel (rows and columns)

Do you wish to lock multiple rows and columns? No problem, you can do this as well, provided that you always start with the top row and first column.

To lock several rows and columns at a time, select a cell below the last row and to the right of the last column you want to freeze.

For example, to freeze the top row and first column , select cell B2, go to the View tab and click Freeze Panes under Freeze Panes:
Freezing the top row and first column in Excel.

In the same fashion, you can freeze as many Excel panes as you want. For instance, to lock the first 2 rows and 2 columns, you select cell C3; to fix 3 rows and 3 columns, select cell D4 etc. Naturally, the number of locked rows and columns does not necessarily have to be the same. For example, to freeze 2 rows and 3 columns, you select... guess which cell? Right, D3 : )

How to unfreeze panes in Excel

To unfreeze panes, just do the following: go to the View tab, Window group, and click Freeze panes > Unfreeze Panes.

Unfreeze panes in Excel

Excel Freeze Panes tips

As you have just seen, freezing panes in Excel is one of the easiest tasks to perform. However, as is often the case with Microsoft, there is much more beneath the hood. What follows below is a caveat, an artifact and a tip.

Caveat: Prevent hidden rows / columns when freezing Excel panes

When you are locking several rows or columns in a spreadsheet, you may inadvertently hide some of them, and as a result, you won't see those hidden panes later. To avoid this, make sure that all the rows and/or columns you want to lock are within eyesight at the moment of freezing.

For example, you wish to freeze the first three rows, but row 1 is currently out of view, as shown in the screenshot below. As the result, row 1 won't show up later and you won't be able to scroll up to it. Though, you would still be able to get to the cells in a hidden frozen row using the arrow keys.
To prevent hidden frozen rows, make sure all the rows you wish to lock are visible.

Artifact: Excel may freeze panes totally different from what you expected

Don't you believe me? Then try selecting cell A1, or the top visible row, or the leftmost visible column, click Freeze Panes and see what happens.

For example, if you select row 4 while the first 3 rows are out of view (not hidden, just above the scroll) and click Freeze Panes, what would you expect? Most obviously, rows 1 - 3 would get frozen? Nope! Microsoft Excel thinks differently and the screenshot below shows one of many possible outcomes:
Excel may freeze panes in a different way than you expected.

So, please remember, the panes you are going to lock, both rows and columns, should always be in sight.

Tip: How to camouflage the Freeze Panes line

If you are not particularly fond of the dark freeze panes line that Microsoft Excel draws underneath locked rows and to the right of locked columns, you can try disguising it with the help of shapes and a little creativity : )
The Freeze Panes line is camouflaged using Excel shapes.

If you think this is something that might work for you, please see the following article for step-by-step instructions - Dealing with Excel Freeze Panes Line.

And this is all for today, thank you for reading!

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