How to use the header row

Right-click menu showing option to set header row

Older spreadsheets start as an empty grid with no apparent header row. For better or worse, you can enter your data wherever you would like, starting in row 12 and column D if the fancy strikes you. This flexibility allows spreadsheets to have extra information such as summary data, formulas, or headers anywhere in the grid.

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Video Tutorial

Video showing how to use the header row

However, the point at which this extra information ends and the “real” table begins can be a bit fuzzy. Many spreadsheets have headers in their first row and a table of data below. This layout is not always the case though.

We have gotten used to this and accepted it as the way to use spreadsheets. But, there is a different approach that allows you to structure your spreadsheet more precisely.

Defining a header row allows you to define a header row. Defining this row lets the spreadsheet know that any rows including and above the header row are the header region, and all rows below are the table records.

Table with a header row
Row 11 is the header row

The row that you choose should be the one that labels each column. It is probably evident to you which one it should be. But, it’s not known to your spreadsheet until you explicitly tell it.

When you decide where to place the header row, right-click where you want it, and choose Set row as table header.

Now, will treat the data below the header differently than the region above. Let’s discuss some of those differences.


Now that you have a header row, sorts and filters will not impact any data above it, collectively called the header region. Performing a sort or filter will only affect the table region. This separation is a time-saver. It allows you to jump right into sorting and filtering without worrying if the data range captures the correct columns and rows.

Header rows also facilitate switching between views in your spreadsheet. Other views, such as the Kanban view, need to know where your table records start.

When defining data types, now you can set the types for each column, covering all of the cells below. There is no need to select a range manually before setting a data type.

Row of header labels with names appended to column letters
Header labels sticking to the top

One of the less obvious features added is each column letter with the column name at the top of the table. Defining a header row is not the same as freezing a row. However, it will allow you to see the column labels regardless of how far away from them you have scrolled. The spreadsheet will always anchor them to the top of the screen.

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