A Quick Way to Name Ranges and use Named Ranges in Formulas

In this 6 minute video I show you how to quickly name cell ranges with a powerful keyboard shortcut, and also show you how to use three math functions – SUMIF(), COUNTIF() and AVERAGEIF(). These are good building blocks that you’ll use in spreadsheet calculations and building spreadsheet models – I covered their friends SUM(), COUNT() and AVERAGEIF() in an earlier post that you can read by clicking here.

If you have any trouble watching the Youtube video embedded above, you can view the video on YouTube by clicking here.

Video Highlights

0:58 – Named range tricks (Ctrl + F3 to bring up name manager, Ctrl + Shift + F3 to create named range from selection)
1:52 – Create unique list of names (using Excel’s Remove duplicates feature, available in Excel 2007+)
2:30 – Set up data validation drop down list, sourced from a defined named range
3:35 – SUMIF() formula (total lifetime sales)
4:21 – COUNTIF() formula (number of months with sales)
5:04 – AVERAGEIF() formulas (average monthly sales)
5:49 – Using drop down list to select new sales person, formulas automatically recalculate

Named ranges explained

Named ranges are important to understand and use because they make it easier to read formulas. Which would you prefer to read?

= SUMIF ( sales_person, criteria_1, sales )


= SUMIF ( $A$15:$A$170, $B$3, $D$15:$D$170 )

In the first formula, “sales_person”, “criteria_1” and “sales” are named ranges that point to cells on the worksheet. The nice thing about named ranges is that you can customize them and call them something that’s memorable and easy to read. You can’t use spaces in named ranges so I used an underscore when creating the named range “sales_person” – Excel doesn’t accept “sales person” as a named range.

Named ranges make it easier to read formulas.

You need to watch out though, because when you define a static named range like I did in the video you might forget to expand the range when there’s new data. There are ways to make dynamic named ranges that expand and contract when you have new data, but I’ll probably cover these in future posts. So when you see a named range it’s a good idea to check that it points to the correct cells and includes all the data that should be included.

I know that some people prefer hard cell references (like $A$15:$A$170) because they can see exactly where the cells are. With named ranges you need to use the Name Manager to figure this out.

Named range keyboard shortcuts

You can bring up the Name Manager in Excel by pressing Ctrl + F3. This lists the names used in your current workbook, and you can also define new names, edit existing names or delete names from the Name Manager.

The named range trick I introduced in the video is very handy if you want to define several named ranges using data that’s arranged in neat tables. Excel creates named ranges from your selection and uses your data headings as the new names – follow these steps:

  • make sure your data has headings (top row, left column, bottom row or right column) as these will turn into the names of your named ranges
  • select the data including headings
  • press Ctrl + Shift + F3
  • in the dialog box select where your headings are (top row, left column, bottom row or right column)
  • click OK
Dialog box from pressing Ctrl + Shift + F3

Pressing Ctrl + Shift + F3 brings up the "Create Names from Selection" dialog box

When you’ve done this it’s good practice to check your named ranges were correctly defined – use the Name Manager by pressing Ctrl + F3 to check.

Name Manager (press Ctrl + F3)

Bring up the Name Manager by pressing Ctrl + F3 to check that your named ranges were correctly defined

Mind Map: Excel Formula Basics (Sumif, Countif, Averageif)

Here is a mind map that summarizes the formulas used in the video – for a full size version that will open in a new browser window click on the picture below.

Mind Map - SumIF CountIF AverageIF

Click on this Mind Map for larger higher-res version

Learn more Excel Formulas – fast!

I based this video on material found in the Excel Formula 1 e-book, and if you are interested in picking up a copy of this e-book click on this link.

Bear in mind that I will get a commission from Chandoo.org if you purchase a copy of the Formula-1 e-book but the only reason I’m promoting it is that I think it can offer good value to Excel users who are just starting out and want a fast introduction to common Excel formulas.

The author Chandoo is a well-known Excel expert who was awarded Most Valued Professional (MVP) status by Microsoft for the help he has provided to the Excel community online, and he has written the e-book in a friendly informal style that makes it accessible if you don’t want to wade through more technical explanations.

Excel Formula-1 e-book

To find out more about the Excel Formula-1 e-book from Chandoo, click on the picture

Victor Chan
Hi I'm Victor. I started Launch Excel to help you use Excel and VBA faster. Thousands of people have learned new skills and increased their effectiveness at work with our help. You can do it too! Also I've personally used Excel lots since 2002. I use it mainly in accounting and finance but I also have a Masters degree in Engineering from Cambridge University. I hope you enjoy the site and tutorials!
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Showing 9 comments
  • Reply

    I like it when folks come together and share thoughts.
    Great website, continue the good work!

  • Franchesca

    Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    • Victor

      Thanks for commenting Franchesca!

  • teamyee.tv

    My partner and I stumbled over here by a different web address and thought I might as well
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  • Jennifer

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day.
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  • Olivia Nguyen

    Any chance can you let me know if you can advise how to deal with multiple sheets that have the same named columns. The sum columns are different however the criteria is the same. I have 6 or so sheets that present data with similar criteria. I want the results to appear on specific sheets. Thank you.

    • Victor Chan

      Hi Olivia – thanks for your message. I emailed you separately to see if I can help sort out your request.

      – Victor

  • Hans Kalders

    Nice work Vic – like the website

    • Victor Chan

      Thanks Hans. Do let me know if there’s a special topic you want me to cover in future articles and videos.

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