Decoding the Essentials: What Is the Name Box in Excel

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Excel spreadsheets contain a staggering amount of data – rows, columns, cells, formulas, and more. With so much information to keep track of, it’s easy to get lost in an Excel worksheet. That’s where the Name Box comes in. The Name Box is a simple but powerful feature that displays vital details about the currently selected cell or range of cells. Understanding what the Name Box is and how to use it can greatly improve your Excel skills.

What is the Purpose of the Name Box?

The Name Box serves three essential functions in Excel:

It Displays the Cell Reference: The main purpose of the Name Box is to show the cell reference or address of the currently selected cell. For example, if you click on cell C5, the Name Box will display “C5”. This provides an instant indication of which exact cell you have activated.

It Shows Defined Names: If a cell or range has been assigned a defined name (e.g. “SalesTotal”), the Name Box will display this name rather than the cell reference. Defined names can make formulas and references easier to understand.

It Allows Editing of Cell Contents: The Name Box doubles as a simple data-entry field. You can click inside the Name Box to edit the contents of the active cell. This is handy for quickly changing cell values without actually activating the cell.

Where is the Name Box Located?

The Name Box is found on the left side of the Formula Bar, above the worksheet area. It will always display details for the currently selected cell or range. The Formula Bar can be hidden by default in Excel. To display it, go to the View tab and check the Formula Bar checkbox.

How to Use the Name Box

Now that you understand the function of the Name Box, let’s look at some useful ways you can utilize this tool:

Jump to Specific Cells

Manually typing a cell reference into the Name Box and pressing Enter will instantly select that cell. For example, to go to cell Z99, click the Name Box, type “Z99”, and press Enter on your keyboard.

View and Edit Defined Names

If a range has a defined name, you can view and edit that name right inside the Name Box. Double-click the defined name to highlight it, make your changes, and press Enter to save.

Quickly Edit Cell Contents

To modify the value of the active cell, double-click the cell reference or name inside the Name Box. An insertion point will appear allowing you to enter the desired data. Press Enter when finished.

Display Row and Column Headings

Clicking on the column header or row header of a worksheet will show the column letter and row number in the Name Box. This provides a readout of the column and row you have activated.

See Absolute and Relative References

Formulas with absolute and relative cell references are displayed appropriately in the Name Box. For example, $A$1 shows an absolute reference, while A1 shows a relative reference.

Name Box Keyboard Shortcuts

For added efficiency, there are a couple of handy keyboard shortcuts to utilize the Name Box:

  • F5 – Pressing F5 will open the Name Box and highlight the current cell reference. Begin typing to jump to any cell.
  • Ctrl + F3 – Use this shortcut to fully display and hide the Name Box.

Some Useful Name Box Tips

  • Double-click the Name Box cell reference to make edits quickly.
  • Press F5 and begin typing a cell address to jump anywhere in the worksheet.
  • Defined names help make your formulas more intuitive and readable.
  • View absolute and relative cell references in the Name Box when building formulas.
  • Turn on the Formula Bar if the Name Box is not displayed by default.

Limitations of the Name Box

While very useful, the Name Box does have a few limitations to be aware of:

  • It only shows details for one cell at a time. Multi-cell selections will not be reflected.
  • You cannot navigate directly to a range address. Only single-cell references are supported.
  • It is primarily a viewing and editing tool. The Name Box does not actually affect calculations.
  • There is no built-in list of defined names. You must know the name and select the relevant cell.


The Name Box is one of those Excel features that is helpful to understand but easy to overlook. Now that you know what the Name Box is used for and how to take advantage of its capabilities, you can more efficiently navigate, view, and edit your worksheets. Referring to defined names rather than cryptic cell references will also improve the readability of your formulas. Unlock the potential of the Name Box to boost your overall Excel productivity.

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