Google Sheets spreadsheets have column headers labeled A, B, C, etc. by default. While you cannot physically change these default column letters, you can effectively rename them to be more descriptive for your use case. Here are some best practices for renaming column headers in Google Sheets.
Table of Contents
Why Rename Column Headers
The default A, B, C column headers may not be very meaningful, especially if your spreadsheet contains a lot of data. Giving your columns descriptive names can make your spreadsheet easier to understand and use.
Some examples where renamed headers would be helpful:
- A spreadsheet tracking student grades – Rename columns from A, B, C to Student Name, Assignment, Grade
- An inventory spreadsheet for a store – Rename A, B, C to Item Name, Unit Cost, Retail Price
- A spreadsheet tracking a sports team’s stats – Rename columns from A, B, C to Player, Points Scored, Rebounds
How to Rename Columns in Google Sheets
There are a couple ways to effectively rename column headers in Google Sheets:
1. Use Row 1 as a Header Row
The easiest method is to simply use Row 1 as a header row. Here’s how:
- Click on Row 1 to select the entire row
- Type in your new column names into cells A1, B1, C1 etc.
- Bold and/or increase font size of the text to differentiate the header row
- Freeze Row 1 if desired so it remains visible when scrolling down the sheet
When entering your custom column names, be descriptive and consistent:
- Use clear, simple headings like “First Name” instead of “FName”
- Keep header names consistent down the column
- Avoid adding things like dates that may change over time
2. Define Named Ranges
Another option is to define named ranges, which allows you to assign a custom name to refer to a column. Here are the steps:
- Click the column you want to rename
- Select Data > Named Ranges
- Click Add a Range
- Enter your desired column name
- Ensure range refers to the correct column
- Click Done
This will assign that custom name to the column, which you can then use in formulas.
For example, if you rename Column C to “Sales”, you could use:
To sum all values in that column.
Named ranges are helpful for creating dynamic formulas that refer to descriptive column names rather than just letters.
Tips for Effective Column Renaming
Follow these tips when renaming columns for maximum effectiveness:
- Be consistent – Don’t have one column called “Last Name” and another called “Surname”. Stick to the same terms.
- Use simple, clear names – “Customer Email” is better than just “Email”. Be as descriptive as possible.
- Don’t rename existing formulas – If you already have formulas referring to Column E, don’t rename that column without updating formulas.
- Avoid dates/years – Don’t name based on date or year, as those may change. Use generic names not tied to dates.
Being able to rename column headers in Google Sheets is important for spreadsheet readability and usability. By following best practices like using Row 1 as a header row or defining named ranges, you can effectively rename columns.
Consistently applied, well-structured column names make it much easier for both you and other users to understand what data a Google Sheet contains. Taking the time to thoughtfully rename columns is worth the effort for long-term spreadsheet maintenance.