If you’re a fan of Excel names there are some great shortcuts that help you name cells in Excel.

“Ctrl F3” for naming a cell

If you select a cell in Excel you can assign a name to that cell by pressing “Ctrl F3” on your keyboard.

“F5” to go to a named cell/ range in Excel

Once you have created a named cell or range you can navigate to that area of your financial model very quickly. The video below shows you how. You can click in the name box (on the left next to the formula bar) or press “F5” on your keyboard.

“Ctrl F3” to open the name manager

“Ctrl F3” is a handy keyboard shortcut for bringing up the Excel name manager. In the example below we press “Ctrl F3” and then delete out the existing names using the name manager:

From there we select cells A1:B3 and use:

  • “Ctrl shift F3” to name cells;
  • “F3” to create a formula using a name.

You can download the Excel template being used in the video here if you’d like to practise for yourself: Excel keyboard shortcuts for naming cells.

Some serious health warnings around names

Although you’re now well equipped with some great shortcuts for naming cells in Excel, in general we’d recommend that you use names very sparingly. Our recommendation would be to use just a few names perhaps for navigating to main areas of your model (and certainly not as part of a formula). Here are some reasons why, in general, you might want to stay away from names:

  • As you start to create more names you have to get more creative with them. Beyond about ten there’s a risk that your (very creative) names start to become confusing or meaningless to another user. A new user would find cell references easier to track than names.
  • Names can carry as you copy one tab (with names) into a new Excel spreadsheet. From there they end up acting like broken external links in your model.
  • If you use names inside formulas you will have inadvertently ‘locked’ on to the named reference (the equivalent of the “F4” $ sign absolute referencing Excel formula shortcut). As you fill across to the right the formula containing the name won’t adapt or update its references like you might expect.
  • Naming cells is a one way trip folks! If you later decide you’ve got too many names you will find that the only way to get rid of them is to bring up the name manager and delete the names. That action won’t replace the name with its original reference (you’d have to do that manually using edit replace). Removing names by deleting them will create #NAME? errors throughout your model.

Some conclusions on Excel names

Although Excel shortcuts are the best, not all of Excel’s features are thoroughly brilliant. We’d recommend that you become very cautious when naming cells. Use names very sparingly (more than ten is probably too many) and resist the temptation to get too carried away with them. Don’t use Excel names inside formulas – just use them for navigating to a few main areas of your financial model.

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