Change Font in Excel Column Headers

Do you ever wish that the letters in the Excel column headers were bigger? Did someone send you an Excel file, with a different font in the headers, and you can't figure out how they did it?

Here's how you can change the settings in a workbook, so the column and row headers look different.

[Note: If you're trying to fix column headers that appear as numbers, click here: Column Headings Show Numbers]

The Default Settings

When you create a new file in Excel, the row and column headers are displayed in your workbook Normal Style's font. The Normal Style's font is also used in the worksheet cells, unless you select a different format in some or all of the cells.

In my workbooks, the default font is Arial Narrow 11. In the screen shot below, you can see that the column and row headers are in that font, and so is the data in cells A1 and B1.


Change the Normal Style Settings

If you find the default font size too small, or if you'd prefer a different type of font, you can change the Normal Style settings.

To change the Normal font in Excel 2010:
  1. On the Excel Ribbon, click the Home tab
  2. In the Styles group, click Cell Styles, to open the Cell Styles palette.
  3. Right-click on the Normal style, and click Modify
    • headerfont02
  4. Click the Format button, and select the font and font size you want for the Normal style.
    • headerfont03
  5. Click OK, twice, to close the dialog boxes.

Crazy Column Headers

It's too late for this year, but you could use this technique to fool your colleagues on April 1st next year. You know that guy who thinks he knows everything about Excel? See if he can figure this out.

Change the Normal font to a graphic font, such as Wingdings, and the row and column headers will turn into pictures, like the happy/sad faces shown below. Then, send the file to your co-worker, and ask him to check the numbers in the Sad Face column. Ha!

Remember to format the cells in a non-graphic font, such as Arial, after you change the Normal style, so the data is readable.


You'll find more Excel tips and solutions in the Excel Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of the Contextures website.


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18 Responses

  1. Elise says:

    “Check the numbers in the Sad Face column.” Haha awesome.

  2. Anne Troy says:

    Beautiful. :)

  3. Cyril Z. says:

    Love this tip. (works also in XL2007)

    Now I’ll put all my synthetic data in col J,K,L depending on how happy/neutral/sad they are.

  4. PB Rayudu says:

    Like this tip.

  5. Rotimi Daniel says:

    Useful tip

  6. Tony Fitzsimmons says:

    Just what I was searching for, Thanks

  7. Tracy W says:

    How can I vertically align the numbers in my row header (0 – 1,048,576)? My column header (A – XFD) is already horizontally centered. When I increase the row height of my rows, the row header number remains on the bottom of row. How do I get this number to be centered in the row header?

  8. Teimour says:

    Thank you! Lovely tip.

  9. Arjen Leine says:

    Very helpfull, thanks!

  10. Phuong says:

    My column header are very big. How do i re-size it to make it look normal

  11. Sarah says:

    Worked perfectly! And I’m totally going to use the wingdings headers on my next spreadsheet. Gains=happy face Losses=sad face Past Dues=bomb Matured Loans=skull and crossbones LOL!

  12. Annette says:

    Hi Does anyone know how to change the colour of the row number cell itself when you are somewhere in that row. As it is I find it difficult when I am in a column on the other side of the screen to see what row I am actually in.



  13. Noga says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!
    But when I do this change it only applies to the one document I’m in, how do I change the default settings?

  14. Abrek says:

    Many thanks.

  15. 7days says:

    Good simple to follow. Thanks.

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