Marking Column Headers and Row Headers in Excel with NVDA

Graphic of NVDA speech bubble displaying from a laptop screen with an Excel spreadsheet on it

by Daniel Dunne

Many of us like to create simple household budget sheets to keep track of the pennies and pounds as they inevitably pass out of the home to cover the expenses for services, we deem essential or even discretionary. Microsoft’s Excel program is quite a popular tool that is favoured by many people to complete this task. Now, above I may have alluded that this is ‘simple,’ but it often is not, particularly to those who only have a fleeting interest in Excel, yours truly is no different.

For Excel users who rely on NVDA, the challenge of creating an Excel sheet for this purpose is often even more onerous. You set off to create a month-by-month breakdown of what your hard-earned cash is being spent on. Already you’re up to thirteen different columns, perhaps fourteen if you want to have a column that summarises the yearly expenditure on various services and goods.

So, straight away we’re tracking fourteen columns. Now let’s shift focus to the rows where we will list all the regular items or bills we get each month. Mortgage/Rent, Electricity, Heating, Grocery, Healthcare, and so forth! Very quickly we could have anything from ten to twenty rows to remember. Multiply the previous fourteen columns by say ten rows – we’re covering a decent range of cells now – 140!!!

Fortunately, there is a little trick that NVDA users can employ to track where they are in the range of cells. Say you want to quickly know if you are in the grocery for August cell instead of just “Cell I 5” then these simple keystrokes will help you…

First go back to your column headers, in this case, the months you have typed in cell B1, C1, D1, and all the way across to N1. On each column header hold down the NVDA key (Insert or Caps Lock) with shift and press C. Do this on each column header across the top of your spreadsheet.

Now go to the row headers, in this case, the mortgage/rent, the Electricity, the grocery, etc…

you have typed in cells A2, A3, A4, etc… down the left-hand side, and on each row, header hold down the NVDA key with the shift key and press R.

Now use your arrow keys to move out across the spreadsheets. As you arrow right or left, you should hear NVDA announce the cell data, followed by the month followed by the cell address. For example, €220, August, i5. As you arrow up or down NVDA should announce the category, for example, €1,150, Rent, b5. In these examples, i5 and b5 are the cell addresses, but before them, the month or the category is announced!

Try it out and I hope it adds to your Excel experience with NVDA. Please note that this may not work with Excel versions before 2016.

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