Split Views for Documents/Spreadsheets

Split View CursorMany software programs allow you to split the screen to give you two different views into the same document or spreadsheet — Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, and TextPad 5, to name three. For this demonstration, I will be using Microsoft Excel.

The first thing to look for, to see if your program offers this feature is a tiny spacer next to the scrollbar. There may be one above the vertical scrollbar.
Vertical Scroll Bar
There may be one to the right or left of the horizontal scrollbar. (In Excel, it is on the right. In TextPad, it is on the left.)
Horizontal Scroll Bar
Or both. (Note: in Microsoft Excel, there is also a spacer to the left of the horizontal scrollbar, but that one merely adjusts the size of the scrollbar.)

To take advantage of the split view feature, simply click-and-drag that spacer towards the middle of the window. This will divide the window in half, giving each half its own scrollbar.
Split View
Now, you can scroll the data within each part of the window independently. This is particularly handy when there is a need to compare two different parts of the spreadsheet/document, which are not near each other.

Speed Tip: Whenever you are done with a split view, just double-click on the divider line between the two views. This will usually make one of the views go away. It is the equivalent of dragging the divider bar back to its original “parking place.”

Keeping Headers Visible: Another common use for split views is to keep the column labels, and/or row labels, visible in one part of the split view while the data is manipulated in the other part of the split view.

Split View
Frozen Panes in Excel: If you happen to be using Microsoft Excel, there is actually a better technique to use when the goal is to keep the first couple of rows and/or the first couple of columns visible while the rest of the worksheet is scrolled through. There is a command under the Window menu called “Freeze Panes.” This has the same effect as using the split scrollbars, as described above, but with the following differences:

  • As the name implies, the “header” panes are fixed, which means that those regions won’t accidentally be scrolled when the intent is to scroll a different pane. In fact, frozen panes do not have any scrollbars (unlike the split view panes above).
  • The division between panes as a cleaner, more efficient appearance. For one thing, the divider appears exactly between cells. For another, the divider is only as thick as it needs to be.
  • Using Ctrl+Home with split views sends the cursor to cell A1, but using Ctrl+Home when there are frozen panes means that the cursor will be sent to the upper-leftmost scrollable cell (the first non-frozen cell).

To use Freeze Panes, place the cursor in the upper-leftmost cell that is to be allowed to scroll and then pull down the Window menu and select Freeze Panes.

Excel Freeze Panes 1

All of the rows above the highlighted cell, plus all of the columns to the left of the highlighted cell, will now be frozen in place.

Excel Freeze Panes 2

For example, if the cursor is in cell B2 when Frozen Panes is invoked, then the entire A column becomes fixed on the screen, along with the entire row 1. To freeze only header row(s), without freezing any columns, either place the cursor in the A column (e.g. A4), or else highlight the entire row (by clicking on the row number), before invoking Window | Freeze Panes. To freeze only header column(s), without freezing any rows, either place the cursor in the 1 row (e.g. B1), or else highlight the entire column (by clicking on the column letter), before invoking Window | Freeze Panes.

After invoking Window | Freeze Panes, the menu option changes to “Unfreeze Panes,” so that selecting it again causes those rows/columns to be scrollable again. Each worksheet within a workbook has its own settings for frozen panes.

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  1. Just a note for Mac users – in Excel, you need to activate the split in the Window pull-down menu. Then the split bar will be shown above the scroller.

  2. Amy – That’s true for Windows users, too.

    Thanks Craig!

  3. Interesting tip. I think I will need this sometime.

  4. i didn’t know that trick before, it’s really cool.

  5. The same trick works for OpenOffice.org too…

  6. I like the “Freeze Pane” command. I saw ppl used it, but now I know how to do it by myself.

  7. Is there anyway to view 2 tabs at once? The above tip only splits one tab.

  8. Excel 2007 does not have those spacers above the scroll bar. Smilar to Mac version, but you need to click the new “View” menu tab and click on Split button. By default it will automatically split at the first row.

  9. The one thing missing from Excel though is the ability to look at 2 different tabs/sheets of a workbook. You can look at two different workbooks, or different areas of the same worksheet, but not different tabs/sheets.

    One way around this is to move the sheet to a new book, then use the split window or “compare side by side” and then move it back to your workbook at the end. Just don’t forget and save your workbook without it. :-)

  10. Thank you so much for making my life easier! Great article!

  11. I use excel to organize my workflow all the time. I love to freeze the header row but never needed to freeze the 1st column at the same time…until now. Should have known it was so simple – thanks to your instructions – I hate reading through the help text so google brought me straight to this page yeahhh!

  12. You can view multiple tabs from the same spreadsheet by going to Window – New Window. This will create another view into whatever sheet you had active. Then in the same Window drop down go to Arrange Windows. Choose Tiled, Vertical or Horizontal and click on Windows of active workbook. You will then see two view into the same workbook with tabs showing at the bottom. Simply click in the new window and change which tab you are using. The other window will stay where it is. Each new window is numbered sequencially but changes in one change all the others. It is simply an additional look at the same info.

  13. Michael just published the most useful piece of dual monitor knowledge in the world: How to view multiple tabs of a single excel spreadsheet simultaneously. Thank you Michael. Your instructions are great, and they work in both Excel 03 and Excel 07.

  14. Is there a way of splitting panes in multiple tabs at the same time. I use a file that has many tabs and I would like to set up the same view for each one at the same time.

    Many thanks

  15. Holy crap – I have, no joke, wanted the ability to simultaneously view multiple tabs in one sheet for … years … and I’ve looked for it and asked around. There it was in plain sight. Amazing.

    Michael – thanks!

  16. omg…i can’t believe it’s that simple. this has driven me crazy for years. i just googled the “excel multiple tab view” question and there was michael’s answer. thanks.

  17. Awesome on the multi tab side-by-side view info! Life was just made easier!!!! Thanks Michael-you rock!

  18. Hi,

    I need to view data from two sources which are present in the same excel workbook but different sheets.
    Now i need to view the two worksheets data in a third worksheet, which is splitted into two.
    The first split should show me data on first sheet & second split should show data from second sheet.

    Thanking You

  19. Does anyone know of a way to Freeze Pane / Split Window or a combination of both so that I can freeze a column and a row at the same time?

    I have a huge spreadsheet with many columns and many rows that I’d like to be able to scroll though.


  20. This really did help me.
    #Thanks You Guys :)

  21. how work in excel and word at the same time on the same screen?

    Many thanks

  22. Many thanks.

  23. Thanks for all these tips. Here I am, months later, benefiting from all the knowledge you’ve shared. Thanks so much, all of you, for your generosity!

  24. How to change split line color with the stronger color? I have problem with grey.

  25. @Sugiantoro The gray line is part of windows itself. The way to change that is to switch the windows theme to something that gives you more contrast.

    Here’s a link:


    You can also select a theme that will change the colors. The themes include some that are called “High Contrast” and are helpful for people with visual impairment.

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