Excel spreadsheet: cannot set announcement for column & row headers

Louis Maher

Hello Jeff,


Here is a screen-reader independent way to put row and column headers on spreadsheets. It will require that you can save an altered spreadsheet.



"Regardless of the screen reader being used, I strongly encourage the use of Excel's built-in column and row designation so that the burden is not on the

screen reader, nor any other screen reader user, to set this up if the workbook is handled by someone else.


What follows is an excellent tutorial, with background information, written by Alan Lemly on the Microsoft Office Accessibility Discussion Group regarding

how to do what I've just mentioned.


Reading Row and Column Headers Using Excel Defined Titles – A Tutorial

by Alan Lemly


Original text can be found at: 


As someone else posted, Freedom Scientific has a document explaining the use of row and column headers in Excel at this website:


While that site has an excellent explanation of the process, it has a major omission which prevents defined name titles from speaking when set up. As explained

at that site, users of Excel with JAWS have two different options if they'd like to create row and column headers that can be saved and accessed:

1.   Titles (i.e., row headers and column headers) created using the define name feature of Excel. This is the preferred method because these titles can

be created by those not even using JAWS and accessed at a later time by anyone with JAWS because they are saved with the spreadsheet.

2.   Titles created using JAWS quick settings dialog box. These titles are saved in a workbook-specific JSI file located in your personal settings folder,

a separate file that is created and has to accompany the workbook everywhere it goes.

This tutorial will explain option 1 since its titles can be saved with the workbook, transferred to another JAWS user, and does not require use of a separate

JSI file to work. What this method does require that is omitted from the Freedom Scientific explanation is a change to a default setting for Defined name

column and row titles override so that title reading of these defined ranges will occur. Therefore, the default override must be set to off instead of

on. You can access this setting by:

·        Pressing Insert + V to access the quick settings

·        Typing Title reading in the search box

·        Arrow down through the search results to the first one which is Define name column and row titles override and making sure it is set to off. By

default, mine was originally set to on which causes this preferred title reading method not to work.


My thanks to Ann Byrne of the 


 list who originally explained defined titles to me and the need to turn off the override so they will read properly with JAWS.

I'm creating a sample Excel spreadsheet for this post to help with my explanation. I'll include a Dropbox download link at the end for those who want it.

This sample spreadsheet is for tracking books which I've read. It contains the following column headings beginning in cell A1 and continuing through cell





Date Finished

NLS Book Number

Book Length



This spreadsheet will end up containing many rows since I read a lot so when defining the range which will include the column and row headers, I'm going

to estimate the number of rows it should contain to include future expansion. I've made the first column be the title of the book since it makes since

as I arrow up and down the various rows in the sheet that the book title be announced as I land on a new row. The intersection of the column headers and

row headers that I want Excel to red as I navigate through the sheet is cell A1 so focus should be there when the defined range is created. To create the

range, with focus on cell A1:

1.   Press alt + m + m. This will place you on the ribbon bar on the define name button and you should press enter.

2.   You will be in a text box where you create the defined name of your column and row headers. I almost exclusively use both column and row headers for

most of my spreadsheets since they normally contain multiple rows and columns.  In this case, your defined name should begin with the word Title. If you

only want row headers, your defined name should begin with RowTitle. If you only want column headers, your defined name should begin with ColumnTitle.

You should have no spaces in the defined title text box so if your spreadsheet has multiple regions for which you want separate defined titles, I'd suggest

you use Region1, Region2, etc. after title with no spaces to distinguish your defined title ranges. Use a period to separate the name of the defined title

from the cell range comprising it. In my example spreadsheet, my columns run from A1 through H1 and I'm estimating 1000 rows so my defined title will be

TitleRegion1.A1.H1000. I could have omitted Region1 since I don't expect more regions on this sheet but included it for reference purposes.

3.   Press tab until you get to the Ok button and hit enter to complete the creation of your defined title range. If you later need to edit it, open the

range manager by pressing alt + m + n and select the range you want to edit and press alt + e. You will be placed in a text box where you can make changes.

After you've entered book info of the titles you've red, arrowing up and down in the sheet will result in JAWS reading the book title of the particular

row. Arrowing right and left through the various columns will result in JAWS reading the column heading of that column. Provided you turned off the title

reading of defined range override mentioned earlier in this document, your row and column title headers should be read by JAWS. Also, you can give a copy

of your workbook to anyone else using JAWS and those row and column headers will also be read for them provided they turn off the defined title reading


Alan Lemly





Louis Maher

Phone: 713-444-7838

Email: ljmaher03@...


From: nvda@nvda.groups.io <nvda@nvda.groups.io> On Behalf Of Jeff Samco
Sent: Monday, March 27, 2023 12:13 PM
To: nvda@nvda.groups.io
Subject: [nvda] Excell spreadsheet: cannot set announcement for column & row headers


At my work they are switching over to a new method for reporting work time for payroll. Hopefully the attached sample spread sheet comes through to the list. I need to set the row of dates announced as column headers when navigating the below cells for entering hours. I’m not getting it to work.


I  am using the NVDA commands for designating the start cell for the row labeled as “Dates.” This would be using NVDA + Shift + C when on cell C-12.

Time worked for each date is entered on the row starting with cell B-18.

Could someone please use the attached spreadsheet and see if you can get column date headers to work when moving cell-to-cell on row 18?

I will appreciate any tips on what I can do as well as any modifications to the spreadsheet itself. The spreadsheet is protected and announced as “read only.” However, I can edit cells. So, I don’t understand if that might be a part of the problem.

Thank you so much!

Jeff Samco