Excel's row numbering starts with 1. However, most spreadsheets I've seen start with a title row. So, if I want to know how many items are in a column I look at the row number and subtract 1. My guess is that most people do that.

So my question is: did Microsoft made a conscious decision not to start row counting at zero? And related: what are the advantages of starting at 1 (assuming most spreadsheets start with a title row)?

  • 1
    Many spreadsheets have more than a single title row, maybe a headline, then some separator followed by whitespace and then some headers. Other sheets don't have titles, just data ...
    – johannes
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:41
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    Because the numbering doesnt matter in exel. You can have multiple tables within the same sheet. Also it's build for people. People who arent developers start counting from 1 and not from 0
    – BlueWizard
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:46
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    because we arent computers, and we dont put things we count into arrays. row 0 sounds stupid and illogical to most people. only programmers will understand where that possibly came from. Sep 8, 2015 at 14:12
  • Days and (except in PHP) months start their count at 1, years in suffix systems (AD/BC, CE/BCE etc.), too, but prefixed years (+/–), hours, minutes and seconds start at 0, unless you are an American then it’s 12 for the hour. One reason is the difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers: first, second, third … vs. none/zero/nil/null, one, two, three …
    – Crissov
    Oct 8, 2015 at 11:47
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    Thanks for posting this. When I went to look at some examples of how C# code would open and walk through a native Excel spreadsheet, I noted the rows start at 1, and was puzzled. May 16, 2018 at 17:04

2 Answers 2


Excel is build for regular users.
Some of them might be developers but most of them would start counting at 1.

We people count in our everyday life 1,2,3,4,... instead of 0,1,2,3,... because it just makes sense.
When we count apples: why should we count the first apple as None?

Excel itself doesn't care about the line numbers. If you have a big screen and want to have your table centered while Excel is fullscreened - go for it. Excel will be able to generate diagrams out of that data.
Some users might avoid the first line if it was called 0 because this might suggest that the line has special properties. Like the train track 9 3/4 in Harry Potter.

Users start counting from 1 in everyday life and thus expect that excel counts like this too. Also Excel is so flexible that the numbers doesn't really matter on average usage.


Because the Logic of Indexing in Arrays with Array[0] in Programming languages may not be known to a common user who isn't educated about CS.

People generally start to list items from 1 to N in real life.

CS students or majors tend to list it from 0 to N in Programming.

Digital Literacy is still non-existent in many countries, let alone CS.

Hence, as a starter's tool to a User on Windows, Excel needs to follow to cater the majority.

  • Starting from 0 instead of 1 is non-intuitive and already lead to mayor system crashes resulting in personal damages. Today's computer are no longer in the need of saving that one bit. Humans count from 1 and that's universally practical. Starting indexes at 0 is a remnant of the past which we (the CS community) might never be able to leave behind.
    – BlueWizard
    May 19, 2018 at 8:26
  • See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-based_numbering
    – Ghost4Man
    Apr 30, 2021 at 18:16

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