Another Superfluous Excel Message?

The other day, I wanted to use the filter for unique feature in Excel to get a list of unique items.

So I got my data ready and started the process.

Two clicks into it, Excel poops out this message stating that it can’t determine which row contains column labels.


As far as I can tell, this means that Excel can’t discern which value is the column header. By the way, I get this message whether I select the entire column or just the range.


Apparently, if your data is formatted all the same, Excel refuses to assume that the first row is the header.

In my case, I’d have to give PM Mangager Name (my header row) an explicitly different formatting. It doesn’t matter which formatting. I can: make the font bigger than the rest of the rows, apply bold, change the color, etc. It doesn’t matter; I just need to apply some distinguishing format difference.


Now I’ve been trying to think of what exactly Excel is protecting me against.

Why would it need to know which row is the header row?

Misplaced header?

This feature doesn’t sort the data, so there is no chance of the header being moved from its original position.

Lost header?

If I’m filtering for unique values, wouldn’t the header be a unique value, thus included in the output?


In any case, the message states that I can press OK to designate the first row as the header.

So after all that hub-bub, all I need to do is press OK to tag the first row in the range as the column header.


Can anyone think of a good reason for this message?

Also, who here thinks that I need to get a life and focus my impotent rage elsewhere?

4 thoughts on “Another Superfluous Excel Message?

  1. Debra Dalgleish

    The message is confusing, and it should warn you that the Filter for Unique feature needs a heading cell.
    It will always include the first item in the results, so that could lead to duplicates in the “unique” list. And that really confuses people!
    In your example, if cell B1 had “Allen Guilliams”, instead of PM Manager, Allen Guilliams would be listed twice.

  2. datapig Post author

    Debra: Interesting. If Allen Guilliams was in B1 AND it was formatted differently, Excel would still apply the duplicate entry without any warning at all.

    I agree, this message is way too wordy. I get sleepy just trying to read it…and I know what it means. Imagine a new user trying ot understand this.

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