The 256-Column Limitation
Every Excel worksheet is limited to 256 columns. Despite what must amount to thousands of requests over the years, Microsoft refuses to increase the number of columns in a worksheet. Beginners often discover this limitation when they want to set up a spreadsheet that contains data for each day in a year. If they store the data horizontally, they run out of column in mid-September.
So we're stuck with 256. Why such a weird number? Why not 250? Or 365? The number of rows and columns is a by-product of the binary number system. 256 is 2, raised to the eight power (2^8), which is the maximum value that can be stored using eight bits. The number of rows in a worksheet is 65,536, which is 2^16. Older versions of excel contained only 16,384 rows, which is 2^14 power.
The reason for the 256-column limitation is probably due to the fact that Excel is so old, and it contains lots of code that would be broken if the number of columns were increased.
Update: The 256-column limitation was lifted in Excel 2007. In addition, that version has 1,048,576 rows in a worksheet.
Excel is a complex program, and has been around for a long time. Consequently, it has many obscure nooks and crannies to discover. Some of them are described here.
Keep in mind that some versions of Excel are odder than others. In other words, the things described here may not apply to all versions of Excel.
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