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Apr 17

Tricks for hiding and unhiding Excel rows and columns

By David H. Ringstrom, CPA


Hiding and unhiding rows and columns are mundane tasks that many users take for granted. However, sometimes simple tasks can trip up Excel users, like unhiding just one row or column within a hidden set. Other users don't know simple keystroke commands that can streamline hiding and unhiding columns or rows. In this article, I'll explore these techniques as well as discuss two powerful alternatives to manually hide and unhide rows and columns. I'll also discuss how to re-enable an Excel keyboard shortcut that's disabled in any operating system subsequent to Windows XP.


Hiding Rows and Columns
Let's first explore the traditional approaches to hiding rows and columns. Going forward, I'll only explain rows – simply replace the word Row with Column in any menu commands that I describe if you want to hide or unhide columns. First, select the row or rows that you wish to hide or unhide, and then carry out these steps:
  • Excel 2007 and later: On the Home tab, choose Format in the Cells section of the ribbon, and then choose Hide & Unhide, and then either Hide Rows or Unhide Rows.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Format, Row, and then either Hide or Unhide.
Tip: Remember, to unhide rows, you must select rows on either side of the hidden set. If you're trying to unhide rows at the top of the worksheet, click on the first visible row, and then move your mouse up to the top of the screen.


Keyboard Shortcuts
Alternatively, you can select a row or rows, and then press Ctrl-9. To unhide rows, press Ctrl-Shift-9. For columns, use Ctrl-0 (that's a zero) or Ctrl-Shift-0, respectively. There's a catch with the latter shortcut, though. By default, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 use Ctrl-Shift-0 (zero) as a keyboard shortcut for changing the keyboard layout. This means that when you move from Windows XP to a newer version of Windows, Ctrl-Shift-0 no longer works in Excel unless you change an arcane Windows setting shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: The Switch Keyboard Layout option in Windows Vista and later blocks Ctrl-Shift-0 for unhiding columns in Excel.


Windows 8:
  • Click on Language within the Control Panel.
  • Click Advanced Settings, and then click the Change Language Bar Hot Keys link.
  • Click Change Key Sequence, select Not Assigned in the Switch Keyboard Layout section, and then click OK as needed.
Windows Vista or Windows 7:
  • Click Region and Language within the Control Panel.
  • Choose the Keyboards and Languages tab, and then click Change Keyboards.
  • Click the Advanced Key Settings tab, and then click Change Key Sequence.
  • Select Not Assigned in the Switch Keyboard Layout section, and then click OK as needed.
Windows XP:
  • No Control Panel changes are necessary.
Unhide Selectively
Sometimes you may want to unhide just a single row or column. There are two ways to do so:
1. Press Ctrl-G to display the Go To window, type in the address of a cell in the row or column that you wish to unhide, and then click OK, as shown in Figure 2. Carry out the corresponding menu command or keyboard shortcut to unhide the row or column. You can also use menu commands to display the Go To dialog box:
  • Excel 2007 and later: Choose Find and Select on the Home tab, and then click Go To.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Edit and then Go To.
2. If you don't know the exact address of the cell you're looking for, press Ctrl-F to display the Find window and search for a word within the hidden column or row. As with the Go To command, Excel will select the hidden cell, which you can then unhide. You can also use menu commands to display the Find dialog box:
  • Excel 2007 and later: Choose Find and Select on the Home tab, and then click Find.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Edit, and then Find.
Figure 2: The Go To dialog box allows you to navigate to a hidden cell when you need to selectively unhide a row or column.


Group Rows or Columns
Excel's Group feature is an effective alternative to manually hide or unhide rows and columns. Select the rows or columns you wish to hide, and then carry out this command:
  • Excel 2007 or later: Click the Group icon in the Outline section of the Data ribbon.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Data, Group and Outline, and then Group.
As shown in Figure 3, Excel adds a button outside the worksheet frame that you can use to toggle the hidden or visible status of rows or columns. To remove grouping, select the group, and then issue the corresponding Ungroup command, which is adjacent to the Group commands described above.
Figure 3: The Group feature allows you to expand or collapse a set of rows or columns with a single mouse click.


Custom Views
Many Excel users overlook the Custom Views feature, which among other things, allows you to save sets of hidden rows or columns. Before you start hiding rows or columns, first create a view that displays the entire worksheet:
  • Excel 2007 and later: Choose Custom Views in the Workbook Views section of the View ribbon. Click Add, and then assign a name, such as All Columns. Make sure that Hidden Row, Columns, and Filter Settings is selected, and then click OK.
  • Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose View, and then Custom Views. From there, the commands are the same as described in Excel 2007.
Next, hide rows and/or columns as desired, and then save a second custom view. You can now toggle between views as needed. Issue the Custom Views command, select a view from the list, and then click View.


A previous version of this article first appeared on www.accountingweb.com .

About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at david@nullacctadv.com  or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link