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How to group columns in Microsoft Excel

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In Excel, select the columns you want to group. Go to the Data tab. Open the Scheme dropdown menu and choose “Group”. Use the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons that appear to expand and collapse the group.

If you organize a spreadsheet by columns, you may only want to work with specific columns at a time. In Microsoft Excel, you can group columns and expand and collapse them as you work. We’ll show you how to do just that.

Not only can you group columns in Excel, but you can also create subgroups or more than one group on the same sheet. This allows you to see only the columns you need while hiding or collapsing the others.

How to group columns in Excel

To group columns, you’ll need the columns you want to group next to each other. You cannot group nonadjacent columns.

RELATED: How to group and ungroup rows and columns in Google Sheets

Select the columns you want to use by dragging your cursor across them. Alternatively, you can select the first column, hold down the Shift key, and then select the last column in the range.

Selected columns in Excel

Head over to the Data tab and open the Outline dropdown menu on the right side of the ribbon. Click “Group” in the menu or select the Group dropdown arrow and choose “Group” there.

Group in the Outline menu on the Data tab

You will then see the selected columns grouped together with a line and a minus (-) button above them. You can use the minus button to collapse the group and the subsequent plus (+) button to expand it again.

Minus button for grouped columns

You’ll also notice the buttons labeled 1 and 2 on the far left, which you can also use to expand and collapse the group. However, the number buttons change a bit if you add a subgroup or another group to your sheet, as we’ll describe next.

Numeric buttons for grouped columns

Create a subgroup

To create a subgroup of a larger group of columns, follow the same steps as above. Select the columns, go to the Data tab and choose “Group” from the Layout dropdown menu.

Group in Scheme menu for a subgroup

What changes when you create a subgroup is the way the number buttons work. After creating a subgroup, you will see another button labeled 3. This is because there is now another level.

Button 3 for a subgroup of columns

You can still use the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons to expand and collapse each subgroup and group. But with the number buttons, you can quickly expand and collapse all the groups in a level by using the number button corresponding to the group level.

Number buttons to expand grouped columns

Create another group

If you want to create another separate group of columns in your sheet, you can do that too. However, these groups cannot be next to each other.

For example, if you group columns A through C and D through F, Excel places them all in the same group.

RELATED: How to Create an Automatic Outline in Microsoft Excel

You should have at least one column between groups, or consider creating one large group and then subgroups, as described above.

Two groups of columns in Excel

Also, when you have more than one group, the number buttons affect all groups in that level. For example, if you select button 1 to collapse a group, this will collapse all groups on that level, as shown below.

All groups collapsed with button 1

Ungroup columns in Excel

If you want to return your columns to their original states, you can simply ungroup them.

RELATED: How to add and delete columns and rows in Microsoft Excel

Select the columns in the group, go to the Data tab and open the Schema dropdown menu. Click “Ungroup” or select “Ungroup” from the Ungroup dropdown box.

Ungroup in the Outline menu on the Data tab

You will then see your columns ungrouped.

Ungrouped columns in Excel

You can also remove only certain columns from a group. For example, we have columns A through K in a group and we want to remove columns F through H from that group.

To do this, we select columns F to H and click “Ungroup” in the data tab.

Ungroup in the Outline menu for a subgroup

You’ll then see that the rest of the columns remain in their group(s) with buttons and all.

Ungrouped columns in Excel

By grouping columns in Excel, you can reduce large amounts of data into workable sections. Keep this feature in mind with your next spreadsheet.

For more ways to organize in Excel, check out how to group worksheets.


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