How to Add Collapsing Plus Signs in Excel Columns

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By collapsing a section, you can temporarily hide subsections to get a better look at the row above or below them.
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Dealing with a large amount of data in Microsoft Excel can feel overwhelming. By collapsing a section, you can temporarily hide subsections to get a better look at the row above or below them. To add collapsible Excel rows, simply select the rows you want to collapse and use the Outline feature under the Data tab to group them. You can then click the plus and minus symbols on the left to collapse and expand, or the numbers at the top to collapse all and expand all.


Excel Collapse Columns Feature

Excel can seem like nothing but boxes of numbers at times, with rows and columns seeming to go on endlessly. If you're dealing with a large spreadsheet, packed with plenty of information, all those rows and columns can run together making it hard to see what's going on. By using the software's grouping feature, you can create collapsible Excel rows that will make it easier to see the main sections.

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Think of the grouping feature as an outline. Each section has a main point, with subpoints below them. If you can somehow hide those subpoints, you'll be able to get an overview of your content while still having the subpoints there when you're ready to look at them. To Excel group columns with headers, though, you'll need to put some thought into how you'll group things when you set the spreadsheet up.


The Benefits of Grouping

One of the best things about being able to set up Excel collapse columns is the grouping you do beforehand. If you have a budget, for instance, you can use the grouping feature to put all items together, then total them. You may have a budget for each department, and you want to total up how much you'll spend in each department

Once you group Excel group columns with headers, you can more easily manage the data. Your headers could be the totals for each area on that budget, with your collapsible columns being the line items for each area. Once those areas are collapsed, you'll have only the totals for each department, making it easier to compare budgets for each area.


Group Rows in Excel

Before you can use the Excel collapse columns feature, you need to first create groups. There are several ways to do this. The first is to use the outline feature, which works if your data has only one level of information. Highlight the cells you want to group, then click on the Data tab and choose Outline, Group and Auto Outline.

If automatic outlining isn't an option, or you'd rather customize which areas are collapsible, you can manually create collapsible Excel rows throughout the sheet. Highlight the rows you want to group, then choose Outline, Group, Group and Rows. You'll see a bar to the left with a minus button. Repeat this process with other rows you want to be grouped.


Collapse Grouped Items

Once you have everything set up, including Excel group columns with header and the bars to the left of each grouped area, you're ready to collapse. To collapse your items, click on the minus button to the left of each group. The group will immediately collapse, but all of the information will remain there, simply hiding out of sight temporarily.

To expand the group you just collapsed, click on the plus sign to the left of the group. Everything will appear as it did before you grouped them. You can toggle from expanding to collapse as necessary. Once you have multiple groups, you can expand or collapse all of them at once by clicking on the numbers 1 for collapse or 2 for expand.