Hide everything but the working area in an Excel worksheet

Hiding unused cells makes it easier for users to focus on their worksheet data. Here's an easy way to clear the decks and simplify the display.

You usually hide a column or row to conceal or protect data and formulas. But you can also hide unused regions of a sheet to keep users from exploiting unused areas or to help keep them on task by not allowing them to wander. By hiding unused rows and columns, you present a sheet that focuses on just the work area. To demonstrate, we'll use the sample worksheet shown in Figure A, which has a small working area and a whole lot of unnecessary rows and columns.

Figure A

To hide unused rows in Excel 2003, select the row beneath the sheet's last used row. (Select the row header to select the entire row.) Next, press Ctrl + Shift + Down Arrow to select every row between the selected row and the bottom of the sheet. Then, choose Row from the Format menu and select Hide. Repeat this process to hide unused columns, only select the column header in the first empty column. Press Ctrl + Shift + Right Arrow and then choose Column from the Format menu instead of Row.

In Excel 2007, the selection process is the same. However, you'll need to click Format in the Cells group on the Home tab, choose Hide & Unhide, and select Hide Rows (Figure B) and Hide Columns.

Figure B

Note: Before you hide anything, make sure you don't inadvertently hide an obscure area. To find the last cell in the sheet's used range, press Ctrl + End. Figure C shows our worksheet with the extraneous rows and columns hidden — a cleaner, less busy interface for your Excel users.

Figure C

Restoring the display

If you need to unhide the rows and columns, first select the entire sheet. Then, in Excel 2003, choose Row or Column from the Format menu and select Unhide. In Excel 2007, click Format in the Cells group on the Home tab, choose Hide & Unhide, and select Unhide Rows (or Unhide Columns).


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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