Office Q&A: How to unhide columns and use Office 365 on Mac

Not every problem is large in scope. Susan Harkins finds simple solutions for three readers. Find out how to unhide columns and rows, use Office 365 on the Mac, and perform page numbering in sections.

Not every problem is big. Sometimes, it’s the little repetitive gotchas that drive you nuts. This month, I’ll share a few problems that seemed large to the readers but have simple solutions.

Unhide columns and rows

Mark had trouble applying the technique I shared in a previous post called, "How to unhide row 1 and column A in an Excel sheet." When unhiding columns or rows, you select the adjacent columns or rows first. That’s a problem if the hidden column or row is column A or row 1. You can’t select the column to the left or the row above, because neither exists.

The technique I shared works, but Mark was trying to unhide columns A though D, not just column A. If you have adjacent columns or rows hidden, you have two options:

  • You can unhide column A using the technique shared in the linked article above and then unhide the remaining columns as you normally would by selecting the adjacent columns.
  • You can unhide the continuous block of columns using the technique shared in the linked article above, which is more efficient that the first method.

Let’s walk through the second method with a short example where columns A through D are hidden:

  1. First, hide columns A through D by selecting those four columns and right-clicking the selection. Choose Hide from the resulting contextual menu. Now, you’re ready to unhide them.
  2. In the Name box -- to the left of the Formula bar -- enter A1:D1 (as shown in Figure A). Notice that the first visible column is E. 
    Figure A
    Figure A
  3. Press Enter. Doing so will select A1: D1, but you won’t see that happen. The columns are still hidden.
  4. Click the Home tab. From the Format dropdown in the Cells group, choose Hide & Unhide. In Excel 2003, choose Column from the Format menu, and choose Unhide.
  5. Select Unhide (as shown in Figure B) and Excel will expose all four hidden columns at the same time.
    Figure B
    Figure B

Office 365 on the Mac

A lot of people are curious about Office 365. If you’ve visited the official site, you already know that there’s a ton of information, and finding the details that you need can be an overwhelming (annoying) task. Kimmo asked if he must purchase two separate licenses for his Mac and his PC. The good news for Kimmo is that the answer is "no" -- once you have an Office 365 license, you can install the appropriate edition on multiple systems (the number depends on your license). 

Learn more about Office 365:

Page numbering in sections

Stanford has a 15-page document with two sections: The first 13 pages and the last 2 pages. He’s using Word’s predefined x of y page-numbering format, which displays a total of 15 pages. He doesn’t want to include the final two ancillary pages in the total count for section one. He wants the numbering format to display a total of 13 -- and fortunately, the solution is easier than Stanford thought! (The instructions are almost the same for all versions back to Word 2003.)

Word’s x of y format (shown in Figure C) inserts two fields: {PAGE} and {NUMPAGES}. 

Figure C


Figure C

Word’s x of y format.

Figure D shows the fields and their results in a document’s header. 

Figure D


Figure D

The fields and their results.

To display the field codes instead of their results, select the entire field expression and press [Shift]+[F9]. Repeat the process to display the numbers.

As you probably know, {PAGE} returns the current page number and {NUMPAGES} returns the total number of pages in the document. Stanford needs Word’s third numbering field, {SECTIONPAGES}, which returns the total number of pages in the current section.

In Stanford’s situation, the solution is simple, but it assumes that the document has a Next Page section break between two sections -- if you’re following along, be sure to insert the appropriate section break and the predefined x of y numbering format. (Another option is to download the available .docx or .doc demo file, which contains both in a two-page document for your convenience. Stanford’s document has 15 pages, but the number of pages doesn’t matter. I’m using two pages to simplify the example.)

With the predefined numbering format and section break in place, you’re ready to fix the numbering format as follows:

  1. Open section one’s header by double-clicking the header area in that section (page one).
  2. Select the numbering expression in the header and press [Shift]+[F9] so that you can see the actual field codes.
  3. Select the NUM component and replace it with SECTION, as shown in Figure E.
    Figure E
    Figure E
  4. When you’re done, select the entire expression and press [Shift]+[F9] to display the results.

At this point, the {SECTIONPAGES} field displays 1 of 1 correctly, even though there are two pages in the document. The {PAGES} field continues to display the current page number for the document (not the section) in section two (as shown in Figure F). The results -- 2 of 1 -- is going to be incorrect in almost any situation, not just Stanford’s. (I clicked Show/Hide in the Paragraph group on the Home tab to display the section break.)

Figure F


Figure F

The {PAGES} field continues to display the current page number for the document.

Stanford doesn’t want page numbers for section two, so deleting the modified numbering format from section two’s header is an easy fix! To do so, you must first break the header link between the two sections. Here's how:

  1. Open the header for the second section (double-click the header or footer area). In this case, you’re working in the header on page 2. Doing so will display the Same As Previous tab (circled in Figure F). If you can’t see the section break mark, click Show/Hide in the Paragraph group as mentioned earlier. You must work in the header that follows the section break.
  2. On the contextual Design tab, click the Link To Previous option in the Navigation group to unlink the two sections. In Word 2003, you’ll click the same option on the Header and Footer toolbar.
  3. Select the numbering expression in section two’s header (page 2) and press Delete.
  4. Close the header.

By breaking the link between the two sections, you can delete the header in section two without deleting the header in section one. You end up with a document that displays the total number of pages in section one and no page numbers in section two.

Stanford had all the tools in place. He just needed the right page numbering field in section one’s header. Unfortunately, numbering fixes aren’t always so simple. You can learn about a more complex page numbering scheme in "Pro tip: Calculate the current page number within a section in Word."

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. When contacting me, be as specific as possible: For instance, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise, nor do I ask for a fee from readers. You can contact me at