How to Collapse Rows in Excel to Hide Details and Focus on Key Data

Grouping rows in Excel lets you collapse and expand parts of your spreadsheet with a click. This makes large datasets easier to read by hiding repeated values.

We’ll show you how to quickly group rows in Excel using both regular Excel features and the Macabacus add-in.

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Collapsing rows in Excel is a useful way to hide details and focus on the key data you need. By collapsing rows, you can simplify your worksheets and reports, making them easier to read and analyze

In this step-by-step guide, I will show you how to quickly collapse rows in Excel using the built-in outline feature. Whether you’re working with a large dataset or a complex workbook, collapsing rows is a convenient way to manage clutter.

What Does Collapsing Rows Do?

When you collapse rows in Excel, it will hide the detailed data in those rows and replace it with a single consolidated row This consolidated row is labeled with a numerical outline symbol to indicate there is underlying data.

Collapsing rows is useful for:

  • Hiding repetitive data or details you don’t need to see
  • Simplifying complex reports for better readability
  • Focusing on totals and summaries rather than granular details
  • Reducing worksheet clutter and zooming in on key information
  • Presenting high-level overviews of data

The outline symbols make it easy to see at a glance which rows contain hidden detailed data beneath them. And you can re-expand the rows at any time to view the underlying details again.

How to Collapse Rows in Excel

Collapsing rows in Excel is very simple to do using the built-in outline feature. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Click on the Data tab

Click on the Data tab at the top of your Excel window. This is where you’ll find the tools to collapse and expand rows.

Step 2: Select Outline from the Data tab

In the Data tab, look for the Outline group. Click on Outline to open the drop down menu.

Step 3: Choose Group from the Outline menu

From the Outline drop down menu, select Group. This opens up the grouping options to collapse and hide rows.

Step 4: Select the Rows You Want to Collapse

With the Group option selected, simply click and drag to highlight the rows you want to collapse. You can select any contiguous rows in one single selection.

Step 5: Click the Collapse Icon

Once you’ve selected the rows to collapse, look above the row numbers on the left side. You will see collapse/expand icons. Click the arrow collapse icon to collapse the selected rows.

The selected rows will instantly collapse into a single consolidated row showing a high level summary. An outline numbering symbol will appear to indicate this is a collapsed group.

That’s it! Those rows are now collapsed and hidden from view, giving you a simplified worksheet focusing just on the essential data.

Expanding Rows Again After Collapsing

Once you’ve collapsed rows to hide the details, you can easily re-expand them to view the underlying data again.

Follow these simple steps to expand collapsed rows:

  • Click on the numbered outline symbol next to the collapsed row group.

  • The consolidated row will expand again, showing all the detailed rows beneath it.

  • To expand all collapsed groups at once, click the Expand All button under the Outline group.

  • To collapse all expanded groups at once, click the Collapse All button.

The expand and collapse buttons make it easy to quickly hide or view details as needed.

Tips for Collapsing Rows Effectively

Here are some tips to use row collapsing most effectively in Excel:

  • Select contiguous rows – You can only collapse contiguous rows in one single selection. Select rows in one continuous block to collapse.

  • Collapse less important details – Hide repetitive, granular rows to focus on totals, summaries and key data points.

  • Create collapsible groups – Build different collapsible groups to organize your data into logical sections.

  • Add custom outlines – Customize the outline numbering scheme if needed using the outline tools.

  • Collapse before printing – Collapsing unnecessary details is great for printing clean reports without clutter.

  • Use color coding – Consider color coding the collapsed group rows to identify different sections quickly.

  • Collapse programmatically – You can use VBA macros to collapse rows automatically based on certain conditions.

When Not to Use Row Collapsing

Collapsing rows is very useful in many situations, but it isn’t always the best approach. Here are a few cases when you may want to avoid collapsing rows:

  • If you need to see and reference all data rows frequently, keeping them expanded may be easier.

  • On very small datasets, collapsing may add unnecessary complexity or outline symbols.

  • If you need to print the sheet and want to include detailed rows, keep them expanded.

  • Don’t collapse if it makes your sheet overly condensed and crowded. Clutter hides patterns.

  • When working with filtered datasets, collapsing can confuse things. Filter selectively instead.

In general, use row collapsing to simplify and highlight the key points. Avoid overusing it if it obscures your data.

Next Steps After Collapsing Rows

After collapsing rows to filter out repetitive details, here are some next steps to consider:

  • Add summary metrics – Add totals, averages or % metrics to the collapsed rows to summarize groups.

  • Create charts – With a simplified dataset, you can more easily create charts focused on key data points.

  • Apply conditional formatting – Use colors, data bars, and icons to visualize the collapsed overview.

  • Share visually – Use collapsed overviews in dashboards, reports and presentations.

  • Look for insights – Spot trends, outliers, patterns and relationships in your cleaned-up dataset.

  • Use formulas – Build formulas using the collapsed rows for quick analysis.

Collapsing rows cleans up your dataset. Take that simplified data and generate further insights by visualizing, formatting, charting and sharing it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Collapsing Rows

Here are answers to some common questions about working with collapsed rows in Excel:

Can I collapse columns instead of rows?

Yes, collapsing works the same way for columns. Simply select entire columns and use the outline feature to collapse and hide details.

What happens to formulas when I collapse rows?

Formulas continue to work as expected, calculating based on the full datasets in the collapsed rows. Expand to see the individual formula results again.

How do I remove the outline symbols when I’m done grouping?

Click the “Clear Outline” button under the Data > Outline menu. This removes symbols without expanding groups.

Can I save a worksheet with groups collapsed?

Yes, your collapsed groups will remain collapsed when you save the file. The grouping structure is preserved.

What’s the keyboard shortcut to collapse rows?

Use ALT + Shift + Minus to collapse selected rows. Use ALT + Shift + Plus to expand them again.

Can I collapse and expand rows with VBA code?

Yes, you can write simple VBA macros to automate collapsing and expanding rows with shortcuts or conditions.


Being able to collapse rows is an invaluable skill in Excel. Reducing repetitive details lets you see the big picture, share meaningful overviews, and focus on what matters most.

The built-in outline and grouping tools make it very simple to clean up your worksheets by collapsing rows. Take a few minutes to identify where your data has extras details to hide.

Then use the step-by-step process above to collapse those rows and simplify your spreadsheet. Keeping your data well-organized and meaningful will make your Excel work much easier.

So try collapsing rows today on your overly complex worksheets. I think you’ll be delighted by how much easier it is to find insights when you streamline massive datasets down to what’s essential. Here’s to Excel excellence!

how to collapse rows in excel

How to Group Rows in Excel

To group rows in Excel manually:

  • Select the rows to group together.
  • Navigate to the Data tab.
  • Press the Group button to group the selected rows.

Grouping rows allows you to show and hide parts of your data with a single click (we’ll show you how to do that later on in this post). This makes it easy to focus on specific sections of a large dataset.

If your Excel data contains patterns like subtotals, you can automatically group rows by following the instructions below:

  • Click any cell in your data range.
  • On the Data tab, open the Group menu.
  • Select Auto Outline. Excel will detect and group rows based on your data’s structure.

The outlining feature saves time by detecting and applying groups for you based on patterns in your data. This works well for structured data like financial models.

How to Group Columns in Excel

To manually group columns:

  • Select your column’s cells that you want to group.
  • Go to the Data tab.
  • Press the Group button.

Grouping related columns together makes it easy to show/hide entire categories of data.

If your column data has clear patterns, Excel can automatically detect and group them:

  • Choose any cell in your data range.
  • Go to the Data tab.
  • Open the Group menu and select Auto Outline.

Outlining columns follows the same concept as rows – Excel finds patterns and groups accordingly. This can get tedious in large, complex spreadsheets.

For nested data (groups within groups):

  • First group the innermost data.
  • Keep this group collapsed.
  • Group the larger outer data set.
  • This makes a hierarchy. The numbering allows you to collapse all (1), show the outer group (2), or display all groups (3).

Nested groups create a hierarchical structure, allowing you to collapse and expand the data at different levels.

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