Removing Hidden Excel Rows/Columns

Removing Hidden Excel Rows/Columns

Precise data is critical in finance. Good data makes financial models and reports reliable. Financial analysts rely on Excel for building models and sharing information. But hidden stuff in Excel can mess up the data. This blog post will show how to remove hidden rows and columns in spreadsheets to help you work efficiently in Excel.


Understanding Hidden Rows and Columns in Excel

Before we explore the different methods to reveal hidden data, let’s first understand what hidden rows and columns are in Excel spreadsheets. When a row or column is hidden, it remains part of the worksheet but is not visible on the screen. The data within the hidden sections is still accessible through formulas and calculations, but it’s not immediately apparent to the user.

Users might hide rows and columns in their financial models for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s to streamline presentations by focusing on key metrics while keeping the underlying data available for reference. In other cases, sensitive information such as client details or proprietary formulas will be hidden to protect confidentiality. Additionally, managing complex datasets with numerous variables can be easier when less relevant data is tucked away in hidden sections.

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How to Identify Hidden Rows and Columns

The first step is to find hidden rows and columns in Excel. Look for gaps in numbers to spot hidden rows and columns. If numbers skip, like going from 10 to 12, row 11 is hidden.

Use the ‘Go To’ feature to find hidden parts. Hit F5, open ‘Go To’, and click ‘Special’.

Choose ‘Visible cells only’ and hit ‘OK’.

It selects visible cells, showing gaps where rows or columns are hidden. Now, identify and unhide the hidden sections.

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Removing Hidden Rows or Columns

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Step-by-Step Guide to Unhiding Rows and Columns

Now that we know how to spot hidden data, let’s walk through unhiding rows and columns using a real-world investment banking dataset. For this example, we’ll focus on a spreadsheet containing stock prices, market caps, and financial ratios.

To reveal a hidden row, take the following actions: 

Step 1: Click on the rows above and below the hidden row together.

Step 2: Right-click on the selected rows and select ‘Unhide’ from the options given.

You will now see the hidden row displayed amidst the selected rows.

Similarly, to unhide a column:

Step 1: Select the columns on both sides of the hidden one.

Step 2: Right-click the selected columns, then hit ‘Unhide’.

Now, you’ll see the hidden column popup between them.

Keyboard shortcuts can also speed up the process:

  • Select the rows above and below the hidden row, then hit Ctrl + Shift + 9.
  • Select the columns left and right of the hidden column, then press Alt H O U L (one key at a time).

When dealing with complex financial models, you might encounter situations where unhiding a row or column doesn’t work as expected. This can happen if the hidden cells are part of a merged range or the worksheet is protected. In such cases, you must unmerge the cells or unprotect the sheet first before proceeding with the unhiding process.

Advanced Techniques for Financial Analysts

For financial analysts working with extensive datasets, manually searching for hidden rows and columns can be time-consuming. Excel’s Name Manager is a powerful tool that can help you efficiently find and manage off-screen hidden data. 

Name Manager

To open the Name Manager, navigate to the ‘Formulas’ tab and click ‘Name Manager’.

It will display a dialog box containing all named ranges in the workbook, including hidden ones. Double-clicking on a named range allows you to quickly navigate to the corresponding cells and unhide them if necessary.

VBA (Visual Basic for Applications)

Another advanced technique for handling hidden data in recurring financial reports is VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). VBA allows you to automate repetitive tasks, such as unhiding rows and columns, through custom scripts. Follow the steps below to create your own VBA-based macro.

Step 1: Press ‘ALT + F11′ to open the VBA and double-click ‘This Workbook’ to open the box where you can put the VBA code.

Here’s a simple example of a VBA script that unhides all rows in a worksheet:

Sub UnhideAllRows()

    Rows.EntireRow.Hidden = False

End Sub


Step 2: Save the file as a ‘Macro-Enabled Workbook’.

Step 3: Go back to your Workbook and press ‘Alt + F8′, choose ‘UnhidAllRows‘, and click ‘Run’.

It will now show the hidden rows in your workbook.

You can tailor VBA scripts to target specific ranges or conditions relevant to your financial datasets. For instance, you can write a script that unhides rows based on certain criteria, such as when the stock price is above a certain threshold.

Best Practices for Managing Hidden Data 

While hiding rows and columns can serve legitimate purposes in financial modeling, it’s crucial to use this feature judiciously. Indiscriminate data hiding can lead to confusion and errors and even raise questions about the model’s integrity. 

Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Be strategic about when to hide data. Only hide rows or columns that are not essential for understanding the model’s key insights. 
  2. Document any hidden data. Maintain a separate sheet or comment section that lists all the hidden rows and columns and their purpose. This documentation ensures transparency and helps other users navigate the model effectively.
  3. Be mindful of the security implications. When sharing financial documents containing hidden data, ensure the recipient can access the concealed information. Password-protecting sensitive worksheets or workbooks adds an extra layer of security.
  4. Regularly review and clean up hidden data. Some hidden rows or columns may become obsolete as the financial model evolves. Periodically unhide and assess the relevance of secret data to keep the model lean and maintainable.

Macabacus and the Prepare to Share Tool

Macabacus provides Excel users with a “sanitation” tool that enables them to hide personal or proprietary information, check workbook integrity, and tidy up the appearance or formatting of the spreadsheet. Rows or columns in Excel may contain sensitive information that should not be shared with your co-workers or clients. In some instances, you may opt to delete the hidden rows and columns altogether.

From the Prepare to Share dialog, users can choose among several operations, including deleting hidden rows/columns. Just make sure that you don’t get #REF! errors in your model from removing the hidden rows and columns. To learn more, check out the video below:


While hidden rows and columns in Excel are vital tools for simplifying complex financial models and safeguarding sensitive data, they require careful handling. As financial analysts and investment bankers, mastering the art of managing hidden data is crucial. By applying this blog’s steps and best practices, you’ll be well-equipped to handle hidden data confidently, ensuring your financial models and analyses are accurate and reliable.

And if you’re looking to elevate your Excel skills further, Macabacus offers a suite of tools designed specifically for finance and banking professionals. It ensures that your financial models meet and exceed expectations, from streamlining spreadsheet formatting to enhancing presentation quality. It’s all about providing your work that stands out with precision and professionalism—critical factors in making informed decisions that can propel business growth.

With Macabacus, you’re working more intelligently and building a foundation for success recognized and respected across the industry.

Create Financial Models 10x Faster with Macabacus

Gain access to 100+ shortcuts, formula auditing visualizations, easy Excel-to-PowerPoint linking and productivity tools to help you accelerate financial modeling and presentations.

Start your Free Trial

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