A Better Way

I was surprised by the interest generated by a recent item on ways to hide a worksheet (“ Technology Q&A, JofA , Nov. 06, page 83). But on reflection, I can see why: Confidentiality is important. That is why I selected two submissions that were especially effective and relatively simple to implement.

Owen Sargent, a CPA with Nussbaum Yates & Wolpow in Melville, N.Y., suggested changing the color of the data you want hidden from its normal black to white, making it invisible because of the white background. Then, to stop someone from changing the data back to black, click on Tools , Protection , Protect Sheet (or Workbook ) and that will bring up Protect Sheet (see screenshot below).

Select what actions other users can make on the worksheet and click. Pick a password, then click on OK .

To make that method still more secure, go to Tools , Options and under the View tab unclick the box at Formula bar (see screenshot below), thereby preventing a user from seeing data or a formula in the Formula bar .

Then, for even greater security, remove the sheet’s headers and line numbers. This prevents anyone from noticing anything is missing.

David Attaway, CPA, finance director of RBC Insurance, Greenville, S.C., suggested a somewhat more sophisticated method that works if you want to hide an entire worksheet, rather than just data in individual cells. His idea should stump all but highly skilled Excel users. Start by right-clicking on the tab name of the worksheet you want to hide and select View Code (see screenshot below).

This will open Visual Basic (VBA) for Excel (see screenshot below). In the Properties window, the last property is Visible . Click on 2-xlSheetVeryHidden . Now even if the user selects Format , Sheet , Unhide , the tab won’t appear there. The only way to unhide it is to reopen VBA and change the property back.


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