Hide Me Quick


Q: I am constantly hiding, unhiding and rehiding columns to generate reports in a multitude of report layouts, and I can’t figure out how to display only the hidden column I need without having to display all my hidden columns. Can you help?


A: Because hiding and unhiding columns is a frequent task for many CPAs, I will address your specific question, then offer a better solution using Excel’s Custom Views. To unhide a specific column in Excel 2003, 2007 or 2010, press the F5 key to launch the Go To dialog box and type in any cell address within the hidden column that you wish to unhide (such as G1), and click OK. This will place your cursor within column G, even if hidden. Next, while holding down the Alt key, type in order O, C, U to unhide the column.


Alternatives. Once you have highlighted a column as described above, there are many alternatives for unhiding columns, several of which are presented below so you can use the approach that works best for you.


1. Using the menu. To unhide a column using the menu in Excel 2007 and 2010, from the Home tab, select Format from the Cells group, Hide & Unhide, Unhide Columns. To unhide a column using the menu in Excel 2003, select Column, Unhide from the Format menu.


2. Using the unhide shortcut. In Excel 2003, 2007 and 2010, Windows XP users can unhide a column by typing Ctrl+Shift+0, but this keystroke combination is inactive by default in Windows Vista and Windows 7. ( Hint: Microsoft support document 967893 describes advanced procedures to enable this keystroke combination to work properly in Windows Vista or Windows 7.)


3. Adjusting column width. Instead of unhiding a column, you could simply increase the column width to make it visible. To do this, start by pressing the F5 key to open the Go To dialog box and enter a cell address to go to a hidden column. To resize column widths in Excel 2007 and 2010, from the Home tab, select Format from the Cells group, Column Width, enter the desired width, and click OK. To resize a column width in Excel 2003, from the Format menu select Column, Width, enter the desired width, and click OK.


Advanced hint: You can make your task easier by assigning a name to a cell in each column you wish to hide or unhide using the Name Box (located just above the Column A heading). For example, you might assign the name YTD to cell G1, and the name Budget to cell H1. This will make it easier for you to use the Go To command because the name makes it more obvious which column is which. Further, you could also use the Name Box to assign a name to a group of columns, and use the same procedure described above to hide or unhide that group. For example, you might assign the name PriorYear to cells J1 through M1, and use the Go To command to go to those columns and unhide the entire lot.


A better suggestion: Rather than constantly hiding and unhiding columns, a better approach might be to use the Custom Views feature in Excel 2003, 2007 and 2010. By creating custom views, you can easily toggle back and forth between all of your views. To create your first custom view, select Custom Views from the View tab or menu, click the Add button and enter a description in the Name box, then click OK. Next, hide or unhide various columns in your workbook and repeat these steps to create a second view of your data that includes selected hidden columns. Continue to create additional custom views for each of your desired hidden column layouts. Thereafter, you can reduce or eliminate the need to hide and unhide columns by simply changing views. To toggle between custom views, from the View tab, select Custom Views in the Workbook Views group, and double-click the desired custom view as shown below.


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