The no toxic spreadsheet shortcut

Hidden rows in Excel are sketchy. They’re part of the reason why some people hate Excel.

They give Excel a bad name.

The most famous example of hidden cells gone horribly wrong was Barclays not accounting for toxic assets because they were hidden in rows of an Excel spreadsheet. 

I don’t want my readers to cause the next financial meltdown.

So what can we do?

1. Don’t hide cells (duh!)  Ideally, we would design spreadsheets in such a way that nothing needs to be hidden.  Usually when we hide cells it’s because they contain either inputs or calculations and we only want to show the resulting output.  We want to show the answer, but not our work.

Sometimes this isn’t practical. So here’s another idea:    

2. Hide them with style.  If you are going to hide cells you want to be very obvious about it. You want to, like, mark where cells are hidden or something.

Oh wait… there’s a way to do that in Excel…?

(Like with most things, yes.)

It’s called grouping cells, and it’s a great way to avoid grief with hidden cells. Originally used as a way to group data in a hierarchy (year/quarter/month, etc — hide and unhide your desired level of detail), we can use it to clearly note hidden cells too:

Group rows


Give it a try — it just might save our economy.


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