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In Excel, select the columns you want to group. Go to the Data tab. Open the Outline drop-down menu and pick "Group." Use the plus (+) and minus (-) buttons that appear to expand and collapse the group.

If you organize a spreadsheet by columns, you may only want to work with specific columns at one time. In Microsoft Excel, you can group columns and expand and collapse them as you work. We’ll show you how to do just that.

Not only can you group columns in Excel, but you can also create subgroups or more than one group in the same sheet. This allows you to see only those columns you need while hiding or collapsing the others.

How to Group Columns in Excel

To group columns, you’ll need the columns you want to group next to each other. You can’t group nonadjacent columns.

RELATED: How to Group and Ungroup Rows and Columns in Google Sheets

Select the columns you want to use by dragging your cursor through them. Alternatively, you can select the first column, hold your Shift key, and then select the last column in the range.

Selected columns in Excel

Head to the Data tab and open the Outline drop-down menu on the right side of the ribbon. Click “Group” in the menu or select the Group drop-down arrow and pick “Group” there.

Group in the Outline menu on the Data tab

You’ll then see your selected columns grouped with a line and minus sign (-) button above them. You can use the minus sign button to collapse the group and the subsequent plus sign (+) button to expand it again.

Minus sign button for grouped columns

You’ll also notice buttons labeled 1 and 2 on the far left, which you can also use to expand and collapse the group. However, the number buttons change a bit if you add a subgroup or another group in your sheet, as we’ll describe next.

Number buttons for grouped columns

Create a Subgroup

To create a subgroup of a larger group of columns, you follow the same steps as above. Select the columns, go to the Data tab, and pick “Group” in the Outline drop-down menu.

Group in the Outline menu for a subgroup

What changes when you create a subgroup is the way the number buttons work. After you create a subgroup, you’ll see another button labeled 3. This is because there is now another level.

Button 3 for a subgroup of columns

You can still use the plus (+) and minus (-) sign buttons to expand and collapse each subgroup and group. But with the number buttons, you can quickly expand and collapse all groups on a level using the number button corresponding to the group level.

Number buttons for expanding grouped columns

Create Another Group

If you want to create another separate group of columns in your sheet, you can do this as well. However, these groups can’t be right next to each other.

For example, if you group columns A through C and D through F, Excel puts them all into the same group.

RELATED: How to Create an Automatic Outline in Microsoft Excel

You should have at least one column between groups or consider creating a large group and then subgroups, as described above.

Two groups of columns in Excel

Also, when you have more than one group, the number buttons affect all groups on that level. For instance, if you select button 1 to collapse a group, this collapses all groups on that level, as shown below.

All groups collapsed with button 1

Ungroup Columns in Excel

If you want to return your columns to their original states, you can simply ungroup them.

RELATED: How to Add and Remove Columns and Rows in Microsoft Excel

Select the columns in the group, head to the Data tab, and open the Outline drop-down menu. Click “Ungroup” or select “Ungroup” in the Ungroup drop-down box.

Ungroup in the Outline menu on the Data tab

You’ll then see your columns ungrouped.

Ungrouped columns in Excel

You can also remove just certain columns from a group. For example, we have columns A through K in a group and want to remove columns F through H from that group.

To do this, we select columns F through H and click “Ungroup” on the data tab.

Ungroup in the Outline menu for a subgroup

You’ll then see that the rest of the columns remain in their group(s) with buttons and all.

Ungrouped columns in Excel

By grouping columns in Excel, you can reduce large amounts of data into workable sections. Keep this feature in mind with your next spreadsheet.

For more ways to organize in Excel, check out how to group worksheets.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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