How to Use Outlines in Excel


Creating an outline in Microsoft Excel allows you to group and summarize data in an outline format up to eight levels. Outlines can be added to row data, column data or both rows and columns. Each outline level can be expanded to show detail information. To make outlines, each row or column that you want grouped needs to contain a label in the first cell and there must be no blank rows or columns in the data range.

  • Select a cell in the data range that you want to outline, and sort the column or row that you want to group. Click "Sort A to Z" or "Sort Z to A" in the "Sort and Filter Group" on the "Data" tab.

  • Insert subtotals for each group of data that you want to group by clicking in the cell directly above, below or next to the data. Click the "Subtotal" button in the "Outline" group on the "Data" tab. This displays the "Subtotal " window.

  • Select a row or column label from the "At Each Change In" drop-down menu. Select a function, such as "Sum," "Average," "Max" or "Min" from the "Use Function" drop-down menu. Select the Column or Row headings that you want to subtotal from the "Add Subtotal To" section. Choose whether or not to "Replace Current Subtotals," add a "Page Break Between Groups" and add "Summary Below Data." Click "OK."

  • Create the outline by selecting "Auto Outline" from the "Group" drop-down menu in the "Outline" group on the "Data" tab.

  • Choose "Show Detail" or "Hide Detail" in the "Outline" group on the "Data" tab to expand or collapse the outline. You can also click on the outline level number at the top of the "Outline Pane" on the left of the screen, or you can click the "+" or "-" sign on "Outline Pane."

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