How to unhide and show hidden columns in Excel

From this article, you'll learn how to unhide columns in Excel 2016 - 2007. It will teach you to show all hidden columns or just the ones you select, how to unhide first column, and more.

The possibility to hide columns in Excel is really helpful. It's possible to conceal some columns by using the Hide feature or by setting the column width to zero. If you happen to work with Excel files where some columns are hidden, you may want to know how to unhide columns in Excel to view all data.

In this post I'll share how to show hidden columns using the standard Excel Unhide option, a macro, the Go To Special functionality and Document Inspector.

How to unhide all columns in Excel

Whether you have one or several hidden columns in your table, you can easily display them all at once using the Excel Unhide option.

  1. Click on a small triangle in the upper-left corner of your table to select the entire worksheet.
    Click on the small triangle in the upper-left corner of your table to select it

    Tip. You can also press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A several times until the entire list is highlighted.
  2. 2. Now just right-click the selection and pick the Unhide option from the context menu.
    Right-click above your table and pick the Unhide option from the menu
Tip. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut to unhide columns in Excel: Ctrl + Shift + 0. With this key combination, you can also quickly unhide multiple columns.

Unhide all columns in Excel automatically with VBA macro

You'll find the macro below really helpful if you often get worksheets with hidden columns and don't want to waste your time on searching and showing them. Just add the macro and forget the unhide routine.

Sub UnhideAllColumns ()
	Cells.EntireColumn.Hidden = False
EndSub

If you don't know VBA too well, feel free to explore its possibilities by reading our article How to insert and run macros.

How to show hidden columns that you select

If you have an Excel table where multiple columns are hidden and want to show only some of them, follow the steps below.

  1. Select the columns to the left and right of the column you want to unhide. For example, to show hidden column B, select columns A and C.
    Select the columns to the left and right of the column you want to unhide
  2. Go to the Home tab > Cells group, and click Format > Hide & Unhide > Unhide columns.
    Click on the Format icon > Hide & Unhide >   Unhide columns

Or you can right-click the selection and choose Unhide from the context menu, or just press the Unhide columns shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + 0

How to unhide first column in Excel

Unhiding columns in Excel may seem easy until you have several hidden columns but need to display only the left-most one. Pick one of the tricks below to unhide only the first column in your table.

How to unhide column A using the Go To option

Though there is nothing before column A to select, we could select cell A1 to unhide the first column. Here's how:

  1. Press F5 or navigate to Home > Find & Select > Go To…
    Navigate to Home > Find & Select > Go To…
  2. You'll see the Go To dialog box. Enter A1 in the Reference: field and click OK.
    Enter A1 in the Reference: field and click OK
  3. Although you cannot see it, cell A1 is now selected.
  4. You go to the Home > Cells group, and click Format > Hide & Unhide > Unhide Columns.
    Go to Home > Format > Hide & Unhide > Unhide Columns

How to unhide the first column by expanding it

  1. Click on the header for column B to select it.

    Click on the header for column B

  2. Move the mouse cursor to the left until you see the double-sided arrow.

    Click on the header for column B

  3. Now just drag the mouse pointer to the right to expand the hidden column A.

    Drag the mouse pointer to the right to expand the hidden column A

How to unhide column A by selecting it

  1. Click on the header for column B to select it.
    Click on the header for column B
  2. Drag your mouse pointer to the left until you see the border change its color. It means column A is selected though you don't see it.
    Drag your mouse pointer to the left until you see the border changes color
  3. Release the mouse cursor and go to Home > Format > Hide & Unhide > Unhide Columns.
    Go to Home > Format > Hide & Unhide > Unhide Columns

That's it! This will show column A and leave the other columns hidden.

Show all hidden columns in Excel via Go To Special

It can be rather difficult to find all hidden columns in a worksheet. Of course, you can review the column letters. However, it's not an option if your worksheet contains numerous, like more than 20, hidden columns. Still there is one trick to help you locate hidden columns in Excel.

  1. Open your workbook and navigate to the Home tab.
  2. Click on the Find & Select icon and pick the Go to Special… option from the menu list.

    Click on the Find & Select icon and pick the Go to Special… option

  3. On the Go To Special dialog box, select the Visible cells only radio button and click OK.
    Select the Visible cells only radio button

You will see the entire visible part of the table highlighted and the column borders adjacent to the hidden columns borders will become whitish.
Column borders adjacent to the hidden columns borders will become whitish

Tip. You can do the same using this short path: F5>Special > Visible cells only. The shortcut funs can just press the Alt + ; (semicolon) hotkey.

Check how many hidden columns there are in a workbook

If you want to check the entire workbook for hidden columns before searching for their location, the Go To Special functionality may not be the best option. You should employ Document Inspector in this case.

  1. Go to File and click on the Check for issue icon. Select the Inspect Document option. This option examines your file for hidden properties and personal details.
    Select the Inspect Document option
  2. You may see the notification to save the latest changes before using Document Inspector in order to make sure you keep the important data.
    See the notification to save the latest changes before using the Document Inspector

    Just click on the Yes or No buttons.

  3. This will open the Document Inspector window with all the available properties. Make sure the Hidden Rows and Columns option is checked.
    Make sure the Hidden Rows and Columns option is checked
  4. Press the Inspect button and the tool will start looking for hidden rows and columns.
  5. As soon as the search is over, you'll see the inspection results.
    See inspection results

This window also lets you delete hidden data if you don't trust them. Simply click Remove All.

This feature can appear helpful if you need to know if there are any hidden columns in Excel at all before you navigate to them.

Disable unhiding columns in Excel

Say, you hide some columns with important data like formulas or confidential information. Before you share the table with your colleagues you need to make sure no one will unhide the columns.

  1. Click on the small Select all icon on the intersection of row numbers and column letters to select the entire table.
    Click on the small Select all icon
  2. Right-click on the highlighted list and pick the Format Cells… option from the menu.
    Pick the Format Cells… option from the menu
  3. On the Format Cells window go to the Protection tab and unselect the Locked checkbox.
    Go to the Protection tab and select the Locked checkbox
  4. Click OK to save the changes.
  5. Now select the column or columns you want to protect from being unhidden.
    Select the column or columns you want to protect from being unhidden

    Tip. You can select several columns by keeping the Ctrl button pressed.
  6. Click on one of the highlighted columns and select the Format Cells… option again.
    Pick the Format Cells… option
  7. When you see the Format Cells window, navigate to the Protection tab and tick the Locked checkbox.
    Go to the Protection tab and select the Locked checkbox
  8. Click OK to save the changes.
  9. Hide the columns: select them, right-click and pick the Hide option from the pop-up menu.
    Pick the Hide option from the menu
  10. Now navigate to the Review tab and click on the Protect Sheet icon.

    Navigate to the Review tab and click on the Protect Sheet icon

  11. Make sure the checkboxes Select locked cells and Select unlocked cells are ticked. Then enter and reenter the password.
    Enter a password to protect your sheet

From now on, anyone who tries to unhide the columns in your Excel table will get the Unhide option disabled.
See the Unhide option disabled

Note. If you leave any part of the document available for editing a smart person can insert a formula in another column that will refer to your protected hidden column. For example, you hide column A, then another user types =A1 into B1, copies the formula down the column and gets all data from column A in column B.

Now you know how to show hidden columns in your Excel worksheets. Those who prefer to keep their data unseen, can benefit from the possibility to disable the Unhide option. A helpful macro will save your time on unhiding columns every so often.

If any questions left, feel free to comment on the post using the form below. Be happy and excel in Excel!

8 Responses to "How to unhide and show hidden columns in Excel"

  1. archie says:

    i havea pasword protected excelfile of wich i don't have the password, with hidden colums.

    is there a wayto make those colums visible.

    i tried already to make it a macro with
    Sub UnhideAllColumns ()
    Cells.EntireColumn.Hidden = False
    EndSub

    but it didn't work

    can anybody help?

  2. Sameen Javid says:

    I have a column having checkboxes in it in each row. When I hide the column the checkboxes are not hide with the cell data but keep on showing on screen. Is there any way to hide the checkboxes as well?

  3. michelle says:

    Hi! How do I hide a column in excel but dnt gv access to anyone else, meaning if u open my file I dnt want the person to click unhide and read what's on the cell.

  4. Michelle says:

    That macro didn't work for me in 2013. Is there something that's supposed to come before or after the macro?

  5. Gloria says:

    column C to I is hidden, and I saved unknown to me, Pls how do I unhide it? I have tried the unhide option but it's not giving me what I want

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