Excel SUBTOTAL function with formula examples

The tutorial explains the specificities of the SUBTOTAL function in Excel and shows how to use Subtotal formulas to summarize data in visible cells.

In the previous article, we discussed an automatic way to insert subtotals in Excel by using the Subtotal feature. Today, you will learn how to write Subtotal formulas on your own and what advantages this gives to you.

Excel Subtotal function - syntax and uses

Microsoft defines Excel SUBTOTAL as the function that returns a subtotal in a list or database. In this context, "subtotal" is not just totaling numbers in a defined range of cells. Unlike other Excel functions that are designed to do only one specific thing, SUBTOTAL is amazingly versatile - it can perform different arithmetic and logical operations such as counting cells, calculating average, finding the minimum or maximum value, and more.

The SUBTOTAL function is available in all versions of Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2007, and lower.

The syntax of the Excel SUBTOTAL function is as follows:

SUBTOTAL(function_num, ref1, [ref2],…)

Where:

  • Function_num - a number that specifies which function to use for the subtotal.
  • Ref1, Ref2, … - one or more cells or ranges to subtotal. The first ref argument is required, others (up to 254) are optional.

The function_num argument can belong to one of the following sets:

  • 1 - 11 ignore filtered-out cells, but include manually hidden rows.
  • 101 - 111 ignore all hidden cells - filtered out and hidden manually.
Function_num Function Description
1 101 AVERAGE Returns the average of numbers.
2 102 COUNT Counts cells that contain numeric values.
3 103 COUNTA Counts non-empty cells.
4 104 MAX Returns the largest value.
5 105 MIN Returns the smallest value.
6 106 PRODUCT Calculates the product of cells.
7 107 STDEV Returns the standard deviation of a population based on a sample of numbers.
8 108 STDEVP Returns the standard deviation based on an entire population of numbers.
9 109 SUM Adds up the numbers.
10 110 VAR Estimates the variance of a population based on a sample of numbers.
11 111 VARP Estimates the variance of a population based on an entire population of numbers.

In fact, there is no need to memorize all function numbers. As soon as you start typing a Subtotal formula in a cell or in the formula bar, Microsoft Excel will display a list of available function numbers for you.

For example, this is how you can make a Subtotal 9 formula to sum up the values in cells C2 to C8:
Making a Subtotal 9 formula in Excel

To add a function number to the formula, double-click on it, then type a comma, specify a range, type the closing parenthesis, and press Enter. The completed formula will look like this:

=SUBTOTAL(9,C2:C8)

In a similar manner, you can write a Subtotal 1 formula to get an average, Subtotal 2 to count cells with numbers, Subtotal 3 to count non-blanks, and so on. The following screenshot shows a few other formulas in action:
Subtotal formula examples

Note. When you use a Subtotal formula with a summary function like SUM or AVERAGE, it calculates only cells with numbers ignoring blanks and cells containing non-numeric values.

Now that you know how to create a Subtotal formula in Excel, the main question is - why would one want to take the trouble of learning it? Why not simply use a regular function like SUM, COUNT, MAX, etc.? You will find the answer right below.

Top 3 reasons to use SUBTOTAL in Excel

Compared to the traditional Excel functions, SUBTOTAL gives you the following important advantages.

1. Calculate values in filtered rows

Because the Excel SUBTOTAL function ignores values in filtered-out rows, you can use it to create a dynamic data summary where subtotal values are re-calculated automatically according to the filter.

For example, if we filter the table to show sales only for the East region, the Subtotal formula will automatically adjust so that all other regions are removed from the total:
The Subtotal formula to sum values in filtered rows

Note. Because both function number sets (1-11 and 101-111) ignore filtered out cells, you can use ether Subtotal 9 or Subtotal 109 formula in this case.

2. Calculate only visible cells

As you remember, Subtotal formulas with function_num 101 to 111 ignore all hidden cells - filtered out and hidden manually. So, when you use Excel's Hide feature to remove irrelevant data from view, use function number 101-111 to exclude values in hidden rows from subtotals.

The following example will help you gain more understanding of how it works: Subtotal 9 vs. Subtotal 109.

3. Ignore values in nested Subtotal formulas

If the range supplied to your Excel Subtotal formula contains any other Subtotal formulas, those nested subtotals will be ignored, so the same numbers won't be calculated twice. Awesome, isn't it?

In the screenshot below, the Grand Average formula SUBTOTAL(1, C2:C10) ignores the results of the Subtotal formulas in cells C3 and C10, as if you used an Average formula with 2 separate ranges AVERAGE(C2:C5, C7:C9).
Inner subtotals are neglected when calculating outer subtotal.

Using Subtotal in Excel - formula examples

When you first encounter SUBTOTAL, it may seem complex, tricky, and even pointless. But once you get down to brass tacks, you will realize that it's not that difficult to master. The following examples will show you a couple of helpful tips and inspirational ideas.

Example 1. Subtotal 9 vs. Subtotal 109

As you already know, Excel SUBTOTAL accepts 2 sets of functions numbers: 1-11 and 101-111. Both sets ignore filtered-out rows, but numbers 1-11 include manually hidden rows whereas 101-111 exclude them. To better understand the difference, let's consider the following example.

To total filtered rows, you can use either Subtotal 9 or Subtotal 109 formula like shown in the screenshot below:
Subtotaling filtered rows

But if have hidden irrelevant items manually by using the Hide Rows command on the Home tab > Cells group > Format > Hide & Unhide, or by right clicking the rows, and then clicking Hide, and now you want to total values only in visible rows, Subtotal 109 is the only option:
Subtotaling manually hidden rows

Other function numbers work in the same way. For example, to count non-blank filtered cells, either Subtotal 3 or Subtotal 103 formula will do. But only Subtotal 103 can properly count visible non-blanks if there are any hidden rows in the range:
Subtotal 3 vs. Subtotal 103

Note. The Excel SUBTOTAL function with function_num 101-111 neglects values in hidden rows, but not in hidden columns. For example, if you use a formula like SUBTOTAL(109, A1:E1) to sum numbers in a horizontal range, hiding a column won't affect the subtotal.

Example 2. IF + SUBTOTAL to dynamically summarize data

If you are creating a summary report or a dashboard where you have to display various data summary but you don't have space for everything, the following approach might be a solution:

  • In one cell, make a drop-down list containing the functions names such as Total, Max, Min, and so on.
  • In a cell next to the dropdown, enter a nested IF formula with the embedded Subtotal functions corresponding to the function names in the drop-down list.

For example, assuming the values to subtotal are in cells C2:C16, and the drop-down list in A17 contains Total, Average, Max, and Min items, the "dynamic" Subtotal formula is as follows:

=IF(A17="total", SUBTOTAL(9,C2:C16), IF(A17="average", SUBTOTAL(1,C2:C16), IF(A17="min", SUBTOTAL(5,C2:C16), IF(A17="max", SUBTOTAL(4,C2:C16),""))))

And now, depending on what function your user selects from the drop-down list, the corresponding Subtotal function will calculate values in filtered rows:
IF / SUBTOTAL formula to dynamically summarize data

Tip. If all of a sudden the drop-down list and the formula cell disappear from your worksheet, be sure to select them in the filter list.

Excel Subtotal not working - common errors

If your Subtotal formula returns an error, it's likely to be because of one of the following reasons:

#VALUE! - the function_num argument is other than an integer between 1 - 11 or 101 - 111; or any of the ref arguments contains a 3-D reference.

#DIV/0! - occurs if a specified summary function has to perform a division by zero (e.g. calculating an average or standard deviation for a range of cells that does not contain a single numeric value).

#NAME? - the name of the Subtotal function is misspelled - the easier error to fix :)

Tip. If you don't feel comfortable with the SUBTOTAL function yet, you can use the built-in SUBTOTAL feature and have the formulas inserted for you automatically.

Finally, you are welcome to download the Excel Subtotal sample workbook containing all of the formulas we discussed in this tutorial.

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14 Responses to "Excel SUBTOTAL function with formula examples"

  1. Zeshan Ahmed says:

    I want to count column A for Duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate, sextuplicate values in column B. Also i want to multiply these Duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate, sextuplicate terms with their values which are repeated in column A.

  2. Zeshan Ahmed says:

    Yes, it has fulfilled my need. Thank you very much.
    I want to use my data sheet rows data containing formula as standard table headers. How can I do this?

  3. Zeshan Ahmed says:

    Is there any way to use formula containing cell as my excel table header rows?

  4. PRAJWAL SV says:

    hi could you pls help me out how to enable the Function_num drop down options in Subtotal because I'm using macbook and i am unable view the numeric option .

  5. Rohan Singh says:

    Thanks for this information

  6. Eva Birch says:

    Thanks very much for sharing this information, this is a really detailed tutorial. I haven't been using Excel for a very long time so still trying to navigate my way around it. It has been a really useful piece of software for me. I have found the following information really helpful when learning the basic techniques. goo.gl/tYp6Ay

  7. Anubhav Singhal says:

    Hi,

    I want to learn how subtotal function is used more than one range.How is it work.Can you send example so i learn easily.

    Thanking you

  8. Al Motl says:

    I want to be able to do a countA subtotal on cells that also have formulas. Currently it is counting the cells that have the filters even though they do not have the designated values I am looking for.
    Thanks

  9. Al Motl (Correction) says:

    I want to be able to do a countA subtotal on cells that also have formulas. Currently it is counting the cells that have the formulas even though they do not have the designated values I am looking for.
    Thanks

  10. sandip paital says:

    Dear Sir,
    I need subtotal formula.
    Example
    SECTION(MM) TOTALWT(KG.)
    MS L65X65X5 PG 805.10
    MS L65X65X5 PG 805.10
    MS L65X65X5 PG 805.10
    MS L65X65X5 PG 805.10
    MS L45X45X5 PG 1579.78
    MS L45X45X5 PG 1184.83
    MS L50X50X5 PG 109.44
    MS L50X50X5 PG 134.98
    MS L45X45X5 PG 120.77
    MSPLT 12 1130.40
    MSPLT 12 407.04
    MSPLT 06 102.91
    MSPLT 06 102.91
    MS L65X65X6 PG 36.19
    MS L65X65X6 PG 36.19
    MS L50X50X5 PG 145.92

    MS L45X45X5= ?
    MS L50X50X5= ?
    MS L65X65X5= ?
    MS L65X65X6= ?
    MSPLT 06= ?
    MSPLT 12= ?

  11. qazi says:

    Hi!
    no doubt it is a very easily approachable to understand how to use subtotal formula for filtering data in sheet. i really liked the coordination between the given example and explanation in details . I hope you will let us explore the excel to do more better

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