A trick to SUM visible columns only (without VBA)

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns

We know that SUBTOTAL allows us to perform some basics functions like SUM, COUNT, AVERAGE, etc.  that apply to visible rows only.  However, there is no similar function for visible columns only.

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 1If we need to SUM visible columns only, we will need a twist.

The twist is not difficult at all.  What we need is a helper row, say Row 1 in our example, and SUMIF function.

In A1, input the formula:

=CELL("width",A1) 'copy across to F1

As mentioned in previous post, the function CELL(“width”,A1) returns 0 (zero) when the column is hidden.

In G4, instead of a simple SUM, let’s do a SUMIF:


It simply instruct Excel to sum the range of A4:F4 where corresponding cells in A1:F1 is greater than zero (“>0”).  Put it in other words, SUM visible columns only.  YEAH!Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 2

Now we may hide column C:D to see the result…

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 3

Wait!  It is still 21.  Nothing change.

Unfortunately, this is the limitation.  Although CELL is a volatile function (meaning it will get recalculated whenever there is a change in the worksheet), a simple HIDE/UNHIDE COLUMN action does not trigger recalculation.  We need to give it a little push, say pressing F9, after hiding/unhiding columns.

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 4

(note: we may hide ROW 1 for better visual effect)

To further workaround it, we may GROUP columns and use the +/- button on the top to hide or unhide columns.

Please follow the steps below:

1) Insert 3 empty columns (C, F, I)  (tips: set column width to 2 which is more or less the width of the +/- button displayed on top)

2) Select columns A:B

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 6

3) Data tab –> Outline Group –> Group (shortcut tip: Alt+Shift+Right arrow)

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 7

Now we should see the +/- button on top of column label

4) Repeat Grouping to columns D:E, and G:H (tips: Select the columns and then press F4, which is to repeat previous action)

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 8

We should be able to get the above layout.  Note: as we have inserted three columns, the formula in J4 (which was previously in G4) is now extended to cover column A:H.

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 5

Interestingly, hiding/unhiding columns by using the +/- button does trigger re-calculation.

Excel Tips - SUM visible columns 9

With this workaround, we save the key stroke of F9 after hiding / unhiding.

Nevertheless, doing the GROUPing is kind of tedious.   Moreover, it may not be easy to group columns with real life data in a seamless way without adding extra columns.

Therefore I would do this trick without GROUPing columns; but bear in mind of the F9 key. 🙂

Here is a Sample File for you to download.

What do you think about the trick? Please share with us by leaving comment.


About MF

An Excel nerd who just transition into a role related to data analytics at current company......😊 Recently in love with Power Query and Power BI.😍 Keep learning new Excel and Power BI stuffs and be amazed by all the new discoveries.
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14 Responses to A trick to SUM visible columns only (without VBA)

  1. hussain Munshi says:

    Neat trick!
    However when I tried this in excel 365 it gave me a SPILL error
    Is there any way out
    As a corollary is there any other formula that will give a value only for visible rows like the CELL function so that we can use this method?


  2. Phil Tizzard says:

    I used your formula but it returned incorrect results. It is difficult to explain what happened without sending an example spreadsheet, but essentially numbers from other cells which were not included in the specified range, were added to the sum. Note that this is nothing to do with hiding or unhiding columns.

    I couldn’t pin down what was going on, though I did find a fix–which works—but I can’t explain why. The fix was to change =SUMIF($A$1:$S$1,”>0″,D3:R3) to =SUMIF($D$1:$S$1,”>0″,D3:R3). Only columns D-R contain numbers to be summed. However, changing to =SUMIF($B$1:$S$1,”>0″,D3:R3), or =SUMIF($C$1:$S$1,”>0″,D3:R3) in each case gave different but also erroneous results, which appear to include results from columns T,U and V in some combination, though they are not included in the range summed.


  3. ethankeng says:

    Nice solution! I tried to google on Chinese and Japanese resources, but there is no Column’s solution (only subtotal 109 for ROWS). But once I tried to Google on English, I found your website 🙂 Thank you.


  4. Stephan says:

    Nice trick!
    Another twist to it is if you want to sum non-sequential visible columns only.
    Instead of
    =CELL(“width”,A1) in A1, you could put
    =IF(CELL(“width”,A1)=0,0,1) which would put 0 in non-visible cells and 1 in visible ones.
    You then need to sum like this:
    And copy to all subsequent rows.


    • Stephan says:

      Oupsss….I meant :


      • Stephan says:

        For some unknown reason, the star does not show in my reply in the first 2 brackets, so i will replace with x:


        • MF says:

          Hi Stephan,
          Thanks for your comments and ideas… i guess the word editor of WordPress “eat” some special characters like ⭐️, smaller, larger… 🤔. Thank you for your patience to leave your messages. Appreciate it.
          Btw, you may use SUMIF for an easier formula construction i think.


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