Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Hiding Individual Cells.

Hiding Individual Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 12, 2020)


Ruby has a worksheet that she needs to print out in a couple of different ways, for different users. Part of preparing her data for printing involves hiding or displaying some rows and some columns, as appropriate. Ruby wondered if there was a way to hide the contents of individual cells, as well.

If, by "hide," you want to have the cell disappear and information under it move up (like when you hide a row) or move left (like when you hide a column), then there is no way to do this in Excel. Actual hiding in this manner can only be done on a row or column basis.

There are ways that you can hide the information in the cell, however, so that it doesn't show up on the printout. One easy way, for instance, is to format the cell so its contents are white. This means that, when you print, you'll end up with "white on white," which is invisible. Test this solution, though—some printers, depending on their capabilities, will still print the contents.

If this approach works for you, you could expand on it just a bit to make your data preparation tasks just a bit easier. Follow these general steps:

  1. In an out-of-the-way cell (let's say it is cell J1) insert the letter "p."
  2. Select the cell (or cells) you want to hide on the printout.
  3. With the Home tab of the ribbon displayed, click the Conditional Formatting option in the Styles group. Excel displays a palette of options related to conditional formatting.
  4. Click New Rule. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  5. In the Select a Rule Type area at the top of the dialog box, choose Use a Formula to Determine Which Cells to Format. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The New Formatting Rule dialog box.

  7. In the criteria area for the rule enter the following: =J1="p". This formula will return True if the cell contains a lowercase letter "p."
  8. Click the Format button. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  9. Make sure the Font tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)
  10. Figure 2. The Font tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  11. Use the Color drop-down list to choose white.
  12. Click OK to dismiss the Format Cells dialog box.
  13. Click OK to dismiss the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  14. Print your worksheet as normal. The cell contents should not show up on the printout.
  15. To make the cell contents visible on the printout, just modify cell J1 so that it contains something other than the letter "p."

Another solution is to use a custom format for the cells whose content you want to hide. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell (or cells) you want to hide.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the lower-right corner of the Number group. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Number tab is displayed.
  5. In the list of format categories, select Custom. (See Figure 3.)
  6. Figure 3. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  7. In the Type box, enter three semicolons (;;;).
  8. Click on OK.

Now the information in the cell is not visible, nor will it print. You can, however, see the information in the Formula Bar, and it can be overwritten if you enter anything else in the cell.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6866) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Hiding Individual Cells.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 2 + 4?

2020-11-12 09:22:26

Billy Thomas

To prevent the cell contents from appearing in the Formula Bar, use the Format Cells > Protection > Hidden feature.

2020-10-19 22:25:48


Something I haven't had to do in 20 years, but is hard to see not working now, is to add a helper page, as it were, on which you simply put in the obvious formula of =A1 in A1, and so on to cover the region occupied by the real report page.

Copy the entire report region on the real page, return to the helper page, and paste formatting on the helper page. Another thing I haven't use in a LONG while was there was the ability to paste, again... as it were, but more literally, column and row sizing and I imagine someone here knows how. If not,, well, not hard to do. Most reports are too "column-wide" and most reports don't have a non-repeating row height pattern for most of the report.

If there could be a ton of pages, adjust the rows first, for one page worth once reaching where a pattern establishes (for example, perhaps there are even 2-3 pages of beginning muck, then the real body of the report). Copy their cell formatting from the real report page and paste the formats. Then, with the cell and row formatting in place, select those entire rows, copy, and insert them. If you use selecting, Ctrl-End, and Tab/Shift-Tab judiciously, you can keep doubling up the number of rows being inserted (1, then 2, then 4, then 8 and so on, after all, formatting a few hundred or even thousand extra row heights isn't a problem and the great mass of any extras over reasonable needs can be deleted before saving). Sadly, Excel lets you insert a batch once as "whole rows", then changes over to... ehh... "entire rows" which somehow is not whole rows... otherwise, this'd be even easier.

So, why? Well, your entire "real" report page is untouched by anything you do here. Every cell on it has whatever it has and all the rest can use them. (Clearing a cell on it, the simplest way to accomplish this task, could easily ruin some calculation elsewhere in the report. Hence the copy.) The helper page has simple =A1, =A2, =A3 kinds of formulas. Delete one of them and absolutely nothing else on the helper page is affected since it is just reading content from the real report where nothing was affected.

You can now clear things to your heart's content. Don't want something showing on the page? Delete it. Only the helper page is affected and in the way you desire. Done? Want to re-use it? Name the page before starting, copy it so you don't have to keep re-doing it, and rename it now to its permanent name. Rinse and repeat for as many versions as you need. Actually, resetting the page is pretty easy, just copy cell A1, press Ctrl-Shift-End and Paste | Special | Formulas. It's all the same formula and that also lets you keep the individual cell formatting.

Note I did not say use SPILL with something like =Report!A1:W15224 in cell A1. Not because it's from so long ago and I'm not thinking to update it in small ways, but because you can't then delete contents of various cells.

Caveat: I do NOT want to try to tell someone else "do this" or "do that" (how to is ok, but not "you will do...") so ignore this if you are wedded to doing this kind of report or the following does not precisely apply to what you want hidden. MY experience, and it did convince the boss after a while, hence not doing it for a long time, is that missing data is not only usually reasonably easy to figure out (because people focus on "just delete that, and that, and..." and not on how someone might put it back together, and so doing something more complicated instead, but worse, human nature tends to make some people make wild assumptions about missing material, talk those assumptions up as fact, then you end up with lots of upset people. You know, if that applies to what you wish to hide. Hidden/missing is not the same as unascertainable so...

But the above is pretty easy, and bulletproof. And stuff ain't there at all which is the best kind of hidden.

2017-08-02 03:37:21

Michael (Micky) Avidan

@To whom it may concern,
If you intend to "hide on the printout" more than a single cell - you should use this: =$J$1="p" to determine which Cells to Format,
rather than: =J1="p"
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” Excel MVP – Excel (2009-2018)

2017-08-01 13:06:20

Dennis Costello

I've used the "white-on-white" Conditional Format technique for error messages: the normal format is white text on a white background, but if the situation in the other cells constitutes the error, the conditional format is white text on red background. Easy and effective.

2016-11-21 11:56:21


I have used this technique many times to include instructions to other users that are not obtrusive and that do not print. In these situations, I want the information to appear in the formula bar but not on the printed page. I find this to be easier to use than comments attached to individual cells.

2016-11-21 09:33:00

Jennifer Thomas

Agree that ;;; is the best method, but since you can still see the cell contents in the formula bar, you might want to hide that bar in the workbook via an 'on open' macro for the workbook (to turn it off), and an 'on close' macro to turn it back on again for the user (otherwise the formula bar won't show for that user in other workbooks).

I wouldn't presume to share my 'works-but-is-probably-inefficient' macro code for this, but if someone who is actually good at excel macros wants to share I'd appreciate it!

2016-11-19 16:18:49


Formating cells with custom format ;;; works like a charm. Setting text white only worked with printing set to color, since white is a color. I had other colors on the sheet I did not want to print.

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