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on May 31, 2016, 10:28 AM PDT
Six tips for using Excel sheet groups in easy (but unusual) ways
Sheet groups can streamline your Excel tasks in all kinds of ways. Here are some inventive possibilities for using groups to interact with multiple sheets more efficiently.
Excel allows you to select multiple sheets, which you can then edit as a group. When sheets are grouped in this way, everything you do to the active sheet is also done to the other sheets in the group. This grouping behavior can save a lot of formatting and editing time if your workbook splits related data across similarly structured sheets. You can also use grouped sheets to do things you might not realize. In this article, Ill show you a few helpful grouping tricks that you might not have considered.
Ill be using Excel 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can apply these tips to earlier versions without any additional instruction. Theres no downloadable demonstration file.
A word on related but separate
Groups rely on what I call the related but separate construct. Each sheet is similar in purpose and more important, in structure, but data is divided across separate sheets by some defining criteria, such as dates, personnel, and departments. You might see orders by month, sales by region, or classes by teacher. The aggregate is all orders, all sales, and all classes, but the structure separates the data.
At its best, this arrangement makes reporting simple, but it complicates the aggregate grouping and analytical processes that Excel is so good at. I prefer storing data in a more traditional database-type record structure. Its easier to pull data together from a common source for reporting than to retrieve data from multiple sheets for analyses and manipulation. I am in the minority, however; you will find many Excel workbooks use this related but separate model. It isnt wrong by any means; but consider the way you want to use all the data before accepting this model as the best way to store it. How you store data is just as important as how you present the information that results from analyzing that data.
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Create the sheet group
You can select two or more sheets to create a group and act on all the sheets at once. What you do on the active sheet will occur on all the sheets in the group. If you already know how to create a group, feel free to skip to the tips that follow. Otherwise, to create a sheet group, do the following:
The white tabs indicate a group.
Thats it! If you want to group all the sheets in the workbook, you can do so quickly using a menu option: Right-click any tab and choose Select All Sheets.
While youre working in group mode, Excel displays the workbooks name with [Group] in the title bar. You must remember to ungroup the sheets once you finish acting on multiple sheets. Its easy to forget that youre working in group mode and make changes to all the sheets without meaning to. On the other hand, if you use group mode frequently and to your advantage, youll quickly learn to ungroup when youre finished.
To ungroup sheets, right-click on any sheet tab in the group and choose Ungroup Sheets. Or click any tab not in the group. If you want to ungroup and stay at the current sheet, hold down the [Shift] key and click the active tab. Now, lets move on to a few clever ways to use groups that might not have occurred to you.
1: Copy an existing formula or value to other sheets
To enter a formula or value into all the sheets in the group, you enter it just onceon the active sheet. If you want to copy an existing formula or value to another sheet in the same workbook, you can always copy and paste. Or you can create a group:
Pressing [F2] activates the contents of the cell (edit mode). Pressing [Enter] then pastes the contents of the active cell in the active sheet into the corresponding cell in all the other sheets in the sheet group.
SEE: Master sorting basics in Excel
2: Control the number and position of inserted sheets
By default, new Excel workbooks have three sheets. You can add or delete sheets. You can even change the default number of sheets for new workbooks. What you cant easily do is add multiple sheets on the fly, exactly where you want them. Grouped sheets can help.
Create a group with the same number of sheets you want to add where you want to add the new sheets. With the group active, add a new sheet by right-clicking any tab in the group and choosing Insert. Excel will add the same number of sheets as in the group between the grouped sheets. Figure B shows the results of creating a group from Sheet3, Sheet4, and Sheet5 (with Sheet5 being the last sheet in the workbook) and inserting a sheet.
Add multiple new sheets exactly where you want them.
Give it a try. It wont take you long to get the hang of it. This route isnt easier than clicking the New Sheet icon a few times, but it is easier than moving the newly inserted sheets after adding them. Use a group to add them exactly where you want them.
3: Delete a group
Deleting several sheets at once is just as easy, and they dont have to be in a contiguous selection. Using the [Ctrl] key lets you add noncontiguous sheets to a group. Then, you can delete all the sheets in the group with one task: Right-click a tab and choose Delete.
SEE: How to use Excels Data Validation feature to prevent data entry mistakes
4: Move grouped sheets
If sheets arent in a meaningful order, you can move them. You can also move multiple sheets by grouping them and moving the group. First, create the group. Then, right-click the group, choose Move or Copy, select a position, and click OK. If you click the Create A Copy option, you can copy, instead of delete, the group of sheets to a new location.
5: Print quickly
To quickly print several sheets at once, create a group. With the group active, proceed with your printing task as you normally would. This tip can take a bit of practice to get things right, but its worth the extra effort.
6: See more tabs
This isnt strictly a group tip, but if you cant see the sheet tabs, it can be difficult to create a group. You can use the arrows to the left of the sheet area but that moves tabs, it doesnt display more tabs. A better solution is to decrease the size of the horizontal scroll bar immediately to the right. Simply hover over the left edge of the bar and drag it to the right to reduce its width and display more sheet tabs.
Not rocket science
None of these tips are rocket science, but they let you use groups in ways you might not consider on your own. Once you work through a few, youll probably think of others. Feel free to share your favorite grouping tips in the Comments section below.
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Susan HarkinsPublished: May 31, 2016, 10:28 AM PDT Modified: May 31, 2016, 10:20 AM PDT See more Software