Hiding and Showing: Basic How-To

Okay, let’s say you’ve got an inventory with all the information you could possibly want… but you don’t necessarily want it all right now. Let’s say you’re browsing in a bookstore, and have your inventory on a chip in your cell phone, and you spot a new book by an author that you know you’ve read in the past. You might want to look up how you rated other books by that author, but by the time you’ve scrolled sideways past the series, publisher, and genre columns you might not be able to see the author’s name anymore!

Fortunately there’s an easy solution. Most spreadsheet programs will let you “hide” rows and columns that you don’t want to see. It’s useful in the situation I just described, and also when you’re writing a complicated spreadsheet with a lot of formulas that you don’t want accidentally overwritten.

Of course, once you hide something you need to be able to unhide it again, so I’ll describe how to do both steps in this post.
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Selecting and navigating cells, rows, and columns: Basic How-To

Okay, time a brief introduction to some techniques that we’ll be needing from here on out. I’ve previously mentioned selecting one or more cells, but if we’re talking about potentially large detailed lists it’s now time to discuss how to navigate around and select large chunks of data.

These techniques are pretty much universal. As far as I can tell all current spreadsheets use them, except where otherwise noted. Therefore I won’t break these techniques out by program the way I’ve done with others.

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Inserting columns: Basic how-to

Continuing with the example of the book inventory, let’s say that you set up the perfect inventory — and then realized you needed something else. The last time we moved, I had had enough of not being able to find the book I wanted without trying to remember/guess which box it had been packed in. It also seemed like a good way to verify the inventory, and make sure nothing had gotten lost or sold without being recorded.

Of course, when I made the inventory, I hadn’t planned on this information. There wasn’t a column for it. I could have added it at the end, of course, but that would have made it hard to see both that column and the title column at the same time on my itty-bitty laptop screen. So the obvious solution was to insert a column. I chose to make it the first column, but it could have been anywhere. It could even have been after the last column I’d already filled, though that wouldn’t have had much effect.

The steps to insert a column depend on what program you’re using.
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Project 5: Book inventory

To start off the discussion of detailed lists in spreadsheets, here’s a simple example: a book inventory. While this project focuses on books the techniques it demonstrates can be used for almost any sort of inventory. I’ve always wanted to make an inventory of all the recipes I’ve collected, so I never again have to wonder which book/index card box/folder had that delicious recipe I’m looking for at any given time. An inventory like this is also good for insurance purposes!

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