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Hide named ranges in Excel: 4 simple ways

Hiding named ranges in Excel

Named ranges are a useful feature of Excel. We often use them to build more complex tools that we may share with other users. Therefore, those named ranges become a critical part of our spreadsheet. Unfortunately, if those users modify or delete the named ranges, it may break the calculations. So, in this post, I want to share 4 ways that you can hide named ranges (and of course, how to unhide them again).

Hide named ranges from formulas (Method #1)

When we create named ranges, they are found in three places in the user interface

  1. In formulas (if used)
  2. Name Box
  3. Name Manager

To prevent users from seeing formulas we can:

  • Format the cell containing formulas to be Hidden.
    Format Cells Hidden
  • Then protect the worksheet by clicking Review > Protect Sheet from the ribbon

No formulas will appear in the formula bar if that cell is selected.

However, this doesn’t help with the Name Box [1] or the Name Manager [2].

Named Ranges in a workbook

In the remainder of this post, we look at methods to further hide named ranges, as we don’t want them visible in either Name Box or Name Manager.

The user interface does not provide any tools to help us with this; therefore, we need to look at other more advanced methods.

hide Named Ranges

Hide named ranges with VBA macros (Method #2)

Let’s start by looking at VBA macros. Below are 5 code examples for hiding, listing, and unhiding named ranges. Please note, these will only work on Excel desktop.

Hide individual named ranges

The example below hides an individual named range called Example1 from the active workbook.

Sub hideIndividualNamedRange()

'Hide an individual named range from the active workbook
ActiveWorkbook.Names("Example1").Visible = False

End Sub

Hide all named ranges

The code below loops through every named range in the active workbook and hides all of them.

Sub hideAllNamedRanges()

Dim wb As Workbook
Dim nm As Name

Set wb = ActiveWorkbook

'Loop through all names and hide them
For Each nm In wb.Names

    nm.Visible = False

Next nm

End Sub

List all hidden named ranges

Having hidden named ranges, we may then want to know what those names are so we can use them or unhide them. The following code lists all the hidden named ranges in the active workbook. The list starts on cell A1 of the active sheet. Macros cannot be undone, so start a new worksheet to avoid overwriting anything you want to keep.

If you see items in the list that you were not expecting, check out the Unknown named ranges section at the bottom of this post.

Sub listAllHiddenNamedRanges()

Dim wb As Workbook
Dim ws As Worksheet
Dim nm As Name
Dim i As Integer

Set wb = ActiveWorkbook
Set ws = ActiveSheet

'Loop through all names
For Each nm In wb.Names

    'If names are hidden then list them
    If nm.Visible = False Then
        ws.Range("A1").Offset(i, 0).Value = nm.Name
        i = i + 1
    End If

Next nm

End Sub

Unhide individual named ranges

After you’ve hidden some named ranges, the next question is: how do you unhide them again? The code below unhides a named range called Example1.

Sub unhideIndividualNamedRange()

'Unhide an individual named range from the active workbook
ActiveWorkbook.Names("Example1").Visible = True

End Sub

Unhide all named ranges

The example below unhides all named ranges from the active workbook.

Sub unhideAllNamedRanges()

Dim wb As Workbook
Dim nm As Name

Set wb = ActiveWorkbook

'Loop through all names and hide them
For Each nm In wb.Names

    nm.Visible = True

Next nm

End Sub

If you want to know more about using named ranges with VBA check out our guide: VBA Named Ranges – Common Properties & Methods

Hide named ranges with Office Scripts (Method #3)

Now let’s move on to Office Scripts. These will work in Excel online, and hopefully, be fully working on desktop soon. At the time of writing, there is partial support for Office Scripts in Excel Desktop.

The codes below mirror those in the VBA macro section above.

Hide individual named ranges

The example below hides a named range called Example1 from the Active Workbook.

function main(workbook: ExcelScript.Workbook) {

//Hide an individual named range from the active workbook
workbook.getNamedItem("Example1").setVisible(false)

}

Hide all named ranges

The code below hides all the named ranges in a workbook.

function main(workbook: ExcelScript.Workbook) {

//Declare variable to hold array of names
let nm = workbook.getNames()

//Loop through array and hide names
for (let i = 0; i < nm.length; i++) {
  nm[i].setVisible(false)
}

}

List all hidden named ranges

The example code below lists the hidden named ranges in a workbook. The list starts on Cell A1 of the active sheet, so make sure it won’t overwrite anything important before you run the script.

If you see items with strange names you were not expecting, check out the Unknown named ranges section below.

function main(workbook: ExcelScript.Workbook) {

//Declare variable to hold array of names
let nm = workbook.getNames()

//Loop through array of names
for (let i = ; i < nm.length; i++) {

  //Check if name is hidden
  if (nm[i].getVisible() == false) {

      //Add name to the active worksheet
      workbook.getActiveWorksheet().getRange("A1").
        getOffsetRange(i,0).setValue(nm[i].getName())      
    }
    
}
}

Unhide individual named ranges

The code below unhides a named range called Example1.

function main(workbook: ExcelScript.Workbook) {

//Unhide an individual named range from the active workbook
workbook.getNamedItem("Example1").setVisible(true)

}

Unhide all named ranges

The code below unhides all named ranges in the workbook.

function main(workbook: ExcelScript.Workbook) {

//Declare variable to hold array of names
let nm = workbook.getNames()

//Loop through array and unhide names
for (let i = 0; i < nm.length; i++) {
  nm[i].setVisible(true)
}

}

Office Scripts are still a relatively new way of working with Excel. To find out more, check our other Office Scripts posts.

Changing file structure (Method #4)

You are unlikely to use this final method often. However, you never know; it might be helpful at some point. To hide named ranges using this method, we unpack the Excel workbook file structure and change the source code.

Be aware, this method may corrupt your file if it goes wrong. Please backup for attempting this method.

  1. Rename the Excel workbook so the file extension is .zip, instead of .xlsx or .xlsm
  2. Navigate into the zip file and find the file called \xl\workbook.xml
  3. Copy and paste the workbook.xml file outside of the zip folder
  4. Open the copied XML file using a text editor like Notepad
  5. Within the text, you will find code similar to the following
    <definedName name=”Example1″>Sheet1!$A$1</definedName>
    In that code, we can add a property to make the named range hidden (highlighted in bold below)
    <definedName name=”Example1″ hidden=”1″>Sheet1!$A$1</definedName>
  6. Save the XML file. Then, copy and paste the file back into the \xl\ zipped folder.
  7. Change the file extension of the zip file back to .xlsx or .xlsm
  8. Reopen the Excel workbook. All the names set with hidden=”1″ will be hidden.

Most users are not aware that Excel files are zipped folders. If this is new to you, you might find this interesting.

Sheet scope vs workbook scope named ranges

The examples above all use workbook scoped named ranges. However, named ranges can also be worksheet scoped. For these, the method of referencing the name changes to include the sheet name.

The following references a workbook named range:

ActiveWorkbook.Names("sheetExample").Visible = False

While the following references a named range scoped to Sheet1

ActiveWorkbook.Names("'Sheet1'!sheetExample").Visible = False

The underlined section identifies the sheet to which the named range relates.

Unknown named ranges

When you list or unhide all named ranges, you may be surprised to find items you did not create. These are items that Excel creates in the background for its own usage.

For example, if you have a filter applied, the named range might appear as ‘Sheet1’!_FilterDatabase

Or, if you have a dynamic array function in the workbook, the named range might appear as _xlfn._xlws.SORT

Do not delete any of these, they are how Excel controls other parts of the workbook.

Wrap-up

As we have seen, to fully hide named ranges, we need a 2 step approach:

  1. Hide the names using VBA, Office Scripts, or by changing the file structure (Method #2, #3 and #4)
  2. Set the formulas as Hidden in the Format Cells dialog box (Method #1)

After applying these two steps, users will now see the named ranges. The names will exist but not be visible in the Name Box, Name Manager any formulas.


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About the author

Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.

My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.

In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).


Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?

I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you're still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise.  List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don't go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

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