Author: Oscar Cronquist Article last updated on December 02, 2020

Subtotal feature

The Subtotal feature lets you insert totals and grand totals automatically, this feature was added to Excel 2010 and is still around in later Excel versions. The image above demonstrates the Subtotal tool applied to cell range B2:E30.

The + and minus signs to the left of the row numbers let you expand and collapse rows respectively. This functionality lets you easily examine the values behind a specific subtotal that may interest you more than the others.

Prepare data

Before you can use the Subtotal tool you need to prepare your data:

  • Remove blank rows.
  • Sort the data based on the column or columns you want to add subtotals to.

How to sort data

Subtotals sort data

  1. Right-click on any cell in your data set. A pop-up menu appears, see image above.
  2. Click on "Sort".
  3. Click "Custom Sort...", a dialog box appears.
    custom sort
  4. Sort by "Salesperson"
  5. Add a Level
  6. Then by "Region"
  7. Click OK button.

Subtotals data sorted

The image above shows the data set sorted based on column B and then on column C.

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Note, you can't insert subtotals to an Excel Table. This will grey out the "Subtotal" button.

Subtotals greyed out

I recommend a Pivot Table if you want the functionality that the Excel Table has and the Subtotal feature.

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How to start the Subtotal tool?

Apply Subtotals dialog box

Go to tab "Data" on the ribbon, click the "Subtotal" button. A dialog box appears, see image above.

Disable the "Data Bars" checkbox and enable the "Sales" check box. Click the OK button to apply settings and create subtotals.

Subtotals tool 1

The image above demonstrates subtotals in cell D11 and D20 created by the Subtotal tool. The formula bar shows that the Subtotal tool inserted SUBTOTAL functions in both cell D11 and D20.

The SUBTOTAL function has many arguments which I won't be demonstrating in this article, check out the SUBTOTAL function article if you want to learn more about them.

Click subtotal-symbol symbol to collapse rows and click subtotal+symbol symbol to expand rows. You can also expand or collapse all rows on a hierarchy level by pressing 1, 2 or 3:  subtotal expand collapse

These buttons are located to the left of the row numbers, see the image above or the animated image below.

subtotals1

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Subtotals on multiple levels

You can add more subtotals to your data list. We inserted subtotals before when a change occurred in column Salesperson, let's add a new subtotal for each change in column Region.

  1. Select cell range A1:C20
  2. Click "Subtotal" button on tab "Data"
    subtotals on multiple levels
  3. Click the drop-down menu below the "At each change in:"
  4. Select Region
  5. Clear checkbox "Replace current subtotals"
  6. Click OK button.

subtotals on multiple levels1

Dialog box settings

Subtotals dialog box settings

At each change in

The first drop-down list lets you choose which column to use when determining where to insert subtotals to. When a value changes a new subtotal is inserted, this is why it is important to sort the values first.

Use function

subtotal feature functions

The dialog box allows you to pick one function out of eleven functions, they are:

  • Sum - Calculates a total.

    subtotal tool sum function
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(9,D3:D10)

    97496 + 33568 + 90964 + 24088 + 98629 + 72498 + 89764 + 14867 = 521874

  • Count - Counts the number of cells that are not empty.

    subtotal tool count function
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(3,D3:D10)

    There are eight cells in cell range D3:D10 and they all non-empty. The formula returns 8 in cell D11.

  • Average - Returns the average (arithmetic mean) of the arguments.

    subtotal tool average function
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(1,D3:D10)

    97496 + 33568 + 90964 + 24088 + 98629 + 72498 + 89764 + 14867 = 521874
    521874/8 = 65234.25

  • Max - Returns the largest number

    subtotal tool max function
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(4, D3:D10)

    Cell range D3:D10 contains the following values: 97496, 33568, 90964, 24088, 98629, 72498, 89764 and 14867.
    98629 is the largest one.

  • Min - Returns the smallest number

    subtotal tool min function
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(5, D3:D10)

    Cell range D3:D10 contains the following values: 97496, 33568, 90964, 24088, 98629, 72498, 89764 and 14867.
    14867 is the smallest number.

  • Product - Multiplies numbers in cell range

    subtotal tool product function 1
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(6, D3:D10)

    Cell range D3:D10 contains the following values: 97496, 33568, 90964, 24088, 98629, 72498, 89764 and 14867.
    97496 * 33568 * 90964 * 24088 * 98629 * 72498 * 89764 * 14867 = 6.8428772708558E+37

  • Count numbers - Count the number of cells that contain numbers

    subtotal tool count numbers
    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(2, D3:D10)

    There are eight cells in cell range D3:D10 and they all are numbers. The formula returns 8 in cell D11.

  • StdDev - Calculates the standard deviation of a group of values.

    subtotal tool standard deviation

    Formula in cell D11:

    =SUBTOTAL(7, D3:D10)

    The standard deviation shows how much the values differ from the mean value of the group.

    stdev formula

  • StdDevp
  • Var
  • Varp

Add subtotal to

subtotal tool columns

Replace current subtotals

Pagebreak between groups

Summary below data

Add data bars

Now it is time to spice up your data table with some chart bars. Hold on, I am not going to insert a chart. Conditional Formatting is what we are going to use actually.

  1. Create a new column and type =C2 in cell D2.
  2. Copy cell D2 to the cells below.
  3. Remove cells that link to subtotals and grand total.
  4. Select cell range D2:D24.
  5. Go to tab "Home" on the ribbon.
  6. Click "Conditional formatting" button.
  7. Click "Data Bars".
  8. Click "More Rules..."
    New formatting rule - Data Bars - Conditional formatting
  9. Enable the checkbox "Show Bar Only".
  10. I chose a "Solid Border" from the "Border" drop-down menu.
  11. Click OK button.

The Data Bars let you quickly compare numbers, finding outliers, or interesting statistics.

subtotals on multiple levels and data bars

Remove all subtotals

remove subtotals

You can easily remove all subtotals, select the cell range you want to remove subtotals from. Go to tab "Data", click "Subtotal" button. Click "Remove All" button.

Build a Pivot Table/Pivot chart

A pivot table allows you to summarize a data table in many different ways, using different criteria. It is easy and you will be analyzing your data in no time. Pivot tables are subtotals on steroids.

I highly recommend reading this blog post: Analyze trends using pivot tables, there is also a quick introduction to pivot tables.

You can also compare data, year to year, month to month and whatever time frame you like.