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Deleting Blank Columns

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Deleting Blank Columns.

When importing information from an external source, it is possible that the data will contain blank columns—columns with nothing in them. If you import a lot of data, then deleting these columns can be a bother. There are a couple of ways you can approach how to delete these columns.

The first approach works very well if your data is sorted by column. In other words, the data that you import is in ascending order, or you want it in sorted order. In this case, follow these steps:

  1. Select the columns that represent your data. Make sure you select, as part of the range, all the blank columns as well.
  2. Choose the Sort option from the Data menu. Excel displays the Sort dialog box.
  3. Click the Options button. Excel displays the Sort Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Sort Options dialog box.

  5. Choose the Sort Left to Right radio button.
  6. Click on OK to dismiss the Sort Options dialog box.
  7. Using the first Sort By drop-down list, specify the row by which you want to sort.
  8. Click on OK.

When sorting in this manner, all the empty columns end up "pushed" to the right, and your data is in a sorted order.

If you don't want your data sorted, then you can use a nifty macro that will check for blank columns in a selected range and then delete those columns. The following macro will do the trick:

Sub DeleteEmptyColumns()
    first = Selection.Column
    last = Selection.Columns(Selection.Columns.Count).Column
    For i = last To first Step -1
      If WorksheetFunction.CountBlank(ActiveSheet.Columns(i)) = 65536 Then
      End If
    Next i
End Sub

To use the macro, select the range of columns in which you want blank columns deleted. The macro steps through the columns and if the column is truly blank, it is deleted. You should note that this macro will delete only columns that are truly empty. If cells within a column include a formula that returns a zero value (and you have the display of zeros values turned off) or that returns an empty string, then the column isn't empty—it contains formulas. In this case, the column won't be deleted.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2660) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Deleting Blank Columns.

Related Tips:

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!


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Comments for this tip:

Dave    29 May 2014, 10:24
Hi sushama.

I have written a macro for you, which will do what you are looking for. Please note the following "conditions":

1. Your data is expected to be in a grid of 8 columns and 40 rows. The grid can be anywhere on the sheet.

2. You MUST position the cursor at the top left cell of the grid.

3. Before you run the macro, you need to find a column that has no data. Insert the column NUMBER (NOT the letter) in the code so that it is assigned to the variable SC (sorting column). I have used 150, which is beyond the range of most spreadsheets!

Two steps to the process:
1. Copy the data to a single column, but only the non-empty cells.
2. Write the new column of cells back to the original grid.
In both cases, clear the cells as you go.

I hope you find this useful. Here is the code.



Sub ShiftCells()
    Dim x As Integer ' top left corner row
    Dim y As Integer ' top left corner column
    Dim i As Integer ' loop counter
    Dim j As Integer ' loop counter
    Dim MaxX As Integer ' max row
    Dim MaxY As Integer ' max column
    Dim a As Integer ' counter for new column
    Dim SC As Integer ' sort column
    x = Selection.Row
    y = Selection.Column
    a = 1
    SC = 150
    MaxX = x + 39
    MaxY = y + 7
    ' write the cell values to a new column
    For j = y To MaxY
        For i = x To MaxX
        If Cells(i, j) <> "" Then ' if the cell has a value then
            Cells(a, SC) = Cells(i, j) ' copy the value
            a = a + 1
        End If
        Cells(i, j) = "" ' clear the original cell
        Next i
    Next j
    ' write the corrected list back
    a = 1
    For j = y To MaxY
        For i = x To MaxX
            If Cells(a, SC) <> "" Then
                Cells(i, j) = Cells(a, SC) ' copy the values
                Cells(a, SC) = "" ' clear the corrected cells
                a = a + 1
                Exit For
            End If
        Next i
    Next j
End Sub
sushama    18 Apr 2013, 01:02
We have listed book no. in excel sheet in ascending order for stock verification. Some of the books have been weeded out, which leaves blank cells in the sheet. So how to delete these cells without disturbing the sequential order. The no. are in 8 columns and 40 rows in every sheet. i.e.41 no. comes on the second colum and so on.. Pl. guide

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