Using the SUBTOTAL Function

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 14, 2015)

One of the built-in functions provided with Excel is SUBTOTAL. This function is used automatically by Excel if you use the Subtotals option from the Data menu. If you learn to use the SUBTOTAL function by itself, however, you will find that it is very versatile and flexible. You can use it to procure more than just a simple subtotal, as the function name suggests.

The syntax for the SUBTOTAL function is as follows:

SUBTOTAL(function, refs)

In this syntax, the function is a value of 1 through 11, each representing a different way that SUBTOTAL can analyze your data. The settings have the following meanings:

Function Meaning
10 VAR

Notice that you are not limited to just totaling information; you can perform quite a few different calculations on your data. The function settings refer to different Excel functions (AVERAGE, COUNT, etc.) that are used, in turn, by the SUBTOTAL function.

The refs setting in SUBTOTAL means the cells or cell ranges to which the SUBTOTAL function should be applied. You can separate individual cell references by commas, and you can include up to 29 references (if desired).

The beauty of the SUBTOTAL function is that it ignores any other occurrence of the SUBTOTAL function in a range. Thus, if you used SUBTOTAL at the bottom of a column of values, and there were three other instances of SUBTOTAL in that column, the bottom SUBTOTAL would ignore the other three.

Another neat feature of SUBTOTAL is that it only works with displayed data. Thus, if you had some rows hidden or filtered rows, those are ignored in the calculation.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2048) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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