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: Conditional Page Breaks.

Conditional Page Breaks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 3, 2014)

Excel is a handy tool for keeping track of all sorts of data. Many people use it at work to create ad-hoc reports for different departments or projects. As you work with your data, you may wonder how you can automatically insert page breaks when the contents of a certain column change. For instance, you might have a column that contains department names, and you may want each department to start on a new page.

This is rather easy to do with the built-in Subtotals feature of Excel. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Make sure your table contains column labels. For instance, if column A contains the department names, then cell A1 could contain a label such as "Department." Make sure all the columns have labels.
  2. Sort the data in your table, using the department column as the key.
  3. With any cell within the table still selected, choose Subtotals from the Data menu. Excel displays the Subtotals dialog box.
  4. Using the At Each Change In drop-down list, select Department.
  5. Using the Use Function drop-down list, select Count.
  6. Using the Add Subtotal To list, select the name of the column where you want your subtotal to appear.
  7. Make sure the Page Break Between Groups check box is selected.
  8. Click on OK. Excel adds the subtotals and the page counts, as directed.

If, for some reason, you don't want to use the Subtotals feature, you can always write a macro that will remove all the page breaks in your worksheet, then add new page breaks at the appropriate places. The following macro will do the trick:

Sub PageBreak()
    Dim CellRange As Range
    Dim TestCell As Range

    ActiveSheet.ResetAllPageBreaks

    Set CellRange = Selection
    For Each TestCell In CellRange
        If TestCell.Value <> TestCell.Offset(-1, 0).Value Then
            ActiveSheet.Rows(TestCell.Row).PageBreak = xlPageBreakManual
        End If
    Next TestCell
End Sub

To use the macro, simply select the cells you want to use as your key for doing the splits, minus the top cell. For instance, if the departments are in column A, rows 2 through 37, you would select the range in A3 through A37. Run the macro, and any old page breaks are removed and new ones added.

You should realize that Excel does have a limit when it comes to the number of manual page breaks that can be used in a worksheet. According to the Knowledge Base, that limit is around 1024 breaks. (The limit can vary slightly based on the version of Excel you are using, but is right around that point.) Here's the obscure write-up about the limit:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/284916

The upshot of this limit is that if you have quite a few page breaks to insert, the macro will crash when the page-break limit is exceded on the worksheet. The error will say something along the lines of "Unable to set the PageBreak property."

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2792) 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: Conditional Page Breaks.

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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