Limits to Filtering

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 7, 2015)

Jim asked if there is a way to increase the number of items that can be shown in the AutoFilter drop-down list. Jim is referring to the fact that when AutoFilter is turned on, the drop-down list at the top of each column is limited in what it can display; it will only show the first 1,000 unique items in the column.

There is no way to increase this limit in the current versions of Excel; it is hard-wired. If you want to do more complex filtering, you will need to use the advanced filtering tools in Excel. (They aren't that hard to use, and can provide some very interesting ways of examining your data.)

If you prefer to use AutoFilter, you might look at how your data is organized in your table. For instance, let's say you have a huge list of customer transactions, and you want to filter the data by customer name. The trouble is, you have more than 1,000 unique customers, so you can't see all the customer names in the AutoFilter drop-down list.

The solution is to add another column, perhaps just to the left of your customer name column. Use a formula in the column that pulls out the first letter of the customer's last name. You now have a list of single alphabetic letters. It is much easier to AutoFilter on this column; all 26 letters appear quite nicely in the drop-down list. Select a letter, and this filters your data so that only those customers whose last names begin with that letter are displayed. You can then use the drop-down list in the customer name column to select from all the customers in the pared-down list.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2914) 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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