Hidden Information

Sometimes it seems like a good idea to hide “unimportant information” from other users. Complex spreadsheets can seem more user friendly because of this, but in reality it’s not the case. Hidden information could be altered by the user, without the user even realizing what they have done. All the potential negative results also stay.

Hidden Info – Risks

Ignoring hidden info while working with the spreadsheet might cause problems later on, so hiding information is risky business in general.

Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Hidden Formulas

When a cell is formatted to hide its formula in a protected sheet, it’s ambiguous to the user what will happen in the spreadsheet when he changes values, formulas or the structure. It’s better to unhide the formula, by right-clicking the cell range and choose ‘Format Cells’. Then clear the ‘Hidden’ checkbox under the ‘Protection’ tab.

Hidden Formulas :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Hidden Columns / Hidden Rows

As with hidden formulas, hidden columns and hidden rows potentially obscure the way a spreadsheet works. Contrary to hidden formulas, columns and rows can be hidden even when the sheet is not protected. You can always unhide rows and columns by right-clicking on the column/row and selecting ‘unhide’.

Hidden Column :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Hidden Row :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Hidden References

While hidden info obscures potentially important information, it is especially risky to add formula references to this hidden information. Hidden information is easily overwritten or forgotten!

Hidden References :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Hidden Worksheets

Worksheets that are hidden potentially conceal important information to understand the working of the spreadsheet. To unhide a worksheet, right-click any worksheet and choose ‘Unhide Sheet’. A popup will open, where you can select the sheets you wish to unhide.

Hidden Worksheet :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Very Hidden Worksheets

A sheet that is ‘Very Hidden’ gives the impression that it is secure, because users don’t see it when they look for hidden sheets. It can however be modified without any additional authentication! A ‘Very Hidden’ worksheet is considered a high risk by default. PerfectXL reveals any ‘Very Hidden’ worksheets immediately. To unhide ‘Very Hidden’ sheets, you need to open VBA with Alt F11, then go to ‘Properties’, go to ‘Visible’ and choose option “-1 xlSheetVisible”.

Very Hidden Worksheet 1 of 2 :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

Very Hidden Worksheet 2 of 2 :: Hidden Info :: Risk Detection :: PerfectXL

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Other Types of Risk

Calculation Doubts Structure Issues Range Issues Complex Formulas Vulnerable Functions VBA Issues


Relevant Guidelines

Every other week we publish a new Excel Guideline for Professionals, to help you get the best out of your spreadsheets.

Dangers of Hidden Information