Excel's Grouping or "outline" is a fancy feature to wrap up and summarize data in a compact view. It is a common scenario that you may see the button are greyed out. In this article, we are going to show how to enable grouping in Excel.

Shared workbooks

A shared workbook is a very helpful feature when multiple people need to work on the same file. Along with this huge function, the feature doesn't support a good number of actions you can do in Excel. Obviously, grouping or outlining data is one of those actions as well.

Before continuing to unshare your workbook, be noted that Shared Workbooks are an older method of sharing. Microsoft suggests using a new feature called co-authoring that is enabled for Microsoft 365 subscribers.

Otherwise, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure everyone finishes their work on the workbook.
  2. Unshare the workbook.
  3. Apply grouping(outlining).
  4. Share the workbook.

Here is a full list of unsupported items for shared workbooks: About the shared workbook feature

Editing or Protection

The following scenarios affect almost every action including grouping as well. Although they are obvious situations, we have listed them in case you missed them. Leaving the following states enables the grouping buttons.

Protected View

You see this indication for third-party files like downloaded ones. As you can see most of the actions are disabled.

Worksheet Protection

If a worksheet is protected, you cannot change groupings.

Edit mode

While editing a cell's content, you can't perform most of the actions including grouping.

Bonus: Missing outline symbols

You may see the buttons in the Ribbon but not see the outline symbols like plus (+) and minus (-) near the headers. You can solve this mystery by enabling Show outline symbols if an outline is applied option in the Options > Advanced > Display options for this sheet section.