How to Outline Index numbering in Excel

In this article, we will learn How to Outline Index numbering in Excel


In simple words, while working with the index values in a dataset. Sometimes given a condition i.e. when we need to number and group the index numbering as per mentioned subcategories. You can perform the solution to this problem easily using the excel functions as explained below.

How to solve the problem?

For this article, we will be required to use the COUNTA function & IF function. Now we will make a formula out of these functions. Here we are given a numbered list and a subcategory list. And we need to generate a list of

Generic formula:

= COUNTA ( $D$4 : D4 ) & "." & IF (D4<>"", 1 , MID(F3, FIND (".",F3)+1, LEN(F3))+1 )

$D$4:D4 - absolute array reference

D4 - first cell

<> - not equals to operator

"" - empty cell


All of these might be confusing to understand. So, let's test this formula via running it on the example shown below.

Here we have some data of numbers and subcategories in adjacent cells and we will create a list of numbering and grouping using the above-explained formula.

Firstly,  we need to get the first value as 1.1, extract integer numerical values and then return sequential decimal numbers based on condition. Now we will use the following formula to get the sum.

Use the Formula:

= COUNTA ( $D$4 : D4 ) & "." & IF (D4<>"", 1 , MID(F3, FIND (".",F3)+1, LEN(F3))+1 )


  • COUNTA ( $D$4 : D4 ) returns the count of number of values in array ignoring blank cells which will be the integer part of the index.
  • For the decimal part will be using the IF condition. IF the cell is D4 cell is not blank it will return decimal part as 1 which concatenates with integer part and decimal character.
  • If the decimal part is blank then it checks the previous output cell and extracts its value and adds 1 to it for the next output.

Here the arguments to the function are given as array reference and cell references. Now use Ctrl + D to copy the formula from one cell to the remaining ones.

As you can see the formula returns the index value as per the subcategory.

Here are some observational notes are shown below.


  1. The formula only works with numbers and text both
  2. The IF function checks for the start of each new integer index.
  3. There must be blank cells in the first category list. So as to get the INteger part right.
  4. Subcategory arrays can be blank or can have numbers or text both.
  5. The list array length must be of the same as the code length else the function.

I hope this article about How to Outline Index numbering in Excel is explanatory. Find more articles on COUNT functions here. Please share your query below in the comment box. If you liked our blogs, share it with your friends on Facebook. And also you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We would love to hear from you, do let us know how we can improve, complement or innovate our work and make it better for you. Write to us at

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