Filtering is limited to 999 items in Microsoft Excel

The number of items available for filtering is limited. Excel cannot filter columns in which the number of items exceeds 999 (not the number of rows).

To filter when there are more than 999 items, use advanced filter.

To create an advanced filter, we will use “OFFSET” and “COUNTA” functions in Microsoft Excel.

COUNTA: It returns the count of the number of cells which contain values.

Syntax of “COUNTA” function: =COUNTA (value1, value2, value3…….)

Example: In range A1:A5, cells A2, A3 and A5 contain the values, and cells A1and A4 are blank. Select the cell A6 and write the formula-

=COUNTA(A1:A5) the function will return 3


OFFSET: It returns a reference to a range that is offset a number of rows and columns from another range or cell.

Syntax of OFFSET function: =OFFSET (reference, rows, cols, height, width)

Reference:- This is the cell or range from which you want to offset.

Rows and Columns to move: - The number of rows you want to move from the starting point and both of these can be positive, negative or zero.

Height and Width: - This is the size of the range you want to return. This is an optional field.

Let’s take an example to understand the Offset function in Excel.

We have data in range A1:D10. Column A contains Product Code, Column B contains Quantity, column C contains per product cost and column D contains Total cost. We need to return the value of cell C5 in cell E2.


To get the desired outcome, we need to follow the below mentioned steps.

  • Select the cell E2 and write the formula.
  • =OFFSET(A1,4,2,1,1)and press Enter on the keyboard.
  • The function will return the value of cell C5.



In this example, we need to obtain the value from the cell C5 to E2. Our reference cell is the first cell in the range which is A1 and C5 is 4 rows below and 2 columns to the right from A1. Hence, the formula is =OFFSET(A1,4,2,1,1) or =OFFSET(A1,4,2) (since 1,1 is optional).


Now, let’s take an example to retrieve the last value in a dynamic list.

We have country names in a range. Now, if we add more countries to this list, it should be available in the drop down list automatically.


To prepare advanced filter, follow the below given steps:-

  • Select the cell B2.
  • Go to the Data tab, select Data Validation from the Data tools group.


  • The “Data Validation” dialog box will appear. In the “Settings” tab, select “Custom” from the Allow drop down list.


  • The formula box will be activated.
  • Write the formula in this box.
  • =OFFSET(A:A,1,0,COUNTA(A:A)-1,1).
  • Click on OK.


  • At this stage, the last updated cell is A11.


  • To check if the Data Validation is working properly, add a city name in cell A12.


As soon as you add an entry in A12, it will be added to the dropdown list.

This is the way we can add more entries than 999 items in Microsoft Excel.

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