Group Machine is a application that can form groups from a list of names, or select one random name at a time from this list.

You determine the group size from either how many students you want in a group or from how many groups you want to exist.

When creating groups, It thus takes away the burden of debating with the students about who should be together or in certain groups. It also removes the angst of individual students of (not) being chosen by fellow students or from having to position themselves into a desirable group.

It requires Microsoft Excel! (2003 and up)


  • Takes away your burden of debating with the students about who are in which group.
  • No more anxiety amongst students of (not) being chosen by fellow students
  • Makes the group-creation into a fun thing for teacher and students alike
  • Saves time that you can use on teaching or beginning the assignment
  • Makes students more productive as they all have a chance of being picked out by the Group Machine
  • Works on any computer with Excel installed.
  • You don’t need to save or load when you close or start up


  • Let all students in the class write a poem, afterwards use Group Machine to select a few random students to read theirs aloud
  • Use Group Machine to divide the whole class into 4-man groups, let the groups prepare a poster about a topic.
  • Use Group Machine to divide the class into 2 teams, and begin a football match outside. Then use Group Machine to randomly select 1 student from each team to be goalkeeper or replacements.
  • Use Group Machine to create 3-man groups, each groups prepare a self-chosen presentation. Then they give that presentation to the next group, who then practices and perform it.


  • Can import whole lists of names at a time from Excel – create a class in 10 seconds.
  • Can automatically form groups from a list of names
  • Can deselect students that are not present
  • Can define group sizes from number of students in a group or number of groups to create
  • Can pick individual students
  • Records when students are randomly picked – go through a whole class, one student at a time.
  • Remembers everything as it’s closed and auto-loads it on startup.
  • No copy protection


I am a teacher who wanted to avoid the hassles and reap the benefits as described on this page.

Paradoxically, I found through experimenting with the Group Machine, as I had it developed, that the students really like it a lot. They too often want to avoid the hustle of making groups or fearing who the teacher will point out. I also use an electronic blackboard / Smart board, and the students are really eager to see the program actually create the groups or pick students in a truly democratic fashion, it’s sort of a feature in itself.

With the Group Machine both teacher and students are happy to work together in a fair and pleasant way.


Group Machine needs Microsoft Excel installed on your computer. It’s tested with Excel 2003 and up.
The program also needs you to allow Macros to run in Excel. You do this on the first startup, at the top yellow line.

Help screenshot


  • Open the program:
    It will display a yellow bar at the top, asking if you will allow it to use macros. Click the “enable content” button – and the following “allow” button in the popup, if it shows.
  • Now the program opens proper.
  • Import names: If You have a list of student names in an Excel document, You can import the whole lot. Click “Import New Class”, name it, point to the file, carefully select the rows of names, and click enter. You may select two rows of names – first and last – but no more.

Enter names manually: Click “Add New Class”, name it, enter student name in the “Type Student Name Here” field and click “Add/Edit student” – repeat until finished.

The students in the class, are listed in the left-most column. It’s also here You can edit their names and the classes.

  • Deleting a student – or a whole class – is done by selecting it/her/him and pressing either the “Delete class” or “Delete student” button. Watch Out – there’s no undo-button in the Group Machine.


  1. Select a class – perhaps click the tiny downwards arrow besides the class names to get the class names You’ve entered so far.  Note how the student names of that class is shown in the middle column – it means that these are the ones you’ll be using in this group-creation-session.
  2. Remove check mark from the names that are not present today – some students are perhaps sick or for other reason should not be put in groups.
  3. Use the botton right part of Group Machine now to set up the group sizes: how many, and should it be by X number of groups or by X number of students in each group.
  4. When ready, click the “Divide Into Groups” Button, and the groups are listed in the big white “Results” field.
    It’s not a good idea – from a moral point of view, but You CAN click several times, and it will reshuffle the names. It’s not perfect, however – and You may see a name or two that doesn’t seem to change groups.
  5. Pick a student at random – click the “Random Student” button – the one selected will be shown in the lowest white field, and his/her name in the middle column will have the time added to it.
    Again – it will only pick from those students whose checkmark is on, in the middle column.

Close the Group Machine – it wil remember everything when You reopen it.


Why doesn’t it start?

First time you use the Group Machine (and when you use a new version of it) you have to allow it to use the programming side of Excel. That’s been prohibited by Microsoft per default, So you’ll need to allow the Group Machine to do it’s thing – and trust me as the developer that I don’t have evil intentions. (but don’t worry, I haven’t.)
If You can’t see the yellow bar, examine if there’s another Excel window open but hidden behind the others, or minimized. If you still can’t see anything, try closing and reopening the program.

Can it print the list with groups?
No unfortunately it cannot. But when you close the program, it remembers everything when you open it again.
You can take a screenshot of the app. All keyboards have a button called “Print Screen” – if you press that and then open a image editor or Microsoft Word or Excel and press Control +V, it will insert the picture. Then you may even edit the size of that picture to only include the area with the student groups, you can print it from there.

I set it to 4 students in a group, but there are many groups with 3 students?
Group Machine is not perfect, and cannot round up/down. You sometimes have to adjust manually: i.e. tell certain students to join other groups. You can see the and select the student by selecting the random button and add him to the class you need. You can create as many groups by selecting the group number and students you need per group.

Group Machine is open, and suddenly I can’t open other Excel documents!?
Yeah, that’s unfurtunately as it is. For some unknown reason You can only have Group Machine open as the sole Excel document – close it, do the other Excel docs You want, and reopen Group Machine. Sorry.

How do I save my changes in Group Machine?
No need to save – just close the program. Next time You open it, it’ll have remembered the changes You made.

How many students/classes can I enter?
I don’t know – theoretically endless amounts, but I haven’t tried to find out exactly how many.

How do I rename a class?
Sorry, You can not. The class has to be deleted and re-created. You can only rename a student. This is done by selecting the student’s name, correcting it in the field below, and clicking “Add/Edit Student.

Where’s the undo-button?
It’s not there at all, sorry – You just have to be precise.

What are those numbers beside the student names in the middle column?
That’s the time and date when this student was last selected at random, using the “Random Student” button. For example You may want to let all students make a presentation, but only 3 students each day. So a few days down when you’ve completely forgotten, You can still see in the Group Machine, who has – hasn’t – made the presentation yet. (and when!)

What is the “Random (retain records)” checkbox for? (low right part of the screen)
It’s used to forget the date (see the question right above this), or leave it be, when selecting students at random.

How do I reset the records (the time/date by the students name)
..by clicking the tiny “reset” button, which is crammed in a bit above.