Too Many Cell Formats

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 24, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


ExcelTips subscriber Monark Panchal was distressed that he tried to open a workbook and received an error message that said "too many different cell formats." He could not even work on the file at that point.

The only mention that Microsoft has of this error message is detailed in their Knowledge Base, article 213904. You can find this article here:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/213904

Don't worry that the article's title indicates it is for the Mac; it still applies to PC versions of Excel, as well. It is interesting that the description provided by Microsoft indicates that this message pops up as you apply the formatting that pushes Excel over the formatting limit. The resolution is to then make changes that bring the number of formats in the workbook below that threshold.

The problem here is that Monark cannot even get the workbook open to reduce the number of formats--Excel detects the error condition, and then refuses to continue loading. It is reasonable to assume that Monark would have seen notification of the error prior to closing the workbook. If no notification occurred (the first occurrence was when trying to open the workbook), then it is possible that the workbook is, in fact, corrupted and that Excel simply thinks there are too many formats.

Regardless, Microsoft's solution in Knowledge Base article 213904 cannot be applied to a closed file. The only solution is to revert to a saved backup of the workbook and open it.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1938) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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