Conditional Formatting

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 10, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Excel includes a powerful feature that allows you to dynamically change the formatting of individual cells based on the results being displayed in that cell. For instance, you could make the text in the cell larger and red if a result is less than a certain threshold. Likewise, you could color the background of a cell based on the result of a formula.

To take advantage of conditional formatting, follow these steps:

  1. Enter your cell formula as you normally would.
  2. Choose Conditional Formatting from the Format menu. Excel displays the Conditional Formatting dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Conditional Formatting dialog box.

  4. Use the controls in the dialog box to specify the threshold or ranges you want to set for formatting to be changed.
  5. Click on the Format button. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Format Cells dialog box.

  7. Make the changes in the dialog box to indicate how you want the cell to be formatted if your condition (entered in step 3) is met.
  8. Click on OK to close the Format Cells dialog box.
  9. Click on the Add button and define more conditions (and formats), if desired.
  10. Click on the OK button to close the Conditional Formatting dialog box.

It is possible to get very creative with conditional formatting. However, it is not the answer to every formatting need. If you want to be even more creative (you know—bordering on outlandish), you can always develop a macro that will examine all the cells in your sheet or a specific range of cells you select and then change formatting in any way you wish.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2665) 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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