Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Highlighting Cells Containing Specific Text.

Highlighting Cells Containing Specific Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 17, 2018)

You can use the conditional formatting feature in Excel to help draw attention to cells that contain specific text in which you are interested. For instance, if you have a range of cells and you want to know which ones contain the letters "shawn," then you can do the following:

  1. Select the range of cells.
  2. Choose Conditional Formatting from the Format menu. Excel displays the Conditional Formatting dialog box.
  3. In the drop-down Condition list, choose "Formula Is". (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Conditional Formatting dialog box.

  5. In the formula box, enter the following formula. (Make sure you replace A1 with the cell address of the cell in the upper-left corner of the range selected in step 1.)
  6.      =NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("shawn",A1)))
  7. Click on Format. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The Format Cells dialog box.

  9. Using the controls in the dialog box, specify a format that you want used for those cells that contain the specified text. For instance, you may want bold text in a red typeface.
  10. Click on OK to close the Format Cells dialog box.
  11. Click on OK to close the Conditional Formatting dialog box.

You can make this approach even more general-purpose in nature by specifying a cell that contains what you want to search for. For instance, if you type "shawn" in cell F7, then you could replace the formula in step 4 with the following:


Now, you can search for something different just by changing the characters in cell F7.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2671) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Highlighting Cells Containing Specific Text.

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. ...


Showing Filter Criteria on a Printout

When you print out a filtered worksheet, you may want some sort of printed record as to what filtering was applied to the ...

Discover More

Smushing Text Together

Word gives you control over how your text appears on the page. This includes adjusting how close letters are to each ...

Discover More

Self-Adjusting Column Widths

It is important to understand how column widths relate to the margins you may have set in your document. The reason is ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Shading Based on Odds and Evens

You can use conditional formatting to add shading to various cells in your worksheet. This tip shows how you can shade ...

Discover More

Changing Coordinate Colors

Tired of the default colors that Excel uses to display the row and column coordinates? You can modify the colors, but ...

Discover More

Conditionally Formatting for Multiple Date Comparisons

When you compare dates in a conditional formatting rule, you need to be careful how you put your comparisons together. Do ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four less than 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.