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

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 22, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


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:

=NOT(ISERR(SEARCH($F$7,A1)))

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. ...

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