Coloring Cells with Formulas

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 13, 2013)

Cells in a worksheet can contain values or they can contain formulas. At some time, you may wish to somehow highlight all the cells in your worksheet that contain formulas by coloring those cells. There are several ways you can approach and solve this problem. If you don't have a need to do the highlighting that often, a manual approach may be best. Follow these steps:

  1. Press either F5 or Ctrl+G. Excel displays the Go To dialog box.
  2. Click Special. Excel displays the Go To Special dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Go To Special dialog box.

  4. Select the Formulas radio button.
  5. Click OK.

At this point, every cell in the worksheet that contains formulas is selected, and you can add color to those cells or format them as desired. This approach can be automated, if desired, by using a macro like the following:

Sub ColorFormulas()
    ActiveSheet.Cells.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeFormulas, 23).Select
    With Selection.Interior
        .ColorIndex = 6
        .Pattern = xlSolid
    End With
End Sub

You can run this macro as often as necessary in order to highlight the various cells that contain formulas. The only problem is that if a formula is deleted from a cell that was previously highlighted, the highlighting remains; it is not removed automatically. In this case, a different macro approach is mandated. This macro acts on a range of cells you select before running the macro.

Sub ColorFunction()
    For Each cell In Selection
        If cell.HasFormula Then
            With cell.Interior
                .ColorIndex = 6
                .Pattern = xlSolid
            End With
        Else
            cell.Interior.ColorIndex = xlNone
        End If
    Next cell
End Sub

The macro checks each cell in the range. If the cell contains a formula, then it is highlighted. If the cell does not contain a formula, then the highlight is turned off.

Another potential solution is to use a user-defined function along with the conditional formatting capabilities of Excel. Create the following function in the VBA Editor:

Function CellHasFormula(c As Range) As Boolean
    CellHasFormula = c.HasFormula
End Function

With this function in place, you can use the conditional formatting capabilities of Excel (detailed elsewhere in ExcelTips) to check what the formula returns. In other words, you would set a conditional format that checked the result of this formula:

=CellHasFormula(A1)

If the result is true (the cell contains a formula), then your conditional format is applied.

It is interesting to note that you don't have to create a VBA macro to use the conditional formatting route, if you don't want to. (Some people have a natural aversion to using macros.) Instead, you can follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+F3. Excel displays the Define Name dialog box.
  2. In the Names field (at the top of the dialog box), enter a name such as FormulaInCell.
  3. In the Refers To field (at the bottom of the dialog box), enter the following:
  4. =GET.CELL(48,INDIRECT("rc",FALSE))
    
  5. Click OK.

Now you can follow the techniques previously outlined for setting up the conditional formatting. The only difference is that the conditional format should check for the following formula, instead:

=FormulaInCell

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2766) 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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