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: Changing the Color Used to Denote Selected Cells.

Changing the Color Used to Denote Selected Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 23, 2016)

Whenever you select a range of cells to enter data, the active cell is white and all the other cells in the range are a contrasting color. As you enter data and then press the Enter key, that cell becomes the contrasting color and the next cell becomes the active cell and is white. You may wonder how to change the contrasting color to make the selected range stand out more.

The colors used by Excel when you select items are controlled not by Excel, but by Windows. You can change the selection color, but you should understand that when you do so it may affect other programs besides just Excel. The exact steps you follow depend on your version of Windows. If you are using Windows XP, follow these steps:

  1. Get out of Excel.
  2. Right-click anywhere in your Windows desktop. (Make sure you right-click on the desktop itself, not on any of the objects on the desktop.) Windows presents a Context menu.
  3. Choose Properties from the Context menu. Windows displays the Display Properties dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Appearance tab is selected.
  5. Click the Advanced button. Windows displays the Advanced Appearance dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Advanced Appearance dialog box.

  7. Using the Item drop-down list, choose the Selected Items option.
  8. Using the Color 1 drop-down list, choose the color you want Windows to use when you select items.
  9. Click OK to close the Advanced Appearance dialog box.
  10. Click OK to close the Display Properties dialog box.

If you are using Vista, follow these steps instead:

  1. Get out of Excel.
  2. Right-click anywhere in your Windows desktop. (Make sure you right-click on the desktop itself, not on any of the objects on the desktop.) Windows presents a Context menu.
  3. Choose Personalize from the Context menu. Windows displays the Personalization dialog box.
  4. Click Window Color and Appearance.
  5. Click the Open Classic Appearance Properties for More Color Options link. Windows displays the Appearance Settings dialog box.
  6. Click the Advanced button. Windows displays the Advanced Appearance dialog box.
  7. Using the Item drop-down list, choose the Selected Items option.
  8. Using the Color 1 drop-down list, choose the color you want Windows to use when you select items.
  9. Click OK to close the Advanced Appearance dialog box.
  10. Click OK to close the Appearance Settings dialog box.
  11. Close the Control Panel window.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8261) 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: Changing the Color Used to Denote Selected Cells.

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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