How to use Conditional Formatting in Microsoft Excel

Have you ever had a large amount of data in Excel and need an easy way to visualize your data for trends, priorities, or other measures? Sometimes it’s necessary to be able to get information at a quick glance without sifting through every item.

What is Conditional Formatting?

Conditional Formatting will automatically format cells based on a condition that you have pre-determined. It makes it easy to highlight specific data by using color scales, icon sets, or your own specified formatting. There are tons of combinations that you could use with Conditional Formatting and we’re going to go over a few examples.

Apply Conditional Formatting Based on a Date Range

Let’s start with a simple To-Do list made in Excel. The second column holds due dates in mm/dd/yyyy format. Let’s apply conditional formatting to highlight the due date column based on how close the date is to today being red and the furthest due dates to Green, all others will be Yellow.

See the before and after pictures of this list:

To Do ListTo Do List with Formatted Date

 

Now let’s set a Conditional Formatting to color the dates in that column with the closest dates to today being red and the furthest due dates to Green, all others will be Yellow. Here are the steps to take.

  • Highlight the cells that you want to apply the conditional formatting to.
  • Select Conditional Formatting located in the Styles section of the Home Ribbon.
  • Choose Color Scales.
  • Apply whichever color scale you would like to use.

How To Conditionally Format Date

Apply Conditional Formatting Based on a Number

Let’s take the same To-Do list and make similar conditional formatting using the priority column. This time I would like to place an icon in the field based on the priority number. Here are the steps to do this:

  • Highlight the cells that you want to apply the conditional formatting to.
  • Select Conditional Formatting located in the Styles section of the Home Ribbon.
  • Choose Icon Sets.
  • Apply whichever icon set you would like to use.

How to Conditionally Format Number

 

Apply Conditional Formatting based on Text

This third example is a bit different. This time we are going to specify our formatting based on a color named in the excel spreadsheet. See the Before and After:

Format ColorGreen and Yellow Conditional Formatting

 

Here are the steps:

  • Highlight the cells that you want to apply the conditional formatting to.
  • Select Conditional Formatting located in the Styles section of the Home Ribbon.
  • Choose Highlight Cells Rules.
  • Choose Text That Contains
  • In the first box type the text that you want to be formatted a specific way.
  • In the second box choose Custom Format.
  • Select the formatting that you would like.
  • Click Ok. Click Ok again.

How to Conditionally Format Text

Conditional Formatting allows you to visualize your data in many ways. There are many applications that you could apply this to! Try it out in a blank spreadsheet!

 

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