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5 Simple & Useful Conditional Formatting Tricks

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Excel conditional formatting is incredibly useful feature. In this page, let me share 5 simple & creative tricks for you.

If you are a beginner, please read introduction to conditional formatting page.

Trick 1 - Icons, but not too many

Please click on below button to download the Excel file with all these tricks and refer to it when reading the article.

Iconset feature of conditional formatting is great for highlighting important bits of your data. But often then can be overkill. Let’s say you want to use icons to show which products have increased or decreased their sales. But you don’t want them all the time…

trick1-icons with limits

You can do this by setting up upper & lower limit for the conditional  formatting rule and creating a 3 icon rule (with no cell icon for middle one).

See this:

icon limits cf rule

Trick 2 - Highlight entire row / column

If you want to highlight which values are above 2000, you can easily apply the greater than… conditional formatting rule. But what if you want to highlight the entire row when certain column has values above 2000?

highlight entire row rule

You can use formula based conditional formatting rules for this.

  1. Select all your data
  2. Go to “new rule” on conditional formatting
  3. Set the rule type to Use a formula to determine which cells to format
  4. Type the rule as depicted below
  5. Set formatting options
  6. Now your row will be highlighted

cf rule for highlighting entire row

Trick 3 - Advanced Zebra Shading

Zebra shading (highlighting every other row) is proven technique to improve readability of your data. But Excel doesn’t have built-in zebra shading options for non-tabular data. You can use Conditional Formatting rules to add the zebra shading easily. Below is an example of advanced zebra shading.

zebra lines with conditional formatting

To add regular zebra shading (highlight alternative rows):

  1. Select your data and add a new formula based CF rule.
  2. Type the rule as =ISEVEN(ROW())
  3. Set the formatting you want
  4. Apply the rule.

Rule for advanced zebra shading:

  1. Use the rule like this to highlight 5 rows at a time.
  2. =ISODD(QUOTIENT(ROW()-ROW(header_row)-1, 5))

Change the header_row to absolute reference of header row cell.

Trick 4 - Highlight dates in next week

Imagine you are tracking a project plan in Excel. you have a bunch of due dates and want to instantly see which items are due next week. You can use relative dates feature of conditional formatting rules to do just that.

relative dates cf rule

  1. Select the column with dates
  2. Go to conditional formatting > highlight cells
  3. Click on “a date occurring” option
  4. Select the period you want
  5. Apply the format you need
  6. Done.

Trick 5 - Databars & Icons in the same cell

Databars are good. Icons are good. Together they are great.

Ever wanted to show an additional icon when databar reaches the goal (say 100%)? 

databar and icon in the same cell

To get them in the same cell,

  1. Add databar rule 
  2. Set the maximum value of “databar” to twice the target. So 2 for 100%.
  3. Add icon rule as well. Set the icon to show only when value is 100% and no cell icon for other cases.
  4. Now, you get both databar and icon in the cell.

Download Example Workbook

Click below button to download the example workbook with all 5 techniques. Examine the rules or use sample data to replicate the ideas.

5 Tricks - Video

If you prefer to see a video with these tricks explained, check it out below or watch it on my YouTube channel.

More Conditional Formatting Tricks

on / off conditional formatting in dashboards - tipConditional formatting is a must have for any advanced Excel user. Please learn more about this powerful feature by reading these examples.

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8 Responses to “5 Simple & Useful Conditional Formatting Tricks”

  1. Karl Gregg says:

    Thank you for this useful and interesting set of hints for conditional formatting.
    Chandoo, I hope that you and your beautiful family have a productive and healthy 2021.
    Watch the NASA attempt to land yet another Rover on Mars today!

  2. Andreas says:

    Thanks for the nice tips.
    The formula for zebra shading in trick #3 can be shortened
    from
    =ISODD(QUOTIENT(ROW()-ROW($B$4)-1, 5))
    to
    =MOD(ROW()-ROW($B$5),10)>=5

    I use modulo like this
    =MOD(ROW(), 2)>0
    for one-by-one shading since years.

    • Chandoo says:

      That is a good one Andreas. 🙂

    • Andrew says:

      I use the same as Andreas - however, it is always useful to see different ways of doing things. All useful tips and ideas, sometimes the simplest of things can make a big difference. I also looked at your tip for turning on/off the conditional formatting as an option - simple but very effective.

  3. Saman says:

    Hi, is there a way to filter cell colors based on conditional formatting results?

  4. @Chandoo
    I like your point of view. Nowadays people add to many formatting to the sheets. Visibility hurts. Less but focus on more important icons is just enough. I support point of view. Good article though.

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