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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Conditional Formatting
This guide will teach you how to use the following features to apply conditional formatting rules to your
data in Excel:
1. Highlight Cells Rules
2. Top/Bottom Rules
3. Data Bars
4. Color Scales
5. Icon Sets
6. Rule Types: Format only cells that contain
7. Rule Types: Format only unique or duplicate values
8. Rule Types: Use a formula to determine which cells to format
9. Clearing Rules
10. Conditional Formatting Rules Manager

In Excel, conditional formatting applies formatting rules to our cells automatically based on analyses of
our cell values. In this guide, we will be covering the steps taken to apply conditional formatting as well
as the common types of conditional formatting rules available to you.

Setting up
To apply conditional formatting, we first select the cell range to which we will be applying the
formatting rules. There is no restriction as to what kinds of cell ranges we can select (rows or columns).

Once done, we select the Conditional Formatting button in the Styles section under the Home tab of
the Ribbon. We are presented with multiple preset rules as well as the options to create and manage
our own rules.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Highlight Cells Rules


As the name suggests, this set of preset rules highlights cells whose values fulfil certain logical
requirements, such as being greater than, less than, equal to or between specified values. These are
useful in data formatting situations where we have certain values as targets or thresholds.

Example
Below are some examples of Highlight Cells Rules
• Text that Contains… North.
• Duplicate Values… in the column Delivery Type.
• Less Than… $10.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Top/Bottom Rules
This set of preset rules formats cells according to the relative position of the value in the entire cell
range which we have selected. The rules format the top or bottom quantities and even percentiles of
cell values. Apart from that, values that are above or below average range values can also be formatted.
Clearly, while Highlight Cells Rules apply formatting based on absolute logical requirements,
Top/Bottom Rules have logical requirements that are more relative in nature and depend on all values
in the cell range. We can see how these are useful in data formatting situations where we have to
reflect the top performing units in a large pool of many.

Example

Remember Alia’s Birthday Menu? The Top 10%... items that Farah ordered has been highlighted.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Data Bars
This set of preset rules adds a coloured data bar to represent each value in our cell. Every cell in our
selected range will thus be formatted as long as they contain a value. The length of the data bar
depends on the cell value: the greater the cell value, the longer the data bar. This allows us to, at a
glance, observe the relative positions of values in a selected range. You can see it as creating bar charts
but horizontally and within the cell instead.

Example

Remember the analysis made on Monthly Profit for Delivery Services?


Data Bars are suitable for data with a large amount of values in cells, which are of the same Number
Format.

Color Scales
Similar to Data Bars, Color Scales also formats every cell in our selected range that contains a value. It
applies a color gradient to each cell to represent the relative position of the value in the selected range.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Example

If you prefer to categorise the values into a few colour categories, you can use Color Scales instead of
Data Bars.

Icon Sets
Icon Sets formats every cell in our selected range that contains a value. Depending on the relative
position of the value in the selected range, it assigns one icon out of three available. This formats our
data set to appear more discretely than if more contiguous rules like Data Bars and Color Scales are
used.

Example

If you want to categorise your data values using icons, you can use Icon Sets.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Rule Types
The preset conditional formatting rules we learnt previously are actually just different configurations of
very similar properties, which can all be accessed in Rule Types. This allows us to create our own
customised formatting rules, based on whatever quantitative criteria and formatting settings we want.
To access these Rule Types, select ‘New Rule...’ in the dropdown menu after selecting the Conditional
Formatting button. Let’s look at some of the more special Rule Types in greater detail.

Format only cells that contain


This Rule Type allows us to format cells with not just specific numerical values, but text, blanks and
even errors! You can view this as a combination of the Find feature and formatting options in Excel all
within one nifty tool.

Example

In this column, the cells containing errors have been highlighted.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Format only unique or duplicate values


As the name suggests, this Rule Type allows us to identify values that appear only once or appear more
than once in our selected cell range. It is used generally for checking purposes for duplicate entries,
which can then be processed accordingly. This is similar to the Duplicate Values… option.

Example

Use a formula to determine which cells to format


This Rule Type is the most customisable of all, because it formats cells containing values that are true
based on any formula that we specify.

Example

1. Select the cell range you want to apply conditional formatting to.
In our example, select the cell range A3:A12.

Notice that the active cell (not highlighted in grey) is the cell A3.

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

2. Hence, we type the formula =B3<7 in the Rule Description. This will let Excel know the formatting
rule for the subsequent cells that you have selected.
3. Select a format to highlight the cells where this formula is true.
4. Click OK.

You need to know the type of cell reference you want to use in your formula
(Eg. Relative, Absolute or Mixed).
In this example, we use relative cell reference so that the cell reference will change
when the formula is copied over to the subsequent rows.

The cells with values greater less than 7 should be highlighted.

Clearing Rules
If we no longer need our conditional formatting rules applied onto our data set, we can remove them
by simply selecting ‘Clear Rules’ in the Conditional Formatting dropdown box. We can clear rules within
selected cells, worksheets and even from tables!

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Conditional Formatting – Excel 2016

Conditional Formatting Rules Manager


Last but not the least, we can edit and delete existing rules and even arrange the order in which we
want them to be applied, all in a one-stop facility. The Manager can be accessed right below ‘Clear
Rules’, under ‘Manage Rules…’. The ‘Stop If True’ checkbox stops all formatting rules below the selected
rule from executing the moment the current rule has been applied to a cell.

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