Highlight cells

Unlike other Microsoft Office programs such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel does not provide a button to highlight data. To mimic highlights on a worksheet (worksheet: The primary document that you use in Excel to store and work with data. Also called a spreadsheet. A worksheet consists of cells that are organized into columns and rows; a worksheet is always stored in a workbook.), you can fill cells with color, place borders around cells, or display specific data in a different color. After you format a cell with the highlight that you want, you can quickly copy the highlighting to other cells by using Format Painter.

What do you want to do?

Fill cells with a solid color

Place a border around cells

Display specific data in a different color

Use Format Painter to apply a highlight to other cells

Fill cells with a solid color

  1. Select the cells or ranges (range: Two or more cells on a sheet. The cells in a range can be adjacent or nonadjacent.) of cells that you want to fill with color.

ShowHow to select a cell or a range

To select Do this
A single cell Click the cell, or press the arrow keys to move to the cell.
A range of cells

Click the first cell of the range, and then drag to the last cell, or hold down SHIFT while you press the arrow keys to extend the selection.

You can also select the first cell of the range and then press F8 to extend the selection by using the arrow keys.

A large range of cells Click the first cell in the range, and then hold down SHIFT while you click the last cell in the range. You can scroll to make the last cell visible.
All cells on a worksheet

Click the Select All button.

Select All button

To select the entire worksheet, you can also press CTRL+A.

 Note   If the worksheet contains data, CTRL+A selects the current region. Pressing CTRL+A a second time selects the entire worksheet.

Nonadjacent cells or cell ranges

Select the first cell or range of cells, and then hold down CTRL while you select the other cells or ranges.

You can also select the first cell or range of cells and then press SHIFT+F8 to add another nonadjacent cell or range to the selection.

 Note   You cannot cancel the selection of a cell or range of cells in a nonadjacent selection without canceling the entire selection.

An entire row or column

Click the row or column heading.

Worksheet showing row heading and column heading

Callout 1 Row heading
Callout 2 Column heading

You can also select cells in a row or column by selecting the first cell and then pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY (RIGHT ARROW or LEFT ARROW for rows, UP ARROW or DOWN ARROW for columns).

 Note   If the row or column contains data, CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY selects the row or column to the last used cell. Pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY a second time selects the entire row or column.

Adjacent rows or columns Drag across the row or column headings. Or select the first row or column; then hold down SHIFT while you select the last row or column.
Nonadjacent rows or columns Click the column or row heading of the first row or column in your selection; then hold down CTRL while you click the column or row headings of other rows or columns that you want to add to the selection.
More or fewer cells than the active selection Hold down SHIFT while you click the last cell that you want to include in the new selection. The rectangular range between the active cell (active cell: The selected cell in which data is entered when you begin typing. Only one cell is active at a time. The active cell is bounded by a heavy border.) and the cell that you click becomes the new selection.

 Note   To cancel a selection of cells, click any cell on the worksheet.

  1. On the Formatting toolbar (toolbar: A bar with buttons and options that you can use to carry out commands. To display a toolbar, point to Toolbars on the View menu. If you don't see the button you want, click the arrows at the right end of the toolbar.), click the arrow next to Fill Color Button image, and then click the color that you want on the palette.

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Place a border around cells

  1. Select the cells or ranges (range: Two or more cells on a sheet. The cells in a range can be adjacent or nonadjacent.) of cells that you want to highlight with a border.

ShowHow to select a cell or a range

To select Do this
A single cell Click the cell, or press the arrow keys to move to the cell.
A range of cells

Click the first cell of the range, and then drag to the last cell, or hold down SHIFT while you press the arrow keys to extend the selection.

You can also select the first cell of the range and then press F8 to extend the selection by using the arrow keys.

A large range of cells Click the first cell in the range, and then hold down SHIFT while you click the last cell in the range. You can scroll to make the last cell visible.
All cells on a worksheet

Click the Select All button.

Select All button

To select the entire worksheet, you can also press CTRL+A.

 Note   If the worksheet contains data, CTRL+A selects the current region. Pressing CTRL+A a second time selects the entire worksheet.

Nonadjacent cells or cell ranges

Select the first cell or range of cells, and then hold down CTRL while you select the other cells or ranges.

You can also select the first cell or range of cells and then press SHIFT+F8 to add another nonadjacent cell or range to the selection.

 Note   You cannot cancel the selection of a cell or range of cells in a nonadjacent selection without canceling the entire selection.

An entire row or column

Click the row or column heading.

Worksheet showing row heading and column heading

Callout 1 Row heading
Callout 2 Column heading

You can also select cells in a row or column by selecting the first cell and then pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY (RIGHT ARROW or LEFT ARROW for rows, UP ARROW or DOWN ARROW for columns).

 Note   If the row or column contains data, CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY selects the row or column to the last used cell. Pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY a second time selects the entire row or column.

Adjacent rows or columns Drag across the row or column headings. Or select the first row or column; then hold down SHIFT while you select the last row or column.
Nonadjacent rows or columns Click the column or row heading of the first row or column in your selection; then hold down CTRL while you click the column or row headings of other rows or columns that you want to add to the selection.
More or fewer cells than the active selection Hold down SHIFT while you click the last cell that you want to include in the new selection. The rectangular range between the active cell (active cell: The selected cell in which data is entered when you begin typing. Only one cell is active at a time. The active cell is bounded by a heavy border.) and the cell that you click becomes the new selection.

 Note   To cancel a selection of cells, click any cell on the worksheet.

  1. On the Formatting toolbar (toolbar: A bar with buttons and options that you can use to carry out commands. To display a toolbar, point to Toolbars on the View menu. If you don't see the button you want, click the arrows at the right end of the toolbar.), click the arrow next to Borders Button image, and then choose a border style from the palette.

Tip    If you want to specify a color for the border, or you want a border style that you don't see on the palette, click Cells on the Format menu, and then click the Borders tab.

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Display specific data in a different color

  1. Select the cells or ranges (range: Two or more cells on a sheet. The cells in a range can be adjacent or nonadjacent.) of cells that contain the data that you want to display in a different color.

ShowHow to select a cell or a range

To select Do this
A single cell Click the cell, or press the arrow keys to move to the cell.
A range of cells

Click the first cell of the range, and then drag to the last cell, or hold down SHIFT while you press the arrow keys to extend the selection.

You can also select the first cell of the range and then press F8 to extend the selection by using the arrow keys.

A large range of cells Click the first cell in the range, and then hold down SHIFT while you click the last cell in the range. You can scroll to make the last cell visible.
All cells on a worksheet

Click the Select All button.

Select All button

To select the entire worksheet, you can also press CTRL+A.

 Note   If the worksheet contains data, CTRL+A selects the current region. Pressing CTRL+A a second time selects the entire worksheet.

Nonadjacent cells or cell ranges

Select the first cell or range of cells, and then hold down CTRL while you select the other cells or ranges.

You can also select the first cell or range of cells and then press SHIFT+F8 to add another nonadjacent cell or range to the selection.

 Note   You cannot cancel the selection of a cell or range of cells in a nonadjacent selection without canceling the entire selection.

An entire row or column

Click the row or column heading.

Worksheet showing row heading and column heading

Callout 1 Row heading
Callout 2 Column heading

You can also select cells in a row or column by selecting the first cell and then pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY (RIGHT ARROW or LEFT ARROW for rows, UP ARROW or DOWN ARROW for columns).

 Note   If the row or column contains data, CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY selects the row or column to the last used cell. Pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ARROW KEY a second time selects the entire row or column.

Adjacent rows or columns Drag across the row or column headings. Or select the first row or column; then hold down SHIFT while you select the last row or column.
Nonadjacent rows or columns Click the column or row heading of the first row or column in your selection; then hold down CTRL while you click the column or row headings of other rows or columns that you want to add to the selection.
More or fewer cells than the active selection Hold down SHIFT while you click the last cell that you want to include in the new selection. The rectangular range between the active cell (active cell: The selected cell in which data is entered when you begin typing. Only one cell is active at a time. The active cell is bounded by a heavy border.) and the cell that you click becomes the new selection.

 Note   To cancel a selection of cells, click any cell on the worksheet.

  1. On the Formatting toolbar (toolbar: A bar with buttons and options that you can use to carry out commands. To display a toolbar, point to Toolbars on the View menu. If you don't see the button you want, click the arrows at the right end of the toolbar.), click the arrow next to Font Color Button image, and then click a color on the palette.

Tip    To change the background color of text, click the arrow next to Fill Color Button image, and then click a color on the palette.

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Use Format Painter to apply a highlight to other cells

  1. Select a formatted cell.
  2. On the Standard toolbar (toolbar: A bar with buttons and options that you can use to carry out commands. To display a toolbar, point to Toolbars on the View menu. If you don't see the button you want, click the arrows at the right end of the toolbar.), double-click Format Painter Button image, and then drag the mouse pointer across as many cells or ranges of cells that you want to highlight.
  3. When you're done, click Format Painter again or press ESC to turn it off.

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Applies to:
Excel 2003