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How to color alternate lines in Excel

How to color alternate rows in Excel

A couple of weeks ago we were preparing for a presentation.  Much of the presentation is constructed from linked Excel worksheets into PowerPoint. This technique is great because the presentation automatically updates each time the Excel worksheets change.  In the presentation, there are also some PowerPoint tables in the default blue striped layout.

Powerpoint striped table format
Powerpoint’s default blue striped format

Then came the words I had been dreading to hear: “Can you make all the tables in the presentation in the same format with the alternating stripes?”.

How NOT to apply alternating colors to rows

I had been in a similar situation previously.  I had spent hours formatting every line to be alternating colors. Then a new line would need to be added into the middle, or the rows had to be re-ordered.  Arrrrggghhh!!!! The formatting would then not be alternating,  so I would have to go back through and start alternating the colors again.

Then once I was done, I noticed the colors were not exactly the same shade as PowerPoint, they were similar, but not the same.  So I only had one option, I had to go back and do it all over again . . .  Arrrrggghhh!!!!

If you are ever in this situation, do not do it this way – you will only be wasting your life by having to do it over and over again.

How to apply alternating colors rows using conditional formatting

Firstly, find out the exact colors you wish to apply. Find out the exact RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color values and make note of them, you will want to apply these when applying the conditional formatting.

To apply the colors to alternating rows we will be using conditional formatting combined with the ROW and MOD functions:

ROW – provides the row number of the cell

MOD – provides the remainder of a division (for example MOD(5,2) provides a result of 1, because 5 goes into 2 twice, with a remainder of 1.)

ROW numbers will always be an odd number, then an even number.  As a result, the MOD value of the ROW is always 0 for even numbered rows to 1 for odd-numbered rows.

Now we are ready to apply this function with conditional formatting. Select the cells you wish to apply the conditional formatting to. Then click

Home -> Styles-> Conditional Formatting -> New Rule

Screen Shot, Home, Conditional Formatting, New Rule

Select Use a formula to determine which cells to format

In the Format values where this formula is true box enter the following formula:

=MOD(ROW()) = 1

Screen shot of formula to alternate colors

Click the Format button and set the required format.  This is where you can use the exact RGB color codes.

Screen shot custom color

To mimic the Powerpoint look also add a white border.

If you need colors for the other rows, go through the same process again, but change the formula to be:

=MOD(ROW(),2) = 0

Make sure you apply a different color to make the appearance striped.



Automate with VBA

This seemed like a lot of work to me, especially as I had a lot of worksheets to format.  But I could automate this by applying the formatting using VBA (I actually used the Macro Recorder for this, then edited the code, it just seemed quicker).  I even inserted a button into my Personal Macro book, so that it’s available anytime I need it.

Sub StripeyPresentation()

Dim Rng As Range
Set Rng = Selection

With Rng.FormatConditions.Add(Type:=xlExpression, Formula1:="=MOD(ROW(),2)=0")
    .Interior.Color = RGB(208, 216, 232)
    .Borders.LineStyle = xlContinuous
    .Borders.ThemeColor = 1
    .Borders.Weight = xlThin
End With

With Rng.FormatConditions.Add(Type:=xlExpression, Formula1:="=MOD(ROW(),2)=1")

    .Interior.Color = RGB(233, 237, 244)
    .Borders.LineStyle = xlContinuous
    .Borders.ThemeColor = 1
    .Borders.Weight = xlThin

End With

End Sub


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Don’t forget:

If you’ve found this post useful, or if you have a better approach, then please leave a comment below.

Do you need help adapting this to your needs?

I’m guessing the examples in this post didn’t exactly meet your situation.  We all use Excel differently, so it’s impossible to write a post that will meet everybody’s needs.  By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site) you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you’re still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic.  You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the ‘Excel Ninja’ in your office.  It’s amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community.  Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free.  So take care to craft your question, make sure it’s clear and concise.  List all the things you’ve tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner.   They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don’t go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

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