How to Highlight in Excel

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Finding out how to highlight text in Excel is simple, but there is more potential in the various highlighting options than making specific cells pop out. If you're looking for a way to find and highlight in Excel so you can search for a specific term or figure and format everything containing it, you can't do it directly. However, there are two indirect approaches you can use to search and highlight in Excel.

Basic Highlighting in Excel

Highlighting specific cells in Excel is easy. Select the cells you want to highlight, and the use the "Fill Color" option to highlight the cells as needed. The "Fill Color" option is in the "Home" tab in the "Font" section. There is an "A" symbol with a block of color underneath it (which changes text color) and next to it is an icon that looks like a tilted can of paint. This symbol is for "Fill Color." Click the downward-pointing arrow beside the paint can to see a list of fill color options and then click on the color you want to use to highlight the chosen cells.

When you click the "Fill Color" icon, it fills the selected cells with the currently chosen color. You can use this to apply the same highlighting to other cells. Alternatively, click the cell that has the desired formatting and then use the "Format Painter" option in the "Clipboard" section to apply the formatting to the chosen cells. After choosing "Format Painter," click and drag across the target cells to spread the same formatting.

Highlight Search in Excel

There is no simple way to highlight the results of a "Find" search in Excel, but if you want to use Excel to highlight search results, you can use "Find and Replace." Press "Control" and "F" to open the Find and Replace window. Go to the "Replace" tab and enter your chosen search term in the "Find what" field. In the "Replace with" field, enter the same text but then click on the button labeled "Options" to bring up the formatting options. Click the "Format" button beside the "Replace with" field and navigate to the "Fill" tab. You can choose a background color for all cells containing your search term from here. Click "OK" when you're done and then choose "Replace All" to highlight all the search results.

Highlighting With Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting sets a rule, such as "greater than 50," and then highlights all cells in its domain that meet that criterion. When this is complete, you can choose to highlight the cells however you prefer.

To do this, highlight the cells where you want your rule to apply. With these selected, you can perform a find and highlight in Excel in a slightly different way. Click on "Conditional Formatting" from the "Styles" section under the "Home" tab to bring up the options for conditionally formatting some cells. For example, under "Top/Bottom Rules," you can highlight the top 10 percent of values within your chosen set of cells. Under "Highlight Cells Rules," you can highlight text that contains a specific word, duplicate values and much more. When you choose a rule, a window appears that allows you to specify the rule and choose a format. If none of the drop-down options are suitable, choose "Custom Format" and add a fill color or text color from the options there.