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How do you change the color of the tab in excel with formulas?

Changing the color of tabs in Excel using formulas can be a handy way to highlight or differentiate certain sheets or data. With a simple conditional formatting formula, you can set tab colors dynamically based on cell values, making it easy to color code sheets for quick visual reference.

Using Conditional Formatting to Set Dynamic Tab Colors

The key to setting tab colors based on cell values is using Excel’s conditional formatting feature. Here are the steps:

1. Select the Tab Color Formula

In the sheet you want to format, select the cell that contains the value you want to base the tab color on. For example, select cell A1 if you want to set the tab color based on that cell’s value.

2. Open the Conditional Formatting Menu

Go to the Home tab and click on Conditional Formatting > New Rule. This opens the New Formatting Rule dialog box.

3. Select the “Use a formula to determine which cells to format” Option

In the New Formatting Rule dialog box, select the option that says “Use a formula to determine which cells to format”.

4. Enter the Tab Color Formula

In the formula field, enter this formula:


This checks if the current sheet number equals 1. If true, it will apply the formatting.

5. Format the Tab Color

Still in the New Formatting Rule dialog box, click the Format button. In the Format Cells dialog box, go to the Fill tab and select the tab color you want from the color palette. Click OK to close the Format Cells box.

6. Apply the Conditional Formatting Rule

Back in the New Formatting Rule dialog box, click OK to close it and apply the rule.

This will set the tab color of the current sheet based on the formula.

Using Cell References to Apply Tab Colors

Instead of entering a literal sheet number in the formula, you can reference a cell that contains the sheet number. This allows you to set the tab color of multiple sheets dynamically based on cell values.

Here is an example:

Sheet Name Tab Color Cell
Sheet1 A1
Sheet2 A2
Sheet3 A3

On each sheet, select the corresponding Tab Color Cell (A1, A2 or A3).

Apply this conditional formatting formula:


Now whatever number is entered in the Tab Color Cell on each sheet will set the tab color dynamically.

Creating a Tab Color Legend for Reference

To help remember what each tab color means, you can create a simple legend on a separate sheet.

For example:

Tab Color Meaning
Red Urgent
Green Approved
Blue In Progress

With this legend handy, you can quickly identify the status of a sheet by its tab color.

Sample Uses for Tab Color Formatting

Here are a few examples of how you can use tab color formatting:

Prioritize sheets

Use red for high priority sheets, yellow for medium, green for low.

Status indicators

Mark approved sheets green, in progress blue, and drafts gray.

Department codes

Finance = Red, Sales = Blue, Marketing = Green.

Progress trackers

Completed phases = Green, In Progress = Yellow, Not Started = Red.

due dates

Past Due = Red, Due Soon = Yellow, Not Due=Green

The possibilities are endless!

Limitations of Excel Tab Color Formatting

While using conditional formatting to set tab colors is handy, there are a few limitations to note:

– The colors don’t print out if you print the workbook.

– You have to apply the formatting individually to each sheet.

– The colors won’t be retained if you share the workbook with users on other versions of Excel.

– Too many brightly colored tabs can make it hard to read the sheet names.

So it’s best to use it sparingly and in combination with clear sheet naming conventions.


Setting Excel tab colors dynamically using conditional formatting formulas opens up an easy way to color code sheets based on cell values. This provides a quick visual indicator that helps differentiate and organize sheets.

Some key points to remember:

– Use the “Use a formula to determine which cells to format” option for conditional formatting.

– The formula checks the sheet number, e.g. =SHEET()=1

– Reference a cell instead of literal sheet numbers to apply colors across multiple sheets.

– Create a legend sheet to remember what each color means.

– Use tab colors judiciously and in combination with clear sheet names.

With this simple formatting trick, you can color code sheets for better workbook organization and visual appeal. Try it out in your workbooks!