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Why can’t I change the color of a tab in Excel?


Changing the color of tabs in Excel can be useful for visually organizing your spreadsheets. However, Excel doesn’t provide a built-in option to change tab colors. There are a couple reasons why Microsoft has not added this feature to Excel:

Backwards compatibility: Excel is used by millions of people worldwide, so Microsoft prioritizes backwards compatibility when adding new features. Changing something fundamental like the tab color could break existing spreadsheets that depend on the standard green tabs.

Simplicity: Excel aims to provide an uncomplicated user interface. Letting users customize tab colors adds complexity without providing substantial value for most users. The green tabs are simple and familiar.

Focus on utility: Excel is designed primarily as a functional tool for data analysis, so customizations like tab colors are considered lower priority. The development team is focused on more utilitarian features.

Workarounds to change tab color in Excel

Although you can’t natively change tab color in Excel, there are a couple of workarounds:

Use a VBA macro: You can use VBA code to modify the tab color. This involves writing a macro that loops through all the sheet tabs and sets the color property. Here is some sample code:

Sub ChangeTabColor()
For Each sh In ThisWorkbook.Sheets
sh.Tab.Color = RGB(255, 0, 0)
Next sh
End Sub

This will set all tabs to red. You can customize the RGB value to get any color you want.

Use a 3rd party add-in: Some third party developers have created Excel add-ins that enable tab color customization. For example, Kutools for Excel provides an option to pick tab colors. These add-ins work by programmatically altering the tab properties.

Why Microsoft hasn’t added native tab color customization

There are a few specific reasons why Microsoft hasn’t added the ability to customize tab colors to Excel:

Minimal demand: Based on customer feedback and usage data, native tab color customization hasn’t been a highly demanded feature. The Excel team focuses on changes that will benefit a majority of users.

UI complexity: Allowing custom tab colors introduces UI complexity – how would color picking work? Should there be color formatting options? This complexity needs to be weighed against the relatively minor benefit.

Scope creep: Excel developers avoid scope creep and stay focused on new features that support core use cases. Tab colors are more of a cosmetic customization than a productivity enhancement.

Legacy code constraints: Like most long-standing software, Excel has accrued technical debt over the years. Old legacy code makes it challenging to implement changes, especially in core parts of the program like tabs.

Who wants to customize tab color in Excel?

While not a hugely requested feature, some segments of Excel users are interested in changing tab colors:

Power users & analysts: Excel power users who work with many sheets and build complex models can benefit from color coding tabs for organization. It helps when navigating large workbooks.

Financial analysts: In finance, it’s common to color code spreadsheets based on purpose – models, charts, databases, etc. Custom tab colors would extend color coding to tabs.

Project managers: For project plans involving multiple collaborators, custom tab colors help quickly visualize ownership and status.

Data visualization pros: Those who use Excel for charts/dashboards may want colored tabs that match their visual theme.

Spreadsheet enthusiasts: Some people just enjoy customizing Excel to their liking, including aesthetics like tab appearance.

Should Microsoft add tab color customization?

Here are some pros and cons for Microsoft potentially adding native tab color customization to Excel:


– Allows for visual organization of complex spreadsheets
– Extends existing color coding capabilities in Excel
– Provides customization options for power users
– Enables color matching with data visualization themes
– Welcome quality of life improvement requested by some users


– Excessive UI complexity for a non-essential feature
– Scope creep – dev time better spent on productivity features
– Could break backwards compatibility and existing spreadsheets
– Minimal demand amongst overall Excel user base
– Sets precedent for excessive customization of core UI elements


In summary, Excel does not have built-in tab color customization due to a mix of technical constraints, product philosophy, and low demand. Some power users would find color coded tabs helpful, but it hasn’t been compelling enough for Microsoft to prioritize.

Workarounds like VBA macros provide color customization to those who really want it. Native support would be a nice quality of life improvement, but likely not high on Microsoft’s roadmap based on more requested features. But never say never – if tab colors become more popular, Excel is consistently evolving!