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Excel 2010: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Conditional Formatting

A good worksheet highlights the most important information, thereby making it easy to spot. For example, if you look at a worksheet that shows the last year of a company's sales, you want to be able to find underperforming products without having to hunt through hundreds of cells. And even if you're not using Excel in the business world, you still need to home in on key details in a spreadsheet—whether it's a budget-busting dinner in your monthly expense worksheet or a skipped week at the gym in your exercise log. All too often, these essential details are buried in an avalanche of data.

As you learned in Chapter 5, you can use formatting tricks to make important data stand out from the crowd. But the problem with formatting is that it's up to you to track down the cells that need to be formatted. Not only is this a time-devouring task, you also run into trouble when you start using formulas (as discussed on Creating a Basic Formula). Formulas let you set up elaborate calculations that link cells together, which means that a change to a single cell can cascade through your worksheet, altering data everywhere else. If you're highlighting important information by hand, you just might need to repeat the whole formatting process each time a value changes.

Fortunately, Excel has a feature that's designed to spare you the drudgery. It's called conditional formatting, and it lets Excel automatically find and highlight important information. In this section, you'll ...

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