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How to highlight cells with external links in Excel?

Supposing there are lots of external links in your workbook, and now you need to automatically highlight those cells that contain the external links. How could you deal with this task in Excel?

Highlight cells containing external links with Conditional Formatting

arrow blue right bubbleHighlight cells containing external links with Conditional Formatting

In Excel, there is no direct way for you to highlight the cells with external links, you need to create a User Defined Function first, and then apply the Conditional Formatting function.

1. Hold down the ALT + F11 keys to open the Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications window.

2. Click Insert > Module, and paste the following code in the Module Window.

Function ExternalFormula(pCell As Range) As Boolean
'Update 20140318
If pCell.HasFormula Then
    ExternalFormula = VBA.InStr(1, pCell.Formula, "[") > 0
End If
End Function

3. Then save and close the window to back to the current worksheet, and then select the range or the whole worksheet that you want to highlight the external links.

4. And then click Home > Conditional Formatting > New Rule, see screenshot:


5. In the New Formatting Rule dialog box, click Use a formula to determine which cells to format option, and enter this formula =externalformula(A1) (A1 indicates the first cell of your selection) into the Format values where this formula is true text box, see screenshot:


6. Then click Format button to go to the Format Cells dialog, choose one color you like under the Fill tab, see screenshot:


7. And then click OK > OK to close the dialogs. And all the cells contain external links have been highlighted immediately.


8. When you enter other formulas of external links in the selection which covered by the Conditional Formatting, they will be highlighted automatically.

Related articles:

How to highlight / conditional formatting cells with formulas in Excel?

How to highlight odd or even numbers in Excel?

How to highlight all error cells in Excel?

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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Colin · 3 years ago
    This is a nice tutorial; but I found it via Google and it was the closest to what I was looking for. Will this work to conditionally format in a destination workbook which is linked to another workbook?

  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Lenny · 3 years ago
    I had a hard time finding out how to do this, but your solution works!

    Thanks a lot.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Janna · 4 years ago
    Many thanks for the instruction - it works and very useful!!
    Just another question - I really need to highlight the cells with the link to another worksheet in the same document.. Is there any way to do it with some changes in VBA probably or it's only ever going to work with external links to other documents?
    Many thanks,