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How to apply conditional formatting search for multiple words in Excel?

doc highlight contains any words 1

It may be easy for us to highlight rows based on a specific value, this article, I will talk about how to highlight cells in column A depending if they are found in the column D, which means, if the cell content contains any text in a specific list, then highlight as left screenshot shown.

Conditional formatting to highlight the cells contains one of several values

Filter cells contain specific values and highlight them at once


Select and highlight cells based on one or two criteria:

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doc highlight contains any words 6

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Conditional formatting to highlight the cells contains one of several values


In fact, the Conditional Formatting can help you to solve this job, please do with the following steps:

1. First, please create a range name for the specific words list, select the cell text and enter a range name Mylist (you can rename as you need) into the Name box, and press Enter key, see screenshot:

doc highlight contains any words 2

2. Then select the cells that you want to highlight, and click Home > Conditional Formatting > New Rule, in the New Formatting Rule dialog box, finish the below operations:

(1.) Click Use a formula to determine which cells to format under the Select a Rule Type list box;

(2.) Then enter this formula: =SUM(COUNTIF(A2,"*"&Mylist&"*")) (A2 is the first cell of the range you want to highlight, Mylist is the range name you have created in step 1) into the Format values where this formula is true text box;

(3.) And then click Format button.

doc highlight contains any words 3

3. Go to the Format Cells dialog box, and choose one color to highlight the cells under the Fill tab, see screenshot:

doc highlight contains any words 4

4. And then click OK > OK to close the dialogs, all the cells which contain any one of the specific list cell values are highlighted at once, see screenshot:

doc highlight contains any words 5


Filter cells contains specific values and highlight them at once

If you have Kutools for Excel, with its Super Filter utility, you can quickly filter the cells which contains specified text values, and then highlight them at once.

Kutools for Excel : with more than 300 handy Excel add-ins, free to try with no limitation in 60 days. 

After installing Kutools for Excel, please do as follows:

1. Click Enterprise > Super Filter, see screenshot:

doc highlight contains any words 7

2. In the Super Filter pane, please do the following operations:

  • (1.) Check Specified option, and then click doc highlight contains any words 11 button to select the data range that you want to filter;
  • (2.) Choose the relationship among the filter criteria as you need;
  • (3.) Then set the criteria in the criteria list box.

doc highlight contains any words 8

3. After setting the criteria, click Filter to filter the cells contains the specific values as you need. And then choose one fill color for the seleted cells under Home tab, see screenshot:

doc highlight contains any words 9

4. And all the cells contains the specific values are highlighted, now, you can cancel the filter by clicking Clear button, see screenshot:

doc highlight contains any words 10

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Demo: Filter cells contains specific values and highlight them at once

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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Umair Aziz · 3 months ago
    The problem with above KUtools function is 01. It doesn't give the option to highlight the entire row. 02. It searches based on exact match of the cell, and partial match option is not there...... Anyone got a solution, please share as I need this way... thank you!
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      skyyang · 3 months ago
      Hello, Umair,
      The Kutools function in this article can solve your problems, the first one, if you need to highlight the entire rows, please select all the filtered whole rows, and then apply the fill color for them; the second once, you should choose the criteria Contains from the criteria drop down list to filter the rows based on the partial text.
      Please try it again, hope it can help you!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    HCAZ · 3 months ago
    First great formula my only problem is that I have 3 list and although I changed the list names and used different colors - when I use a drop down all the names have the same colors.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Antony · 5 months ago
    this formula doesnot work for me
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      skyyang · 5 months ago
      Hello,Antony,
      Could you explain your problem more clearly, or you can insert a screenshot here. Thank you!
      • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
        Gwen · 3 months ago
        I actually have the same problem, the formula highlights ALL cells in the range, why would that be?
        • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
          skyyang · 3 months ago
          Hi, Gwen,
          The formula in this article works well in my worksheet, could you give your problem more detailed? Or you can insert a screenshot here for your problem.
          Thank you!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Rebecca · 8 months ago
    I made my named range table on another tab.

    I highlighted the row before I started making my rule. =$B$7:$X$7

    =SUM(COUNTIF(E7,"*"&CANCELLED&"*"))

    I double checked the 'applies to" and it correctly includes the whole row of the table.

    The rule is working - but only colors the first cell in the row, not the entire row.


    Any idea what I'm doing wrong?

    Can the fact the E7 cell a dynamic drop-down based on a drop-down in D7 be the cause?
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      skyyang · 8 months ago
      Hi, Rebecca,
      If you want to highlight the whole row in your selected range, please use this formula:

      =SUM(COUNTIF($A2,"*"&Mylist&"*"))
      The cell reference should be converted to column absolute ($A2).

      Please try it, hope it can help you!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Shirtman · 1 years ago
    Hi, I am using this formula to find IP addresses in a column (from a list).

    It misses out some cells which it should highlight, and vice versa (highlights some which shouldn't be highlighted). The cells do seem to have some similarity to the IP addresses which I am looking for.

    Is it something to do with the fact that there are 4 decimal points? (E.g. if I am looking for 10.54.31.7, it might highlight 10.54.31.5 as well).

    Any ideas as to how I can fix this would be greatly appreciated - it's so close to working!
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Gwen · 6 months ago
      I have the same problem! Did you ever fix it? I wonder why they replied others but never you...