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How to highlight rows based on drop down list in Excel? 

This article will talk about how to highlight rows based on drop down list, take the following screenshot for example, when I select “In Progress” from the drop down list in column E, I need to highlight this row with red color, when I select “Completed” from the drop down list, I need to highlight this row with blue color, and when I select “Not Started”, a green color will be used to highlight the row.

doc highlight by dropdown 1

Highlight rows based on drop down list with Conditional Formatting


Conditional formatting to highlight every other or nth row / column:

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doc highlight by dropdown 9

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Highlight rows based on drop down list with Conditional Formatting

Normally, the Conditional Formatting feature can help you to deal this task, please do as follows:

1. First, please insert the drop down list, select the cells where you want to insert the drop down list, and then click Data > Data Validation > Data Validation, see screenshot:

doc highlight by dropdown 2

2. In the Data Validation dialog box, under the Settings tab, select List form the Allow dropdown, in the Source text box, please click doc highlight by dropdown 4 button to select the values you want to use in the drop down list. See screenshot:

doc highlight by dropdown 3

3. After inserting the drop down list, then apply the Conditional Formatting to the data range, please select the data range that you want to highlight the rows based on dropdown, see screenshot:

doc highlight by dropdown 5

4. And then click Home > Conditional Formatting > New Rule, and in the New Formatting Rule dialog box, click Use a formula to determine which cells to format in the Select a Rule Type list box, and then enter this formula =$E2="Not Started" into the Format values where this formula is true text box, see screenshot:

Note: In this formula, E2 is the cell where the first drop down list is located, the text “Not Started” is the value in drop down list you have created.

doc highlight by dropdown 6

5. Then click Format button to go to the Format Cells dialog, please choose one color that you want to highlight the specified rows when the value “Not Started” is displayed in the drop down list, see screenshot:

doc highlight by dropdown 7

6. And then click OK > OK to close the dialogs.

7. Then repeat the above 4-6 steps to apply the conditional formatting to other drop down values, for instance, enter the formulas: =$E2="Completed" and =$E2="In Progress" for the Completed or In Progress rows, and specify the colors for each item individually as you need.

8. And now, all the drop down list values have been applied with the conditional formatting, when you select the item from the dropdown, the row will be highlighted with the color you specified. See screenshot:

doc highlight by dropdown 8


Demo: Highlight rows based on drop down list with Conditional Formatting


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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Kris · 6 months ago
    I can get this to apply this to a single row, however I have over 3000. This would be very time consuming. Is there another way to apply this same funtion to all my rows easily without manually repeating this.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Ash · 10 months ago
    Hi.I have tried this but it highlights my whole sheet ,why is this happening?help?
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      skyyang · 9 months ago
      Hello, Ash,
      You can view the video to check the detailed information of the steps.
      • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
        Elle · 8 months ago
        I did exactly what's told and on the demo but it highlights the whole selection. Not the row.
        • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
          skyyang · 8 months ago
          Hi, Elle,
          Would you mind to send your worksheet to my email account? Or you can insert your problem as a screenshot here.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    David Sheerin · 1 years ago
    I have tried this but it only highlights the drop down cell not the entire line. aM I MISSING SOMETHING??
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      skyyang · 1 years ago
      Hello, David,
      After inserting the drop down list, first, you should select the the data range not the drop down list column only, and then when applying the formula in conditional formatting, please enter the formula: =$E2="Not Started", remember enter the $ sign before the cell reference.

      Hope this can help you, thank you!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Lynda M · 1 years ago
    Thank you! Just what I needed
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Michelle · 1 years ago
    YES! I couldn't remember how to do this and the solution is so simple (once you know it). Thank you! :)