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Losing Formatting

Jennifer is in an office with ten people, all using Excel 2007. Several of them have intermittent problems with losing formatting. The formatting includes fonts, colors, shading, borders, number formats, and so on. They save and close the workbook; the next time they open it, the formatting is gone. They can't find a pattern, and were wondering if this is a known problem.

There is no acknowledgement from Microsoft that it is a known problem (at least, as far as we can find), but it apparently is a problem shared by many people. As far as we can tell, the problem could be due to two different potential causes.

First, you should make sure that your workbook is being saved in native Excel 2007/2010 format. If you are saving it in the older Excel 97-2003 format, then it is possible that the losses you are seeing are due to the formatting not being supported in the older format. This is particularly true with colors and conditional formatting.

The other possible cause is that the workbook file is corrupted in some manner. The solution is to transfer your data from the current workbook to a new workbook and then see if the problem occurs in the new one.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9484) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007 and 2010.

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Comments for this tip:

Oyvind Buhaug    24 Sep 2014, 07:53
I have a similar issue with excel 2010. In some cases when I re-open a sheet, parts of the formatting is changed (different color etc.) in other cases the formatting disappears. When this the case excels standard colors can be stored and retained, i.e. the problem I have appears to be linked with non-standard colors
Glenn Case    08 Jul 2014, 09:14

Interesting note. Is the macro you mention something you could share here?
Ron    07 Jul 2014, 01:41
Hi Allen

I came across something related to this a while back when copying the contents of one excel file to another. All of the styles in the source file were being copied into the destination file, even if they were not in use. I was copying quite a few files into one when I got an error telling me I could not paste.
After much googling I found that the problem was the number of styles exceeded the capacity and it would not paste any data at all.
I found and modified a macro to remove all of the styles and the problem went away, but then so did some of the formatting. So I made another version of the macro to remove the unused styles. This takes a bit longer because there is no record in excel of which styles have been used except in each cell. So the macro had to cycle through every cell to build a list of used styles.
Our organisation has to provide excel files to users of older versions and when they save out to the older version some of the styles get dropped. The older version has a smaller capacity for styles than the new. (excel 2003 ~ 4000 styles. Excel 2007 and above ~64000 styles. This may not be the cause of your post but it is related.

Laura    12 Jun 2014, 10:23
When I sort a collumn to only show certain data I save right after but then i start working on something else in the file and my sorts do not stay the way I need them to. How do i keep my sorts the way I need them?
Pattie    19 May 2014, 10:51
On Friday, May 16th, I saved my spreadsheet then closed it. On Monday when I opened it, some of my formatting was gone. I highlight the rows for different things and use different colors. When I opened it this morning, half of my spreadsheet was missing the colors. On the entire worksheet, 1/2 the columns had no formatting and the other half did, A - H the formatting was gone while I - the end had the formatting.
Heidi    09 Oct 2013, 10:38
If your spreadsheet is "Shared" and just one user seems to go in and lose formatting, you could try getting someone else to remove the troublesome user's custom view. This will often cure the problem whereby just one user is corrupting the format.
Barry Fitzpatrick    25 Jul 2013, 07:38
This might be unrelated but Excel has a limit to how many different cell formats it can handle. Because different Users will be handling different spreadsheets the chances are that each machine will have a different number of cell formats (I am not sure if this a cumulative effect or only applicable to currently open workbooks). Opening a file with additional cell formats could on certain machines take the total number over Excels limit which result in the formatting being stripped out.

The following Microsft KB article gives more details: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/213904
plus some tips/tools on how to remove some cell formats.
GM    24 Jul 2013, 06:28
I have the problem in Excel 2010 with "general" format being applied to "date" ,"currency", "hyperlinks", colors go missing in fact when I re-open one work book we are taking bets to see where the latest revert backs are to be found. Any one tried open office...............
Rob    19 Jun 2013, 06:41
I had a problem in Excel2010 with "general" format changing to "date" or "currency" format.

I tried copy-paste into a new worksheet, but after re-applying my desired cell-formatting the problem continued. I think the origin of the problem lies in the fact that by applying your own customized cell-formatting Excel (somtimes?) creates "new" styles based on the original "General" Style-format. These new styles appear in the top of the Style-selection Box and the name(s) look like the default Style.

By removing these "new" style formats (right mouse click) in the corrupted file, all connected cells fall back to the default Style. After deleting the "bastard" styles, I re-applied all my desired cell-styles and formatting and the style selection Box remained clean of unwanted styles.

So far, so good. I saved and re-opend the file on two different computers (Vista an WinXp) in Excel2010 and the formatting DID NOT CHANGE !!

I hope this information can help some of you in beating this annoying bug in Excel.
lester    14 Apr 2013, 18:15
Found the answer.

Re-set your Accessibilty Options

1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Accessibility Options.
2. Click the Display tab, and then click to clear the Use High Contrast check box or adjust them. (You may need to play around with this setting to your liking).
3. Click OK to close the Accessibility Options dialog box.

I am not sure what I did in changng my desktop appearance settings that corrected the issue, but my colors are back!
lester    14 Apr 2013, 17:42
My problem is ocurring on Excel 2007. All of a sudden, the font/cell colors revert to the default black and white. The font style and size are intact.

1) If I copy a page from the black and white workbook to Word 2007 (using the default paste option) in the same computer, the copied colors display in the Word doc.

2) If I copy the above back to the excel workbook, the colors are gone.

3) When I copy the file to a different computer that uses Office 2007, the same excel workbook displays the colors.

4) I also noticed that the 'colorless' excel shows 'selected' rows, columns, cells and all format buttons (i.e. align-left/right/center, font attributes-Bold/Italic, etc.) medium blue. I think it used to be grey.

PJ    11 Apr 2013, 10:29
We are having same issue. It is only occurring for one user though. It just started about a month ago. We are using 2010. I enter all the formatting, she uses the file and formatting goes away. I then put back in or she does but the next time she opens, gone. I have saved the excel files in 2010 format.

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