Protecting Conditional Formatting

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 17, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Kees has a worksheet that uses conditional formatting extensively. However, the conditional formatting keeps getting messed up when users copy and paste information or when they use drag and drop to edit the worksheet. He wonders about the best way to prevent this from happening.

This happens because conditional formatting is considered just that—formatting. A standard copy and paste (or a drag and drop edit) copies everything, including formatting. This means the target cells will have the formatting of the source cells, not the formatting of the target cells (including any conditional formatting that may have been in the target cells).

The answer, then, is to tell users not to do a standard copy and paste. Instead, they should use the paste options to paste anything (or everything) except formatting.

Another option, of course, is to protect the worksheet so that the user cannot copy and paste anything. This may be a bit drastic for your users, however, as you may want them to make changes. (You just don't want them to mess up the conditional formatting.)

This leads to a macro approach. If you can record a macro that applies the conditional formatting to the cells, you could create some additional macros that apply that recorded macro, as needed. For instance, let's say that the macro you record is called something short and sexy like SetCondFormat.

Next, go into the Visual Basic Editor and, in the Immediate window, enter the following:

? Cells.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeAllFormatConditions).Address

Assuming you have your conditional formatting all set up, this should return a line—perhaps a long line—that shows the addresses of the cells and ranges that use conditional formatting. It will look something like this:


Next, add the following macro to the ThisWorksheet code module:

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
    Dim r As Range

    Const cCFAddress = "$B$3:$B$50,$D$3:$D$50,$G$3:$I$20"

    On Error Resume Next
    Set r = Range(cCFAddress)
    On Error GoTo 0

    If Not r Is Nothing Then
        If Not Application.Intersect(Target, r) Is Nothing Then
        End If
    End If
End Sub

The key here is to make sure that the cCFAddress constant is set equal to whatever was returned when you saw the addresses in the Immediate window. (If you changing conditional formatting at a later time, you can use the Immediate window trick again and simply change the line in the above macro.)

The macro is executed every time there is a change in the worksheet. It checks to see if the changed address (passed in the Target variable) is part of the original cells that contained conditional formats. If so, then your SetCondFormat (the one you recorded to do the conditional formatting) is again executed.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (4362) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is two more than 7?

2023-06-17 12:22:07

J. Woolley

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