Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Alerts About Approaching Due Dates.

Alerts About Approaching Due Dates

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 29, 2020)

Jonathan developed a worksheet that tracks due dates for various departmental documents. He wondered if there was a way for Excel to somehow alert him if the due date for a particular document was approaching.

There are several ways that this can be done in Excel, and you should pick the method that is best for your purposes. The first method is to simply add a column to your worksheet that will be used for the alert. Assuming your due date is in column F, you could place the following type of formula in column G:

=IF(F3<(TODAY()+7),"<<<","")

The formula checks to see if the date in cell F3 is earlier than a week from today. If so, then the formula displays "<<<" in the cell. The effect of this formula is to alert you to any date that is either past or within the next week.

Another approach is to use the conditional formatting capabilities of Excel. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells that contain the document due dates.
  2. Make sure the Home tab of the ribbon is displayed.
  3. Click the Conditional Formatting option in the Styles group. On the resulting submenu, click Manage Rules. Excel displays the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box.

  5. Click the New Rule button. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  6. In the Select a Rule Type list, choose Format Only Cells That Contain. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The New Formatting Rule dialog box.

  8. Make sure the first drop-down list in the Edit the Rule Description area is "Cell Value." (This should be the default.)
  9. Make sure the second drop-down list is "Less Than."
  10. In the formula area, enter "=TODAY()" (without the quote marks).
  11. Click the Format button. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  12. Using the Color drop-down list, choose the color red.
  13. Click OK to close the Format Cells dialog box.
  14. Click OK. The Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box reappears with your newly defined condition in it.
  15. Click the New Rule button. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  16. In the Select a Rule Type List, choose Format Only Cells That Contain.
  17. Make sure the first drop-down list in the Edit the Rule Description area is "Cell Value." (This should be the default.)
  18. Make sure the second drop-down list is "Less Than."
  19. In the formula area, enter "=TODAY()+7" (without the quote marks).
  20. Click the Format button. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  21. Using the Color drop-down list, choose the color blue.
  22. Click OK to close the Format Cells dialog box.
  23. Click OK. The Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box reappears with your newly defined condition in it. (The newly defined condition should actually be selected in the list of conditions.)
  24. Click the Move Down arrow. This moves the last condition you defined (steps 13 through 21) so it is in the proper order.
  25. Click OK to close the Conditional Formatting dialog box.

This is a two-tiered format, and you end up with two levels of alert. If the due date is already past, then it shows up as red. If the due date is today or within the next seven days, then it shows up in blue.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9327) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Alerts About Approaching Due Dates.

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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