Coloring Identical Company Names

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 18, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Connie has a worksheet that has company names in each cell of column B. They are grouped under a region heading (Northeast, West, etc.) in column A. She would like to apply conditional formatting to the company names so that if a name appears in more than one region, it shows up using a background or text color that makes the matching companies easy to find. This means that if one company is formatted as red, no other company should appear as red (it should appear as a different color, such as blue or green). Connie isn't sure how to set this up or if it can even be done with conditional formatting.

There is a way to mark duplicates using conditional formatting; just follow these general steps:

  1. Select the cells that contain your company names.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the Conditional Formatting tool in the Styles group.
  3. Select New Rule. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  4. Click the Format Only Unique or Duplicate Values option at the top of the dialog box.
  5. Make sure that Duplicate is selected in the drop-down list in the bottom half of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The New Formatting Rule dialog box.

  7. Click the Format button and change the formatting to reflect how you want duplicate company names to appear.
  8. Click OK to close the New Formatting Rule dialog box.

At this point all your duplicates should match whatever formatting you selected in step 6. The only problem is that all duplicates are formatted the same way. In other words, if you have two companies (ABC Company and DEF Company) and there are duplicates for those companies, they are all formatted the same way—you won't see different formatting for the two companies.

Of course, you could easily use Excel's filtering capabilities to single out duplicate companies, non-duplicate companies, or individual company names. This might be the easiest way to "zero in" on the companies you want to locate.

The only way to use conditional formatting to apply different colors to different groups of duplicate company names requires that you identify, up front, the actual duplicates. With that list in hand, you could create a series of conditional formatting rules that use formulas similar to the following:

=AND(ISNUMBER(FIND("ABC Company",B1)),COUNTIF($B$1:$B$99,"ABC Company")>1)

In this formula "ABC Company" is the company name, B1 is the first cell of the range, and B1:B99 is the full range of cells. For each formatting rule you could apply different formatting appropriate to that particular company. That means that if you knew, up front, that there were 24 different company names that had duplicates, you would need to set up 24 conditional formatting rules to handle those 24 names.

Complex, indeed. Unfortunately, there is not an easier way using conditional formatting. You could, however, forego the conditional formatting and use a macro to make your duplicates stand out. The simplest "automatic" macro we could come up with (where you don't need to know the duplicate names ahead of time) is one that examines a range of cells and sets the internal cell color based on duplicate company names.

Sub ColorCompanyDuplicates()
    Dim x As Integer
    Dim y As Integer
    Dim lRows As Long
    Dim lColNum As Long
    Dim iColor As Integer
    Dim iDupes As Integer
    Dim bFlag As Boolean

    lRows = Selection.Rows.Count
    lColNum = Selection.Column
    iColor = 2

    For x = 2 To lRows
        bFlag = False
        For y = 2 To x - 1
            If Cells(y, lColNum) = Cells(x, lColNum) Then
                bFlag = True
                Exit For
            End If
        Next y
        If Not bFlag Then
            iDupes = 0
            For y = x + 1 To lRows
                If Cells(y, lColNum) = Cells(x, lColNum) Then
                    iDupes = iDupes + 1
                End If
            Next y
            If iDupes > 0 Then
                iColor = iColor + 1
                If iColor > 56 Then
                    MsgBox "Too many duplicate companies!", vbCritical
                    Exit Sub
                End If
                Cells(x, lColNum).Interior.ColorIndex = iColor
                For y = x + 1 To lRows
                    If Cells(y, lColNum) = Cells(x, lColNum) Then
                        Cells(y, lColNum).Interior.ColorIndex = iColor
                    End If
                Next y
            End If
        End If
    Next x
End Sub

To use the macro, simply select the cells that contain the company names and then run it. The macro makes three passes through the cells. The first pass looks backward through the cells from the current one being examined; it is used to determine if there are any "backward" duplicates, because if there are then no further processing on that particular cell is needed. The second pass looks forward through the cells to determine if there are any duplicates to the current company name. If there are, then a third pass increments the cell color value and then applies it to the duplicates.

Note that the macro sets the ColorIndex property of any duplicates it finds, and it increments the variable used to set the property when it finds a new set of duplicate company names. For all those company names for which there are no duplicates, the ColorIndex property of the cell is not changed. This means there is a limit on how many companies can be marked, however—the ColorIndex can only range between 0 and 56. The values actually assigned by the macro range from 3 to 56, so it is only possible to format 54 groupings of companies.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12673) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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 3 + 7?

2023-04-18 06:11:21

Mike J

ASAP Utilities, which has had a few mentions before, contains a utility that can identify up to (approx.) 256 duplicate groups by using a combination of fill colours and patterns. If the number of groups exceeds its maximum, the duplicates are still found but the excess ones are all formatted with the same colour, so selecting/copying that group and repeating the process allows a virtually unlimited number of groups. Definitely worth a mention, as ASAP Utilities has a free version.

2018-07-16 08:40:27


If you know the companies ahead of time (not the dupes aspect, just a list of all possiblee companies) and there are less than, what, 56?, you could have a table of them with an assigned color which you use VLOOKUP on in the conditional formatting.

The same color would always be assigned for a given company (in the simple version) which could be beneficial if it would be useful to a user to remember certain companies' colors.

For a more complex version, one could make the table dynamic by it collecting the companies in use at the moment and having the formula that populates the index (company name) column "look above" to see if it already exists, leaving the line in the table blank if it does. Similarly for the output column (colors): leave a blank if the index column is blank. The colors would then be somewhat dynamic as well if that is desirable, but more important would be that a larger number of companies could be handled so long as the number with dupes did not exceed the number of possible colors (56?).

Too bad we don't have formulas that directly format. For example, one might then have a formula like =if(A1=2,AND("That's a winner!",FILL(A1,[Red],TEXTCOLOR(A1,[Yellow])),AND("Oh... Sorry!",,FILL(A1,[Light Blue],TEXTCOLOR(A1,[Red]))).

No more screwing with a horrible, non-intuitive, one might even say "broken" given its foibles, conditional formatting.

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