Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Conditionally Formatting for Multiple Date Comparisons.

Conditionally Formatting for Multiple Date Comparisons

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 13, 2017)

1

Bev is having a problem setting up a conditional format for some cells. What she wants to do is to format the cells so that if they contain a date before today, they will use a bold red font; if they contain a date after today, they will use a bold green font. Bev cannot get both conditions to work properly.

What is probably happening here is a frustrating artifact of the way that Excel parses the conditions you enter. Follow these steps in to see what I mean:

  1. Select the range of dates to which you want the conditional format applied.
  2. With the Home tab of the ribbon displayed, click the Conditional Formatting option in the Styles group. Excel displays a palette of options related to conditional formatting.
  3. Choose Manage Rules. Excel displays the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box.
  4. Click New Rule. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  5. In the Select a Rule Type area at the top of the dialog box, choose Format Only Cells that Contain. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The New Formatting Rule dialog box.

  7. In the Edit the Rule Description area, change the second drop-down list to Less Than.
  8. In the area just to the right of the drop-down list enter TODAY().
  9. Click Format, change the formatting for the font to bold red, then close the Format Cells dialog box.
  10. Click OK. Excel closes the New Formatting Rule dialog box and shows the rule in the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box.
  11. Click New Rule. Excel again displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  12. In the Select a Rule Type area at the top of the dialog box, choose Format Only Cells that Contain.
  13. In the Edit the Rule Description area, change the second drop-down list to Greater Than.
  14. In the area just to the right of the drop-down list enter TODAY().
  15. Click Format, change the formatting for the font to bold green, then close the Format Cells dialog box.
  16. Click OK. Excel closes the New Formatting Rule dialog box and shows the second rule in the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box.
  17. Click the up and down arrows to move the rules you created to the order in which they should be evaluated.
  18. Click OK to close the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box.

At this point there is a very good chance that all the dates in the range are formatted as bold red, even if they are a date after today. This is obviously wrong, and it occurs because of how Excel treats what you entered in the New Formatting Rule dialog box.

Display each dialog box again (pull up the Conditional Formatting Rules Manager dialog box, select the rule, and click Edit) and examine what you see. Notice that Excel changed what you entered into the third control for each condition. Instead of appearing as TODAY(), it appears as ="TODAY()". Excel added quotes to what you entered, treating the function name as a string, rather than the actual value for today.

Remove the quote marks, but keep the equal sign, then click on OK. The formatting should now be proper; any dates prior to today will be bold red and any after today will be bold green. If the date is today's date, then it will not be formatted in any particular manner.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12929) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Conditionally Formatting for Multiple Date Comparisons.

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 4?

2014-02-03 08:34:20

Bryan

If you intially enter it with the equals sign then you won't have a problem.

Keep in mind that if you include dates and times in the same cell, the conditional formatting won't work as expected, either: Anything past midnight on the current day will be considered a future date.


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