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# Colors in an IF Function

by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 20, 2015)

Please Note : This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007 and 2010. 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: Colors in an IF Function.

Steve would like to create an IF statement (using the worksheet function) based on the color of a cell. For example, if A1 has a green fill, he wants to return the word "go", if it has a red fill, he wants to return the word "stop", and if it is any other color return the word "neither". Steve prefers to not use a macro to do this.

Unfortunately, there is no way to acceptably accomplish this task without using macros, in one form or another. The closest non-macro solution is to create a name that determines colors, in this manner:

1. Select cell A1.
2. Click Insert | Name | Define. Excel displays the Define Name dialog box.
3. Use a name such as "mycolor" (without the quote marks).
4. In the Refers To box, enter the following, as a single line:
5. Click OK.

With this name defined, you can, in any cell, enter the following:

The result is that you will see text based upon the color of the cell in which you place this formula. The drawback to this approach, of course, is that it doesn't allow you to reference cells other than the one in which the formula is placed.

The solution, then, is to use a user-defined function, which is (by definition) a macro. The macro can check the color with which a cell is filled and then return a value. For instance, the following example returns one of the three words, based on the color in a target cell:

This macro evaluates the RGB values of

the colors in a cell, and returns a string based on those values. You could use the function in a cell in this manner:

If you prefer to check index colors instead of RGB colors, then the following variation will work:

Whether you are using the RGB approach or the color index approach, you'll want to check to make sure that the values used in the macros reflect the actual values used for the colors in the cells you are testing. In other words, Excel allows you to use different shades of green and red, so you'll want to make sure that the RGB values and color index values used in the macros match those used by the color shades in your cells.

One way you can do this is to use a very simple macro that does nothing but return a color index value:

Now, in your worksheet, you can use the following:

The result is the color index value of cell B5 is displayed. Assuming that cell B5 is formatted using one of the colors you expect (red or green), you can plug the index value back into the earlier macros to get the desired results. You could simply skip that step, however, and rely on the value returned by GetFillColor to put together an IF formula, in this manner:

You'll want to keep in mind that these functions (whether you look at the RGB color values or the color index values) examine the explicit formatting of a cell. They don't take into account any implicit formatting, such as that applied through conditional formatting.

For some other good ideas, formulas, and functions on working with colors, refer to this page at Chip Pearson's website:

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10780) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Colors in an IF Function .

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