Excel Tutorial: How To Make Excel Cells Change Color Automatically Based On Time


Excel is a powerful tool that offers a wide range of features to make data analysis and presentation easier and more efficient. One such feature is the ability to make Excel cells change color automatically based on time. This feature can be incredibly useful for tracking deadlines, monitoring progress, and highlighting important information. In this tutorial, we will walk through the steps to set up this automation and explore the importance of this feature in Excel.

Key Takeaways

  • Conditional formatting in Excel can automatically change cell colors based on time, making data analysis and presentation more efficient.
  • This feature is important for tracking deadlines, monitoring progress, and highlighting important information in spreadsheets.
  • Understanding conditional formatting, setting it up based on time, and using formulas can greatly enhance the visual representation of time-based data.
  • Effective time-based conditional formatting involves choosing appropriate color schemes, considering user accessibility, and utilizing additional formatting options.
  • Exploring and utilizing the time-based conditional formatting feature in Excel is encouraged for improved data visualization and analysis.

Understanding Conditional Formatting in Excel

Conditional formatting is a feature in Microsoft Excel that allows users to apply specific formatting to a cell or range of cells based on certain conditions or criteria. This feature is extremely useful for dynamically changing the appearance of a spreadsheet based on the data it contains.

A. What is conditional formatting
  • Definition:

    Conditional formatting is a tool that enables users to apply formatting such as font color, background color, and borders to cells based on the cell's value.
  • Types of conditions:

    Conditional formatting can be applied based on various conditions such as cell value, formula, date, or text.

B. How it works in Excel
  • Setting up rules:

    Users can create rules within Excel to define the conditions under which formatting should be applied. These rules can be simple, such as highlighting cells that contain specific text, or more complex, such as applying a color scale based on the numerical value of the cells.
  • Applying formatting:

    Once the rules are set, Excel will automatically apply the specified formatting to the cells that meet the conditions defined in the rules.

C. Benefits of using conditional formatting
  • Improved data visualization:

    Conditional formatting makes it easier to identify trends, outliers, and patterns in the data by visually highlighting important information.
  • Time-saving:

    Instead of manually updating the formatting of cells, conditional formatting allows for automatic updates based on the specified conditions.
  • Customization:

    Users can customize the formatting options to suit their specific needs and preferences, allowing for a more personalized and professional-looking spreadsheet.

Setting up Conditional Formatting based on Time in Excel

Conditional formatting in Excel allows you to automatically change the color of cells based on specific rules. In this tutorial, we will learn how to make Excel cells change color automatically based on time.

A. Selecting the cells to apply conditional formatting

  • Open your Excel worksheet and select the cells where you want the time-based conditional formatting to be applied.
  • Click on the "Home" tab on the Excel ribbon and then select "Conditional Formatting" from the Styles group.

B. Choosing the time-based rule

  • From the Conditional Formatting menu, choose "New Rule."
  • Select "Use a formula to determine which cells to format."
  • In the formula box, enter the formula that will determine the time-based condition. For example, to highlight cells if the current time is after 5:00 PM, you can use the formula =NOW()>TIME(17,0,0).
  • Click on the "Format" button to choose the formatting options for the cells that meet the time-based rule.

C. Customizing the formatting options

  • In the Format Cells dialog box, you can choose the font color, fill color, borders, and other formatting options to apply to the cells that meet the time-based rule.
  • You can also set up multiple time-based rules and formatting options to create more complex conditional formatting scenarios.
  • Once you have customized the formatting options, click "OK" to apply the conditional formatting rule to the selected cells.

By following these steps, you can make Excel cells change color automatically based on time, allowing you to visually track time-based data in your Excel worksheets.

Using Formulas to Change Cell Colors Based on Time

In Excel, you can use formulas to automatically change the color of cells based on the current time. This can be a useful tool for highlighting important deadlines or time-sensitive information in your spreadsheets.

A. Overview of Excel formulas for time
  • TIME function: This function allows you to input a specific time value into a cell. For example, =TIME(8,0,0) would represent 8:00 AM.
  • NOW function: This function returns the current date and time. You can use this function to dynamically track the current time in your spreadsheet.

B. Writing the formula to determine color change

To write a formula to change cell colors based on time, you can use conditional formatting. Conditional formatting allows you to apply formatting to a cell based on its value or the value of another cell. For example, you can use the following formula to change the color of cell A1 based on the current time:

=IF(NOW() > TIME(8,0,0), "True", "False")

C. Testing the formula with different time inputs

After writing the formula, you can test it with different time inputs to see how the cell color changes. For example, inputting different time values into the formula and observing the changes in cell color can help you ensure that the formula is working as intended.

By using Excel formulas, you can easily make cells change color automatically based on time, helping you to visually track time-sensitive information in your spreadsheets.

Examples of Time-Based Conditional Formatting in Excel

In this tutorial, we will explore different ways to use time-based conditional formatting in Excel to automatically change the color of cells based on time. This can be particularly useful for highlighting upcoming deadlines, color-coding tasks based on time remaining, and visualizing time-based trends in data.

Highlighting Upcoming Deadlines

  • Example: You can use conditional formatting to highlight cells that contain deadlines that are approaching. For instance, you can set a rule to change the color of cells to red if the deadline is within the next 7 days.
  • How to do it: Select the cells you want to apply the formatting to, go to the Home tab, click on Conditional Formatting, and then choose Highlight Cell Rules. From there, select "Less Than" and input the date criteria for highlighting upcoming deadlines.

Color-Coding Tasks Based on Time Remaining

  • Example: You can use color-coding to visually represent the urgency of tasks based on their due dates. For instance, you can have tasks that are due within the next 3 days show up as red, tasks due within the next week as yellow, and tasks due beyond that as green.
  • How to do it: Similar to the previous example, you can apply conditional formatting to the cells containing the due dates, and set up rules to change the cell color based on the time remaining until the deadline.

Visualizing Time-Based Trends in Data

  • Example: You can use conditional formatting to visualize time-based trends in your data, such as sales performance over different months or quarterly revenue fluctuations.
  • How to do it: By applying conditional formatting rules to your data set, you can have Excel automatically change the color of cells based on specific time periods, allowing you to quickly identify trends and patterns.

By incorporating time-based conditional formatting in Excel, you can efficiently manage deadlines, prioritize tasks, and gain insights from your data without the need for manual effort.

Tips for Effective Time-Based Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting in Excel allows users to automatically change the color of cells based on specified conditions. When it comes to time-based conditional formatting, there are several important considerations to keep in mind to ensure that the formatting is both visually appealing and functional.

A. Choosing appropriate color schemes
  • Consider the meaning of the colors

    When selecting colors for time-based conditional formatting, it’s important to consider the meaning or association of the colors. For example, green may be associated with positive or on-time, while red may signify negative or overdue.

  • Use a gradient or scale

    Using a gradient or scale of colors can help visually represent the passage of time. For example, lighter shades can represent earlier times, while darker shades can represent later times.

B. Considering user accessibility
  • Ensure color-blind friendly options

    Not all users perceive colors in the same way, so it’s important to choose colors that are accessible to individuals with color vision deficiencies. Utilizing different shapes or patterns in addition to color can help convey the same information.

  • Test the color scheme

    Before finalizing the color scheme for time-based conditional formatting, it’s important to test it on a diverse group of users to ensure that it is easily understandable and accessible to everyone.

C. Utilizing additional formatting options
  • Include text or icons

    In addition to changing the cell color, consider including text or icons to provide further context to the time-based conditional formatting. This can help users quickly understand the significance of the color change.

  • Use data bars or color scales

    Data bars and color scales are effective tools for visually representing the magnitude of time differences. They provide a quick and intuitive way for users to compare time intervals at a glance.


Through time-based conditional formatting, Excel offers a powerful tool for visualizing and analyzing time-based data. By automatically changing the color of cells based on the specified time criteria, users can easily identify patterns, trends, and anomalies in their data. We encourage you to explore and utilize this feature in your own spreadsheets to streamline your data analysis and decision-making process. The visual representation of time-based data is crucial for gaining insights and making informed decisions, and time-based conditional formatting in Excel makes this process seamless and efficient.

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