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Excel Intermediate Training CourseExcel Intermediate Training Course

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Excel Intermediate

Module 4: Conditional Formulas and Formatting

In this module we will be exploring the use of calculations and formatting within a data set based on the data meeting specific conditions/criteria.

The IF function

Excel's IF function can often prove to be very useful. You can use this function to branch to different values or actions depending on a specified condition. The structure of an If function is as follows: IF (logical test, value if true, value if false)

IF functions are called conditional functions because the value that the function returns will depend on whether or not a specific condition is satisfied. As an example, consider the following function: IF (A1=10,5, 1). This function states that if cell A1 has a value of 10 the cell that contains the function will have the value of 5. But if A1 doesn’t have a value of 10, the cell that contains the function will have a value of 1. In other words, the function reads: if A1 equals 10 then return the number 5, else, return the number 1.

Let's say that this next IF function is entered into cell B2:

IF (A1<=100, A1*.5, C3*2)

This function states that if the contents of cell A1 is less than or equal to 100, the value in cell B2 will be the value in A1 multiplied by .5; else, the value in B2 will be the value of cell C3 multiplied by 2.

You can insert an IF function by invoking the Insert Function dialogue and looking under the Logical category, or by typing it directly into the formula bar.

The logic of the IF function can be a little confusing until you get used to it. The best way to get comfortable with IF functions, is to practice using them.

The IF function is available in all recent versions of Excel, including 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007 and 2003. You may have to implement some workarounds in functionality for Excel versions 2002/XP, 2000 and 97.

Using the Function Library

Excel 2010 contains an extensive library of functions that you can call upon to help you solve problems. These tools are available in the Function Library button group, on the Formulas ribbon.

The first and largest button is Insert Function. This button will open a dialogue allowing you to search for and insert hundreds of functions.

You can also click the small fx button next to the formula bar to display the Insert Function box.

Clicking the Insert Function button activates the Insert Function dialogue box and provides access to the large range of functions available in Excel.

Once the Insert Function dialogue box is open:

  • Select the function you wish to use from the available list and click OK or
  • Type the name of the function you wish to use in the Search for a function area, press Enter, select the function when it appears in the list and click OK.

Manually entering a function

If you know which function you wish to use, you can enter a function into a worksheet by inputting it manually (i.e. by typing the function directly into a cell).

When you do this in Excel 2010, a screen tip will appear with the possible functions that correspond with the letters of the function name you have entered.

For example, type =IF into a cell. If there is more than one function listed, you can toggle between them by using the arrow up or arrow down keys.

Once you have selected the function you wish to use, continue by typing in a left bracket, which will cause the function syntax to display in another screen tip.

Continue to enter all the arguments required for the function to give you a result, ensuring you type a comma between each argument.

Press Enter to display the result

Conditional Formatting

In Excel 2010 you can design a worksheet in such a way that data is formatted differently, based on the values the data assume at any given time. This is called conditional formatting.

This spreadsheet is conditionally formatted to highlight cells in different colours depending on the cell values.

Use the following procedure to apply conditional formatting. In this example, we will format all monthly totals in the budget that are over $2500.

  1. Highlight the cell or cell range where you want to use conditional formatting.
  2. Select the Conditional Formatting tool from the Home tab on the Ribbon. Select Highlight Cell Rules. Select Greater Than. Excel displays the Greater Than dialog box to help you complete the conditional formatting rule.
  3. Enter 2500 in the left field.
  4. Select a formatting option from the right drop down list.
  5. Select OK to apply the conditional formatting.

When the Conditional Formatting menu is active it will display a menu of conditional formatting options. From this menu, you can choose:

Highlight Cells Rules: This will highlight cells that are greater than, less than, between or equal to values that you can specify.

Top/Bottom Rules: This option will allow you to highlight the top or bottom numbers or percent in the selected cells.

Data Bars: Will display coloured bars that are indicative of the value in the cell.

Colour Scales: Will use different shades of colour to represent different values, from low to high.

Icon Sets: Will use sets of similar icons that will visually indicate a cell’s value.

You will also notice at the bottom of the menu options for creating a new rule, for clearing rules, and for managing rules.

Each one of the conditional formatting menu options will display either a sub menu or a dialogue box. In the image above, you can see the sub menu for the Data Bars option. As you let your mouse pointer hover over an option in the sub menu, you will see a preview of the type of conditional formatting that your pointer is on applied to the cells that you selected. To implement the conditional formatting, just click the submenu option of your choice.

You can apply multiple conditional formatting rules to a group of cells by simply re-selecting the group, and then adding another conditional format by using the menu system discussed previously.

Use the following procedure to create a new conditional formatting rule.

  1. Highlight the cell or cell range where you want to use conditional formatting.
  2. Select the Conditional Formatting tool from the Home tab on the Ribbon. Select New Rule. Excel opens the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  3. The options in this dialog box differ, based on the Rule Type you select. Select the Rule Type and follow the prompts to indicate the conditions for when to apply the formatting.
  4. Select Format to open the FormatCells dialog box to create the formatting to apply when the conditions are met.
  5. Select OK to save your rule and close the New Formatting Rule dialog box.

Removing Conditional Formatting

If you want to remove conditional formatting rules, simply use the Clear Rules option from the menu. This option will let you clear rules for selected cells or for an entire spreadsheet.