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VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

You are a busy VA – that’s a given! A client has asked you to show her what her data means. What is the top value in the list of sales? Can you see values that meet a condition? Conditional Formatting will show the way.

What is Conditional Formatting?VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

Conditional formatting is exactly that, a format applied that matches a condition.

There are 5 kinds of Conditional Formatting to choose from:

  • Highlight Cells Rules – pick this to show cells that match a particular number/text value/date.
  • Top/Bottom Rules – pick this one, for example, to find the Top 10, Top 10%, Bottom 10 or Bottom 10%.
  • Data Bars – these shade the cells based on top and bottom values, so the greater the value the more shading in the cell. You can pick the colour scheme to suit.
  • Colour Scales – use Colour Scales to apply a scale from smallest to largest and set what each colour means.
  • Icon Sets – Use Icon Sets to show crosses and ticks, traffic lights etc as symbols in the highlighted cells.

Create your own rules

You can also create and apply your own rules to automatically change the formatting of cells based on the contents.

Where does Conditional Formatting live?

You will find Conditional Formatting on the Home Ribbon. To use it, first select the cells you want to apply the condition to and then choose the type of condition to set, followed by the format you would like to see.

Conditional formatting

  1. Select the data
  2. Click on Conditional Formatting
  3. Select the type of formatting

Once you have decided which of the formats to use, you can then drill down and specify the exact format you want.

For example, if I want to see Total Sales at Koffee Island above £900 I will choose the Highlight Cells Rules and then Greater than, adding in the amount I want it to look for and setting the format.

Conditional Formatting

Have a play with all the different types of Conditional Formatting, you will be amazed at how easy it is to spot patterns and get information from your data when you can visualise it.

Change the background fill of a cell

Your client has asked you to create a workbook or worksheet for her. She wants the background colour of some of the cells to change based on the text typed in or a number entered. For this you will need to create a custom rule.

Use a formula to control conditional formatting

To add conditional formatting to show a range of colours – I have a list of rooms names Red Yellow and Green and I would like the fill colour to change according to the name of the room. This is handy if you need to keep a visual track of room bookings for example.

Change the colour fill

Conditional Formatting

I applied three formats to the cells one on top of the other.

If A2:A10 contain the word Red apply Red formatting

If A2:A10 contain the word Yellow apply Yellow formatting

If A2:A10 contain the word Green apply Green formatting

Apply the first condition

Conditional formatting

Select the cells to which you want to apply the conditional formatting and then click on Conditional Formatting and select New Rule.

Format cells that contain

Conditional Formatting

In my example, I selected Format only cells that contain

Then picked Specific Text from the drop-down list

Added the word Green in this case

Set the format by clicking Format and going to the Fill tab to pick the colour.

Repeat for the other conditions

Go back and add the other two rules to the selected cells. Remember to change the criteria for each accordingly.

Now test your rules! Type one of the words into one of the cells that you selected when you started and watch the background colour change!

How did you find this tip? How will you use it? Leave me a comment to let me know.

To learn more about Excel you can take one of my Excel Courses, there is one for Windows and One for Mac.

Find them here : Courses

Or get in touch if you would like to work with me one to one!

VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

VAs – Conditional Formatting can show the way in Excel

Cell formatting in Excel – things a VA needs to know!

I was recently asked about formatting cells in Excel, specifically about changing the colour of the cells. This made me think that perhaps it’s time to write a blog post about cell formatting, so here goes.

Why Format?Cell formatting in Excel – things a VA needs to know!

Formatting does several things:

  • Makes certain things stand out
  • Makes your spreadsheet easier to read
  • Makes things neat and tidy

What can I format?

  • Font style
  • Number format
  • Cell shading
  • Borders
  • Shading
  • Alignment
  • Text or Cell Colour
  • Column width

In today’s post I will look at the top three on the list and come back to the rest in another post.

Font Style

This is the font face, the size, the alignment, all the things in the Font Group on the Home Ribbon.

Cell formatting in Excel – things a VA needs to know!

Now you can also create Styles in Excel just like In Word – well almost like in Word. The principle is the same. More on that later on.

To change the formatting, select the text or numbers to change and then make the change from the icons in the Font Group. You can see that my font is Arial and 12 points in size with nothing else added.

To change the colour choose the colour you want from the drop down list under the A and to add borders, choose the border style you want under the borders icon.

Number Format

I have written about number formats in a previous post you can find it here – Why Number Formats Matter In Excel , however it is so important to get the number format right that it warrants repeating ( hop over and read the Why Number Formats Matter in Excel Blog anyway!)

When you add a number to a cell and you want to use that number in a calculation, whether it is a simple number or a date, you need to use the right format so that Excel knows that it can work with that number.

When you add numbers to the cell they start off with a General Format. Now Excel will be able to do most things even with a General Format but if you have entered a date and want to work out the difference between two dates, or add 30 days to a date to find when an invoice is due for example, then it is very important to tell Excel that this number is in fact a date.

There is no need to type in notation such as Currency Symbols, these can all be controlled by the number format. This is a great time saver as you can just type in the numbers and then apply the formatting later. Or apply the formatting to the cells first and then as you type the notation is applied.

How do I tell Excel I have a date?

When you type in a date you can type it in several ways.



3rd July 2019

3 July 2019

All of these will change the number format to show Date. However, if you type in 3.7.2019 then Excel will not know that this is a date and will treat it as text. It is made up of numbers and full stops. None of the symbols that Excel will use to recognise a date format are present. If you try and add 30 days to this number, it just won’t work, and you will get an error message. You can of course select the cells and apply the Short Date or Long Date format to them and then as you type in the date it should show the format you have selected.

Cell Formatting

Cell Shading

Now for the question I was asked: How do you change the background colour of a cell in Excel?

There are a couple of ways to do this.

Select the cells to change then click on the drop down under the Fill Colour icon and choose the colour to apply.

Cell formatting

You can choose from the Theme colours or click More Colours where you can pick from a larger selection or add the RGB values for a specific colour.

Alternatively select the cells to change (1) Click the drop down under the Borders Icon (2) then click on More Borders (3) now make your selections (4)

Here you can choose to add a pattern style and also choose from Fill Effects.

Cell formatting

Once you have made your selections, the cell colours will have changed.

cell formatting

Now that you know how to change the Cell Formatting in three of the ways, look out for another post from me, which will look at Borders, Alignment and Cell Styles in Excel.

Leave me a comment and let me know how this has helped.

To learn more about Microsoft Excel, take one of my Excel Courses – there is one for Windows and one for Mac and more are in the pipeline.

Visit – and go get :

Essential Excel Skills for Business the Windows Version

Essential Excel Skill for Business the Mac Version

And of course there are lots of other lovely courses to choose from!

Cell formatting in Excel – things a VA needs to know!

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

How do You Make Time Add Up?

Do you use Excel to keep track of your time? Most VAs I know use some sort of time tracking software which notes what they do. It can be a professional online piece of software which does all kinds of things from tracking your time to monitoring which websites are distracting you!

Some VAs prefer a different approach. Simply keeping a timer on their desk – starting it up when they begin a task and stopping it when they are done. Then they can record the time spent in a notebook or an Excel Spreadsheet.

I get asked a lot – how do I make time add up?

First of all, you need to make sure that Excel knows you are adding time to the worksheet and not just random numbers or data. To do this select the cells where you will be adding in the time values and format them as Time.

  1. On the Home Ribbon
  2. Click the drop down in the Number Formats box
  3. Choose Time

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

Now you won’t actually see anything on the worksheet, the cells will look like normal. It is only when you start to add numbers in that you will see the Time Format and then you need to type the numbers in correctly for the Time Format to work.

To see numbers as time, they need to follow the number format and you will need to type them in like this:


02 – hours

05 – minutes

00 – seconds

If you simply type in 2 then you will see 00:00:00 as Excel does not know whether the 2 is hours, minutes or seconds!

Next do a sum

Now that you have added the data to the spreadsheet and it is formatted correctly Excel will add it up using the Sum Function as normal.

  1. Place the cursor in the cell where you want the answer to appear
  2. Click on the AutoSum icon and select Sum
  3. Now drag over the cells to include in the formula
  4. Press Enter

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

You will see that Excel has added up the column of times and you have the correct answer. In this case 1 hour and 45 minutes.

What about working out the difference between the start and end times?

In this case, you will need to have a column for the Start Time and a column for the End Time. You can then enter the values as times and calculate End Time minus Start Time.

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

To calculate use the Cell References and the minus sign. So the formula reads =D2-C2 where D2 holds the End Time and C2 the Start Time. Next you can use Autofill to copy the formula down the column so that it is replicated in every row. You will now see the Time Spent total for each row.

Create a Total for All Time Spent

The next step is to create a total for the Time Spent. I did this in another column completely and included in the Sum all the possible rows in the calculation.

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

This calculation is =SUM(E2:E15) meaning that it will add up any numbers within the cells E2 to E15. If I were to add more rows in, then I will need to update the formula.

You can read about Autofill in Excel –VAs- Why Autofill in Excel Will Save You Hours

You can read more about Sums in Excel – VAs- Why Everything you know about Sums is Wrong

You can learn more about making things add up in my course Essential Excel Skills for VAs, there is both a Windows and a Mac version of the course and you can find them at


VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

VAs – Why Number Formats Matter in Excel

Number formats

Why do Number Formats Matter?

When working in Microsoft Excel you may have noticed that the data you enter does not have a Number Format when you first enter it, rather it has a General Format. You may be wondering why it matters what kind of format the data has.

Excel spreadsheets are set out as a grid and can be used for many different purposes. Some people use them for lists, checklists, trackers etc. However, the most frequent use is for making things add up.

Excel can add up numbers that have a General Format however if you want to show Currency or decimals and get them adding up properly then you do need to apply one of the Numeric Formats.

The Number Group

On the Home Ribbon you will see the Number Group. This is where you choose the format for the data you are entering into your spreadsheet, or you can change the format after you have entered the data.

Number formats

Click the drop-down arrow to see the immediately available options.

FormatWhat it does
GeneralNo specific format – will add up numbers and display text. Does not display decimals or currency notation
Number12.45 Displays a number with two decimal places
Currency£12.45 Shows the currency symbol and two decimal places – the currency symbol is aligned close to the numbers
AccountingShows the currency symbol and two decimal places but the currency symbol is aligned to the far left of the cell

£ 12.45

Short Date12/08/2018 – displays the data like this
Long Date12 August 2018 is how a long date displays
Time12:08:34 displays time in hours minutes and seconds
Percentage12% shows a number as a whole number with a percent sign
FractionTurns 1/4 into ¼
ScientificLong scientific numbers are displayed using this format
TextAnything that is absolutely Text should be formatted this way.
More FormatsGet to even more formats and the ability to customise how certain formas look

Make your numbers look good

Number formats also help make the spreadsheet make sense so that when you first look at a sea of numbers you can differentiate between them. Everyone knows that £12.45 denotes money whereas 12.45 is simply a number.

The Number Format Icons

Just underneath the Number Format drop down, are five icons. Here is what they do.

IconWhat it does
VAs – Why Number Formats Matter in ExcelChoose which currency format you wish to apply. However, be aware that this only displays the currency with the correct symbol, it won’t do any conversions!
VAs – Why Number Formats Matter in ExcelThe percentage format. This add a percent sign to a number. If you have a decimal like .5 it will turn into 50%.
VAs – Why Number Formats Matter in ExcelThe comma format. This applies a comma to separate the thousands. For example –

12344.00 will be 1,2344.00

VAs – Why Number Formats Matter in ExcelIncrease and decrease Decimal places. Choose how many decimal places you want to see by clicking on these icons.

Use Number Formats to make your spreadsheet make sense

When you need to present your spreadsheet to other people, using Number Formats can make all the difference between them understanding your worksheet or not.

To learn more about Number Formats and making your spreadsheets add up, head over to my course Essential Excel Skills for VAs – there is a Windows version and a Mac version. You will find them at


VAs – Why Number Formats Matter in Excel

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

VAs – How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

headers and Footers in ExcelHeaders and Footers

Headers and footers appear on every printed page. This is how you add page numbers, date and time, the file name and path and where you can add a logo to every page in the Header.

Headers and Footers are added via the Page Layout View and are typed into the Header or Footer Area directly. A Header and Footer Ribbon will pop up when you begin.

Change to Page Layout View

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in ExcelVAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 1 – Get to Page Layout

Click the Page Layout Icon – bottom right of the screen.


Click on the View Tab and select Page Layout View from the icons there

Add a header

Once in Page Layout View click into the Header area.

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 2 –See the header/footer area

The Header (and Footer) areas are divided up into three sections, Left, Center and Right. Click into the area you wish to have the Header (or Footer) appear in.

Once there a new Ribbon Tab Appears – Header and Footer Tools.

Header and Footer tools ribbon

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 3 – Header and footer tools Ribbon

The Ribbon that pops up when you click into the Header area gives you various options to add to the Header or Footer.

Pre-set Header or Footer

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 4 – Select from a pre-set header or footer

Choose one of the pre-set Headers or Footers and it will be added to the Header or Footer exactly where your cursor is

Page Number

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 5 – Add page numbers

There are two icons for Page Numbers, Page Number and Number of Pages. If all you need is a simple page number, then select the first one.

If, however you want it to show for instance Page 2 of 4 then you need to

  1. Type the word Page
  2. Click on the Page Number Icon
  3. Type a space then the word of then a space
  4. Click on the Number of Pages icon

It will then say – Page 2 of 4

Adding Header and Footer Elements

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 6 – Header and footer elements

  • Current Date – this adds the current date to the worksheet header/footer and will always be up to date
  • Current Time – like the current date this will always be up to date
  • File Path – this adds the path and name showing where the file is saved – C\Documents\ExcelBook\Coffee Sales for example
  • File Name – this adds just the file name without the location
  • Sheet Name – this adds the name of the current worksheet (assuming you have renamed it from Sheet 1)
  • Picture – allows you to add a picture to the worksheet header
  • Format Picture – having added a picture you can format it. This icon will only light up if you have a picture in the Header.

Switch between Header and Footer

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 7 – Switch between the header and footer

Click the icon that will switch you between the Header or Footer


VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 8- Header and footer options

  1. Different First Page – if your first page is a cover, you may not want to have the same Header or Footer as the rest of the pages
  2. Different Odd and Even – when printing a report, you may want to have different odd and even paged Headers/Footers
  3. Scale with Document – this keeps the Header/Footer in proportion if you scale down or up.
  4. Align with page margins – this makes sure that the Header/Footer lines up with the margin. If you have a narrow margin you will want to tick this box so that the Header/Footer spreads out to meet the margin and is not inset.

Current Date

The Current Date icon places the &[Date] field into the header/footer and shows the current date

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 9 – Set the current date in the Header or Footer

Current Time

The Current Time icon places the &[Time] field in the Header/Footer and shows the current time as above.

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 10 – Show the current time

File Path

The File Path places the &[File]&[Path] field into the header/footer – I am now using the Footer and it shows the file name and the path to the file – so you can find the spreadsheet when you need it

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 11 – Show the document path and filename

File Name

This places the name of the current file in the Header/Footer – it looks like this &[File]

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 12 – Show the Filename on the sheet tab

Sheet Name

This is the name of the worksheet – it looks like this &[Tab]

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 13 – Show the worksheet name


This is used when you wish to add a picture to your Header or Footer – either as a watermark or because you want to add a logo in the top right as in the image above

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 14 – add an image to your Header/footer

Format Picture

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

Figure 15 – Format the image

This button only becomes available when you have a picture in your Header/Footer

Use it to change the size, crop, change brightness etc.

Take our course Essentials Excel Skills for Virtual Assistants to learn how to do this and a lot more besides.

You can find the Windows version Here.

You can find the Mac version Here.

VAs - How to add Headers and Footers in Excel

VAs – Making Time Add Up in Excel

What’s New at tomorrow’s VA?

Excel Training

Exciting times

I set up tomorrow's VA to enable Virtual Assistants to hone their Microsoft Office skills and get more done in less time. I have been diligently creating mini online training courses for hot topics in Microsoft Office.

Today I am excited to announce that there are now two Excel courses. Well, when I say two, I mean one course in two flavours.

Essential Excel Skills for Virtual Assistants is now live in both Windows and Mac versions.

So what will you learn?

In this course you will learn how to set up your worksheet in seconds, create calculations and formulas with flair, format everything so that it looks clean and professional (and easy to understand!) and make sure the whole thing works without a worry!

Imagine, when you are given a task to do in Excel by a client and you sit there staring at a spreadsheet. You are wondering where to begin. What are all these boxes that you can type in, where should you type? What kind of data does Excel hold?

Should you be bothered about formatting? How about making stuff add up? The list goes on.

Foundation Skills

In most of the software packages, you can likely muddle along finding your way and working things out. You will always find a better, faster, more elegant way of doing things when you learn how to do them from someone who has been teaching this for 20 years - wait did I say 20 years? Where did that go?

When you start to use Excel though, there are some fundamental skills that you will need.

  • How to add data to your spreadsheet so that it makes sense and works for you not against you
  • How to build a formula from scratch
  • How to apply formatting to your data so that it looks awesome
  • How to fix a cell reference – essential

I cover all the above in this course and there is one for you whether you use Windows or Mac.

Just pick the right flavour and away you go.

Excel Windows
Excel Mac

I love helping people get the most out of the software they use on a daily basis - and I am creating more courses all the time. Come back often to see.

Special Launch Offer

The first 10 people to buy this course will benefit from a 20% launch discount!

So go get this course today to benefit from the discount.

Remember – This course will give you the skills to build on.

Let me know what other courses you would like! I want to make sure I am building the learning you want and need.

Go get your course!

What's New at tomorrow's VA?