How to Highlight Text in Google Sheets

Google Sheets allows you to create spreadsheets. In spreadsheets, you can store different types of data, including words, numbers and currencies. 

You might only want to highlight a portion of the text in a particular cell. For example, in the image below, the word ‘Urgent’ is highlighted in red. This allows you to emphasize the text. You can also change the formatting of the text in other ways. For instance, you can italicize it or make it bold. The one thing you cannot do is change the background color of only a portion of the text. You will have to change the background color of the entire cell.

You can also highlight text by changing the background color of the cells containing any text. Doing this allows you to distinguish between cells that are empty and cells that have text. Google Sheets allows you to do this as well. 

3 methods of highlighting text in Google Sheets:

  • Using the text box at the top to highlight portions of a text
  • Double-clicking on a cell to highlight portions of a text
  • Using conditional formatting to highlight only cells with text 

Note that this article is intended for complete beginners. Hence, you can follow along even if you have little to no experience with Google Sheets. 

With that introduction, let’s learn the 3 methods. 


Method 1: Using the text box at the top to highlight portions of a text 

There is a text box at the top of the spreadsheet. When you select a cell, the contents of the cell are shown in this text box. 

If you want to highlight and change the formatting of only a portion of the text in a cell, you can use this text box to do it. All you have to do is select the portion of the text you would like to highlight and change its formatting.

This method is especially convenient when there is a lot of text in a cell. 

Below are the steps for this method. 

Step 1: Open your Google Sheets spreadsheet. 

First, visit the homepage of Google Sheets at sheets.google.com. Here, you will find all your previous Google Sheets files. You can choose one of the existing files if you want (just click on one of them). 

You will also find multiple options for creating a new spreadsheet. One option is to create a blank spreadsheet. To do this, click on the plus sign at the top left corner of the screen. Another way to create a blank spreadsheet is by typing sheets.new into the search bar of your browser and pressing Enter (or Return). 

You can also choose from one of the existing templates in the template gallery. However, you don’t need these templates for this task. 

Step 2: Select the portion of the text you would like to highlight in the text box. 

Next, click on the cell containing the text you would like to highlight. The contents of the cell should appear in the text box at the top. Select the portion of the text you would like to highlight in this text box. You can do this by dragging your cursor across the screen. The selected text will be shown in blue. 

Step 3: Change the formatting of the selected text to highlight it. 

Next, use the toolbar to change the formatting of the text you just selected. This way, you can highlight it. 

There are 6 ways you can format the text: make it bold, italicize it, change its font color, size and style, and strike through it. You can also change the format using keyboard shortcuts: 

  • Control or Command + B: Bold
  • Control or Command + I: Italics
  • Control or Command + Shift + X: Striking through 

The changes you made should be reflected in the cell you selected. 

You can also highlight the entire text in a cell. Just select a cell of your choice and change the formatting. 


Method 2: Double-clicking on a cell to highlight portions of a text 

This is another way of highlighting portions of the text in a cell. Double-clicking a cell allows you to edit its text. Select the portion of the text you would like to highlight and change its formatting. 

Here are the steps for this method. 

Step 1: Double-click on the cell with the text you would like to highlight. 

Identify the cell with the text you would like to highlight and double-click on it.

Step 2: Select the portion of the text you would like to highlight. 

Drag your cursor across the screen to select the portion of the text you would like to highlight. The selected text should be highlighted in blue. 

Step 3: Change the formatting of the text using the toolbar. 

At the top of the screen, you should find the Google Sheets toolbar. In the toolbar, you have different options for formatting your cells and text. 

You have 6 options for formatting your text: making it bold, italicizing it, changing its font color, size and style, and striking through it. You can also change the format using keyboard shortcuts: 

  • Control or Command + B: Bold
  • Control or Command + I: Italics
  • Control or Command + Shift + X: Striking through 

Method 3: Using conditional formatting to highlight cells with text

The last method we will be discussing involves using conditional formatting. This method is different from the previous ones. It is not used to highlight a portion of the text in a cell. Rather, it is used to highlight cells with any text. 

As the name suggests, conditional formatting is used for formatting cells based on certain conditions. For instance, you might want to format all cells containing the word ‘task’ in yellow. This way, you can color code your cells based on its contents. Another example of conditional formatting is that you can format cells which contain any text at all in green. This way, you can color code based on whether or not the cell is empty. This is the example we will  be discussing below. 

Here are the steps for this method.

Step 1: Click on the Format tab at the top left corner of the screen. 

The Format tab is located at the top left corner of the screen, next to the Insert tab. Click on it to open the Format drop down menu.

Step 2: Click on the Conditional Formatting option from the Format menu. 

Towards the bottom of the Format menu, you should find the Conditional Formatting option. Click on it to open a panel on the right that allows you to specify the conditional formatting rules. 

Step 3: Under ‘Format rules,’ select ‘Is not empty.’ 

In the panel, you should see the heading ‘Format rules.’ This allows you to specify the rules for conditional formatting. For example, you can specify that you want cells to be red if they contain the word ‘text.’ 

Click on the drop down menu under this heading. From the menu, select ‘Is not empty.’ This allows you to format your cells in a particular color if they are not empty. Hence, if you type something into an empty cell, its color will change to the one you chose. 

Step 4: Choose the formatting style.

You can choose how you would like to format cells that contain text. For example, you can change their background color. You can also make the text inside the cells bold, italics, etc. 

(Optional) Step 5: Select which cells you would like to apply the conditional formatting to. 

At the top of the panel, you should see the ‘Apply to range’ heading. This allows you to apply the rules of conditional formatting only to certain cells. If you want the rules to apply to all cells in the spreadsheet, you can skip this step. However, if you want the rules to only apply to certain cells in the spreadsheet, follow this step. 

To specify the range, click on the box icon below ‘Apply to range.’ This will open a dialog box.

Then, specify the range. For example, A1:B4 means the first 4 rows and the first 2 columns. Rather than typing the range, you can even select the cells in the spreadsheet. 

Once you are done inputting or selecting your range, click on ‘OK’ to close the dialog box. 

Step 6: Finalize your rules and click on ‘Done.’ 

Make any final changes to your conditional formatting rules if you like. Once you are finished, click on ‘Done’ to apply the rules. To close the panel, click on the x at the top right corner of the panel. 

Step 7: Test whether the conditional formatting works. 

Make sure that the rules you specified work. You can do this by typing text in empty cells to see if their color changes. Keep in mind the range you selected. 


Conclusion 

This brings us to the end of the article! Since we have covered a lot today, here’s a brief summary of the main points. 

In Google Sheets, you can highlight a portion of the text in a cell to emphasize it. You can also highlight text with cells to color code them based on whether or not they are empty.

There are 3 main methods for highlighting text in Google Sheets. The first is to use the text box at the top of the screen to select the text you would like to highlight. Then, you can use the Google Sheets toolbar to change the formatting of the selected text. 

The second method is to double-click a cell to make it editable. Then, select the text you would like to highlight and change its formatting using the options in the toolbar. 

Finally, you can use conditional formatting to change the color of cells that contain text. Go to Format then Conditional Formatting. Specify your rules and click on ‘Done.’ Make sure to test whether or not it works. 

Thank you for reading! 

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