# #Excel: Using Conditional Formatting to Highlight Cells Containing Native 3D Formulas by David Hager

Conditional formatting (CF) in Excel can be used to hightlight cells that meet certain criteria. In this case, I wanted to create a CF that would highlight cells containing formulas that use Excel’s native 3D references. So, this would be like the following example.

=SUM(Sheet1:Sheet2!B2:B5)

So, I tried to determine what was unique this type of formula string compared to others. What I noticed was that the first colon in this formula always comes before the exclamation point. Thus, I started working on a solution on that basis.

Note, though, that there are ways to write a formula containing a 3D reference that will not meet this criteria, such as:

=SUM(C2:C5,Sheet2!C2:C5)

So, don’t use those kinds of formulas. 😊

To lookup the position of the colon in the formula string, the following formula is needed.

=MATCH(“:”,MID(FORMULATEXT(F6),ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(FORMULATEXT(F6)))),1),0)

where F6 contains the formula.

The corresponding formula for looking up the position of the exclamation point is:

=MATCH(“!”,MID(FORMULATEXT(F6),ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(FORMULATEXT(F6)))),1),0)

By comparing the two formulas, the following Boolean expression wrapped in an IFERROR function is defined as Is3D:

=IFERROR(MATCH(“:”,MID(FORMULATEXT(F6),ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(FORMULATEXT(F6)))),1),0)<=MATCH(“!”,MID(FORMULATEXT(F6),ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(FORMULATEXT(F6)))),1),0),FALSE)

Applying this formula as a CF on cell F6, you can see that F6 is highlighted as expected.