Highlight EVERY Other ROW in Excel (using Conditional Formatting)

Below is the complete written tutorial, in case you prefer reading over watching a video.

Conditional Formatting in Excel can be a great ally in while working with spreadsheets.

A trick as simple as the one to highlight every other row in Excel could immensely increase the readability of your data set.

And it is as EASY as PIE.

Suppose you have a dataset as shown below:

Let’s say you want to highlight every second month (i.e., February, April and so on) in this data set.

This can easily be achieved using conditional formatting.

Highlight Every Other Row in Excel

Here are the steps to highlight every alternate row in Excel:

  1. Select the data set (B4:D15 in this case).
  2. Open the Conditional Formatting dialogue box (Home–> Conditional Formatting–> New Rule) [Keyboard Shortcut – Alt + O + D].
  3. In the dialogue box, click on “Use a Formula to determine which cells to format” option.
  4. In Edit the Rule Description section, enter the following formula in the field:
    =MOD(ROW(),2)=1
  1. Click on the Format button to set the formatting.
  2. Click OK.

That’s it!! You have the alternate rows highlighted.

How does it Work?

Now let’s take a step back and understand how this thing works.

The entire magic is in the formula =MOD(ROW(),2)=1. [MOD formula returns the remainder when the ROW number is divided by 2].

This evaluates each cell and checks if it meets the criteria. So it first checks B4. Since the ROW function in B4 would return 4, =MOD(4,2) returns 0, which does not meet our specified criteria.

So it moves on to the other cell in next row.

Here Row number of cell B5 is 5 and =MOD(5,1) returns 1, which meets the condition. Hence, it highlights this entire row (since all the cells in this row have the same row number).

You can change the formula according to your requirements. Here are a few examples:

  • Highlight every 2nd row starting from the first row =MOD(ROW(),2)=0
  • Highlight every 3rd Row =MOD(ROW(),3)=1
  • Highlight every 2nd column =MOD(COLUMN(),2)=0

These banded rows are also called zebra lines and are quite helpful in increasing the readability of the data set.

If you plan to print this, make sure you use a light shade to highlight the rows so that it is readable.

Bonus Tip: Another quick way to highlight alternate rows in Excel is to convert the data range into an Excel Table. As a part of the Excl Table formatting, you can easily highlight alternate rows in Excel (all you need is to use the check the Banded Rows option as shown below):

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