How to Change Worksheet Tab Colors in Excel

Tab colors can help you stay organized within the spreadsheet

Excel spreadsheet with color options open

Screenshot/Microsoft

It's often useful to color code the  sheet tabs of individual worksheets containing related data to organize a massive Excel spreadsheet file. Similarly, you can use different colored tabs to differentiate between sheets containing unrelated information.

Another option is to create a system of tab colors that provide quick visual clues as to the stage of completeness for projects – such as green for ongoing, and red for finished.

These are the three options for changing the sheet tab color of a single worksheet in a workbook:

  • Using keyboard keys.
  • Right-clicking on the sheet tab (probably the easiest method).
  • Using the format tabs option on the ribbon.
01
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Change Worksheet Tab Colors Using Keyboard Keys or the Mouse

Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse

duckycards/Getty Images

Option 1 Using Keyboard Hot Keys

Note: The Alt key in the sequence below does not have to be held down while you press the other keys, as with some keyboard shortcuts. Each key is pressed and released in succession.

What this set of keystrokes does is activate the ribbon commands. Once the last key in the sequence – the T – is pressed and released, the color palette for changing the sheet tab color pops up.

1. Click on a worksheet tab to make it the active sheet – or use the following keyboard shortcuts to select the desired worksheet:

Ctrl+ PgDn - move to the sheet on the right

Ctrl+PgUp - move to the sheet on the left

2. Press and release in sequence the following key combination to open the color palette located under the Format option on the Home tab of the ribbonAlt+H+O+T

3. By default, the color square of the current tab color is highlighted (surrounded by an orange border) in the palette. If you haven't previously changed the tab color, this will be white. Click with the mouse pointer or use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move the highlight to the desired color in the palette.

4. If using the arrow keys, press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the color change.

5. To see more colors press the M key on the keyboard to open the custom color palette.

Option 2 Right Click the Sheet Tab

1. Right-click on the tab of the worksheet you want to re-color to make it the active sheet and to open the context menu.

2. Select Tab Color in the menu list to open the color palette.

3. Click on a color to select it.

4. To see more colors, click on More Colors at the bottom of the color palette to open the custom color palette.

Option 3 Access the Ribbon Option With the Mouse

1. Click on the tab of the worksheet to be renamed to make it the active sheet.

2. Click the Home tab of the ribbon.

3. Click the Format option on the ribbon to open the drop-down menu.

4. In the Organize Sheets section of the menu, click on Tab Color to open the color palette.

5. Click on a color to select it.

6. To see more colors, click on More Colors at the bottom of the color palette to open the custom color palette.

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Changing the Tab Color of Multiple Worksheets

Screenshot of Excel of how to change tab colors

 Ted French

Changing the sheet tab color for multiple worksheets requires those worksheets all be selected before using one of the methods outlined above.

The selected sheets can be contiguous – next to each other, such as sheets one, two, three – or you can select individual sheets, such as sheets four and six.

All of the selected worksheet tabs will be the same color.

Selecting Contiguous Worksheets

1. Click on the tab of the worksheet located on the left end of the group to be changed to make it the active sheet.

2. Hold down the Shift key on the keyboard.

3. Click on the tab of the worksheet on the right end of the group – all worksheets between the start and end sheets should be selected.

4. If you select too many sheets by mistake, click on the correct end sheet – with the Shift key still pressed – to deselect the unwanted worksheets.

5. Use one of the methods outlined above to change the tab color for all selected sheets.

Selecting Individual Worksheets

1. Click on the tab of the first worksheet to make it the active sheet.

2. Hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard and click on the tabs of all the worksheets to be changed – they do not have to form a contiguous group – as shown with sheets four and six in the image above.

3. If a sheet is selected by mistake, click on it a second time – with the Ctrl key still pressed – to deselect it.

4. Use one of the methods outlined above to change the tab color for all selected sheets.

 

03
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Tab Color Rules

Colors of the Spectrum

Nikola Nastasic/Getty Images

When you change sheet tab colors, the rules Excel follows in displaying the tab colors are:

  1. Changing the tab color for one worksheet:
    1. The worksheet name is underlined in the selected color.
  2. Changing the tab color for more than one worksheet:
    1. The active worksheet tab(s) is underlined in the selected color.
    2. All other worksheet tabs display the selected color.