What Excel's Red and Green Triangle Indicators Mean

There are two main colored triangles -- red and green -- that are used in Excel to indicate information to the user regarding:

  • possible errors in a cell's contents
  • the presence of user comments in the cell

In addition to the color, the triangle appears in different corners of the worksheet cell:

  • Green - top left
  • Red - top right

The Green Triangle

The green triangle appears in a cell when the cell's contents violate one of Excel's error checking rules.

These rules are turned on by default and they monitor for common mistakes such as:

  • cells containing formulas that result in an error - such as #VALUE! or #DIV/0!
  • formulas that are inconsistent or different from formulas in surrounding cells
  • numbers formatted as text data

If you click on a cell containing a green triangle the error options button appears next to it.

The error options button is a yellow diamond shape with a gray square background that contains options for correcting the perceived error.

Turning Off the Triangle

Error checking is turned on by default in Excel so the green triangles appear whenever and wherever Excel determines there has been a rule violation.

This default can be changed in the Excel Options dialog box.

To turn off error checking:

  1. Click File > Options to open the dialog box

  2. In the Error Checking section in the right-hand pane, remove the checkmark from the Enable background error checking option

  3. Click OK to accept the change and close the Options dialog box

Changing the Error Checking Rules

Changes to the error checking rules applied in a workbook are made in the Excel Options dialog box.

To change the error checking rules:

  1. Click File > Options

  2. In the Error Checking Rules section in the right-hand pane, add or remove check marks to turn on or off the various options

  3. Click OK to accept the change and close the Options dialog box

Changing the Triangle's Color

The green default color of this triangle can be changed in the Excel Options dialog box.

To change the triangle's color:

  1. Click File > Options

  2. In the Error Checking section in the right-hand pane, choose a different color from the color palette next to the Indicate errors using this color option

  3. Click OK to accept the change and close the Options dialog box

The Red Triangle

A red triangle in the top right corner of a cell indicates that a user comment has been added to the cell.

To read the comment, hover the mouse cursor over the cell containing the red triangle; a text box containing the comment will appear next to the cell.

Additional options for indicating and displaying comments are:

  • displaying neither comments or indicators - even when hovering over a cell containing a comment
  • always displaying comments and indicators for all cells containing comments

Changes to the comment defaults are made in the Excel Options dialog box.

To change the comment options:

  1. Click File > Options > Advanced

  2. Under the > Display section in the right-hand pane, make changes to the For cells containing comments show: option

  3. Click OK to accept the change and close the Options dialog box

Excel options for creating, editing, moving, or deleting cell comments are located under the Review tab in the Comments section of the ribbon.