## Highlight unique values and unique distinct values in a cell range

The following formula highlights cells that contain unique distinct values, in other words, all duplicate values except the first instance are not highlighted.

Conditional formatting formula:

### How to apply conditional formatting

- Select your range B2:E5.
- Go to "Home" tab on the ribbon.
- Click "Conditional formatting" button.
- Click "New Rule.."
- Click "Use a formula to determine what cells to format"
- Copy the conditional formatting formula above and paste to "Format values where this formula is true:"
- Click Format button
- Select a formatting.
- Click OK button.
- Click OK button.

### Explaining CF formula in cell B2

There are two parts in this formula, one part determines if a value is a duplicate in the first column. The second part of the formula determines if a value is a duplicate in the remaining columns.

The reason the formula looks like this is because of the order of how Excel calculates cells.

IF(*logical_expression*, *first_part*, *second_part*)

#### Step 1 - Check if first column is being evaluated

The COLUMNS function counts columns in a cell reference. $A$1:A1 is an expanding cell reference, it grows because A1 is a relative cell reference that changes between cells.

COLUMNS($A$1:A1)=1

becomes

1=1 and returns TRUE.

#### Step 2 - Count cells based on a condition

The IF function changes the calculation based on the logical expression in the first argument. The second argument is calculated if the logical expression returns TRUE, the third argument is calculated if the logical expression returns FALSE.

The COUNTIF function makes sure that duplicates are not highlighted, only the first instance of each value. However this works only in the first column, the remaining columns need a different formula in order to do correct calculations.

IF(COLUMNS($A$1:A1)=1,COUNTIF($B$2:B2,B2),COUNTIF($B$2:B2,B2)+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5,,,4,COLUMNS($A$1:A1)-1),B2))=1

becomes

IF(TRUE,COUNTIF($B$2:B2,B2),...)=1

becomes

IF(TRUE,COUNTIF(0,0),...)=1

becomes

1=1

and returns TRUE. Cell B2 is highlighted.

#### Step 3 - Calculations in remaining columns

If we move to cell C2 the IF function behaves differently.

IF(COLUMNS($A$1:A1)=1, COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2), COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5, , , 4, COLUMNS($A$1:B1)-1), C2))=1

becomes

IF(COLUMNS($A$1:B1)=1, COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2),COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5, , , 4, COLUMNS($A$1:B1)-1), C2))=1

becomes

IF(2=1, COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2), COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5, , , 4, COLUMNS($A$1:B1)-1), C2))=1

becomes

IF(FALSE, COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2), COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5, , , 4, COLUMNS($A$1:B1)-1), C2))=1

becomes

IF(FALSE, ~~COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)~~, COUNTIF({0,6}, 6)+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5, , , 4, COLUMNS($A$1:B1)-1), C2))=1

The OFFSET function returns an expanding cell reference that grows as the CF moves from column to column.

IF(FALSE, ~~COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)~~, 1+COUNTIF(OFFSET($B$2:$E$5, , , 4, 1), C2))=1

becomes

IF(FALSE, ~~COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)~~, 1+COUNTIF($B$2:$B$5, C2))=1

becomes

IF(FALSE, ~~COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)~~, 1+COUNTIF({0;11;14;16},6))=1

becomes

IF(FALSE, ~~COUNTIF($B$2:C2, C2)~~, 1+0)=1

becomes

1=1 and returns TRUE. Cell C2 is highlighted.

### Download Excel file

Highlight overlapping date ranges using conditional formatting

The image above demonstrates a conditional formatting formula that colors a record if there is at least one record that […]

Count Conditionally Formatted cells

This article explains how to count cells highlighted with Conditional Formatting (CF). The image above shows data in cell range […]

Highlight records based on overlapping date ranges and a condition

adam asks: Hi, I have a situation where I want to count if this value is duplicate and if it […]

Highlight dates in a date range

Question: How do I highlight dates that meet criteria using conditional formatting? Table of contents Highlight values in a column […]

This post demonstrates how to highlight records with the closest value to a criterion, you can also choose to highlight […]

### One Response to “Highlight unique values and unique distinct values in a cell range”

### Leave a Reply

### How to comment

**How to add a formula to your comment**

<code>Insert your formula here.</code>

**Convert less than and larger than signs**

Use html character entities instead of less than and larger than signs.

< becomes < and > becomes >

**How to add VBA code to your comment**

[vb 1="vbnet" language=","]

Put your VBA code here.

[/vb]

**How to add a picture to your comment:**

Upload picture to postimage.org or imgur

Paste image link to your comment.

**Contact Oscar**

You can contact me through this contact form

When you modify to use anything other than the 'A' column the first instance of duplicate does not highlight. Using the example simply move 'tbl' one column to the right to see.

Regards

Dave