Changing the Background Color of Cells and Ranges

Changing the Background Color of Cells and Ranges

You can add even more pizzazz to your spreadsheets by changing the background color of individual cells or ranges of cells. This sort of shading is useful when you want to highlight information in a spreadsheet, as shown in Figure 30.

Figure 30. A spreadsheet with cells shaded different colors.

To change the background color of a cell or range of cells, follow these steps:


Select the Format tab.


Select the cell or range.


Click the Background Color button.


When the color chart appears, as shown in Figure 31, select the color you want.

Figure 31. Choosing a cell background color.


When you change the background color for a cell, be sure the text color is a good contrast to the background color. You don't want green text on a green background, for example; strive for a readable contrast in colors.

Section 11. Entering and Editing Formulas

After you've entered data into your spreadsheet, you need to work with those numbers to create other numbers. You do this as you would in the real world, by using common formulas to calculate your data by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can also used advanced formulas preprogrammed into Google Spreadsheets; these advanced formulas are called functions and are explained in the next section.

If you're an Excel user, you're used to using formulas. If you're new to spreadsheets, it helps to know that a formula is a mathematical expression that defines the relationship between two or more values. In Google Spreadsheets, formulas are used to calculate values for specific cells and can use common mathematical operatorsas well as references to other cells in the spreadsheet.

Understanding Formulas

Formulas are used to calculate the values of data entered into other cells in your spreadsheet. A formula can consist of numbers, mathematical operators, and the contents of other cells (referred to by the cell reference).


The cell reference is simply the location of a particular cell. Each cell is referenced by the intersection of a column and row; thus, the top-left cell is called A1 (for column A, row 1). The cell reference for the current cell is always listed in the Reference area of the workspace.

You construct a formula from the following elements:

  • An equals sign (=); this = sign is necessary at the start of each formula

  • One or more specific numbers and/or

  • One or more cell references

  • A mathematical operator (such as + or -); this is needed if your formula contains more than one cell reference or number

The best way to get used to formulas is to look at a few. That said, Table 8 shows a few representative formulas:

Table 8. Representative Google Spreadsheets Formulas




Places the numerical value 2 in the selected cell


Places the value of cell A1 in the selected cell


Places the value of cell A1 multiplied by 2 in the selected cell


Places the value of cell A1 divided by 2 in the selected cell


Places the value of cell A1 plus the value of cell A2 in the selected cell


Places the value of cell A1 plus the value of cell A2, all divided by 2, in the selected cell

Note that Google Spreadsheets formulas can contain common algebraic expressions and follow common algebraic conventions and logic. Table 9 lists the accepted operators for Google Spreadsheets formulas.

Table 9. Accepted Operators for Google Spreadsheets Formulas












Exponentiation (to the power of)


Equal to


Greater than


Greater than or equal to


Less than


Less than or equal to


Not equal to