Highlight cells that contain one of many in Excel

This tutorial shows how to Highlight cells that contain one of many in Excel using the example below;

Formula

=SUMPRODUCT(--ISNUMBER(SEARCH(things,A1)))>0

Explanation

To highlight cells that contain one of many text strings, you can use a formula based on the functions ISNUMBER and SEARCH, together with the SUMPRODUCT function. In the example shown, the conditional formatting applied to B4:B11 is based on this formula:

=SUMPRODUCT(--ISNUMBER(SEARCH(things,B4)))>0

How this formula works

Working from the inside out, this part of the formula searches each cell in B4:B11 for all values in the named range “things”:

--ISNUMBER(SEARCH(things,B4)

The SEARCH function returns the position of the value if found, and and the #VALUE error if not found. For B4, the results come back in an array like this:

{8;#VALUE!;#VALUE!}

The ISNUMBER function changes all results to TRUE or FALSE:

{TRUE;FALSE;FALSE}

The double negative in front of ISNUMBER forces TRUE/FALSE to 1/0:

{1;0;0}

The SUMPRODUCT function then adds up the results, which is tested against zero:

=SUMPRODUCT({1;0;0})>0

Any non-zero result means at least one value was found, so the formula returns TRUE, triggering the rule.

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Ignore empty things

To ignore empty cells in the named range “things”, you can try a modified formula like this:

=SUMPRODUCT(--ISNUMBER(SEARCH(IF(things<>"",things),B4)))>0

This works as long as the text values you are testing don’t contain the string “FALSE”. If they do, you can extend the IF function to include a value if false known not to occur in the text (i.e. “zzzz”, “####”, etc.)

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Case-sensitive option

SEARCH is not case-sensitive. If you need to check case as well, just replace SEARCH with FIND like so:

=SUMPRODUCT(--ISNUMBER(FIND(things,A1)))>

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