Excel 2013 Selection Colour and Theme Editor

If you ever want to change the way Excel highlights selected cells on a worksheet then you won’t have much luck scrolling through Excel’s options because, prior to Excel 2013,  it’s controlled by the Windows Appearance settings.

In Windows 7 the setting can be found under Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization > Window Color and Appearance > Advanced Appearance Settings. The item of interest is ‘Selected Items’.

Windows Settings Selected Cells

If you decide to go crazy with your selection colour then be careful because this setting is used universally.

In Excel 2013 things have changed and, whilst one can change the colour of the grid using the ‘Window’ item option in the Window Color and Appearance settings, there doesn’t seem to be a way of changing the selection colour to something other than that grey. You know the one I’m talking about…

Excel selected cells 2013

There’s just too much grey on that screen for me and I’m not a fan of the grey and green combination. The problem is that the Dark Gray Office theme is the only theme which I think is remotely half decent (at time of writing there’s only a limited choice of three themes) so, for now, the sea of grey is something which has to be tolerated.

The solution to all of this is simple: Microsoft could release a Color Theme Editor for Office 2013 which does a similar job to their Color Theme Editor for Visual Studio 2012. For example, its Blue theme looks far better than the two themes (yes, only two) which are available out of the box and is a close match to Visual Studio 2010:

VS 2012 Blue

I think that’d be pretty cool but if that’s too much to ask for then I guess an update with some new, built-in themes would be okay too.

What do you think of Excel 2013’s general appearance compared to previous versions? I haven’t upgraded to Windows 8 yet so I’d also be interested to hear how well you think their appearances gel together. If you like the idea of a Color Theme Editor for Office 2013 then post a comment to say so: you never know, someone from Microsoft might be reading.

About Colin Legg

RAD Developer Microsoft MVP - Excel 2009 - 2014
This entry was posted in Microsoft Excel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Excel 2013 Selection Colour and Theme Editor

  1. sam says:

    MS has made a habit of making ever release of Excel look better than the next :-)
    The White is terrible…the Dark Grey is the closest that comes to silver of 2010/2007 but not quite


  2. Allison Wren says:

    The grey and green combination are practically impossible to see! Not pleased….


  3. Cory says:

    Thanks for your post. Any update on this? Grey shading is a poor choice for highlight selection because so many people use grey shading for the actual cell color.


    • Colin Legg says:

      Hi Cory,

      No, unfortunately there’s no update on this. I had my fingers and toes crossed that some alternative themes (or a theme editor) would be included in the Office 2013 SP1 release at the end of February, but to no avail.


  4. Sugi says:

    How to change the color of windows split line in Excel 2013 from light grey to dark blue?


  5. Colin Legg says:

    Hi Sugi,

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I don’t think there’s any way to customise the colour of the freeze panes split line.


  6. skomo says:

    Hi, I just installed excel2013 and am gutted. The worksheet tab is now just a rectangular block, with that thick dark green line at the bottom which I found visually distracting and annoying. It appears that all that integrated subtle look has now been replaced by a crude colour/shapes with no consideration to the overall visual appearance, very disappointing. So far my attempt to find out how to get rid of that green has been futile, and trying to run my old office2000 on windows 7 looks equally doomed at the moment. Sorry this is off topic but but I’m just so frustrated with the whole “New look” on excel2013…


  7. Mary says:

    HATE the green. Hate it. hate. May have to use Open Office instead. Yes, just because the green bothers me that much.


  8. AC says:

    it seems that the guy that wanted to replace Hotmail with Outlook is now calling the shots with Office…..


  9. sunem42tr says:

    wow, glad i found this page in search. I too hate the office 2013 interface…particularly hate the green! have 2010 on my computer and much prefer that interface. MS has really done a lousy job with the interface….no wonder they’re struggling!


  10. Nadeem says:

    they don’t care! people keep buying their products, ho hum


  11. Kathy keesee says:

    I’m also recently forced to go to office 2013 at work – and tried to use these tips to change the highlight color when I only have 1 cell selected. It’s a dark green and doesn’t seem to change based on anything in the Display Personal section or in the Excel Themes. Am I missing something


    • Colin Legg says:

      Hi Kathy,

      No you’re not missing anything. In Excel 2013 you do not have the option to change the selection colour (the selection fill is grey and the selection border is green). It also looks like this is the case in the Office 2016 preview.


      • Kathy says:

        Thanks Colin – I’m also aging and moving to bi-focals and that “green” is not doing it for me. I also tried to find a way to make the single cell highlight line fatter…oh well
        I’ve got a spreadsheet that has row formatting that is also green and the selected cell just gets entirely lost


      • Colin Legg says:

        Yes, I agree the options aren’t good enough. A lot of people have complained about them.


  12. Sugi says:

    I think this is not a difficult thing for Microsoft Tim. But they do not care about our wishes. For me who has a weakness eyes, it is quite disturbing. And I have no other choice.


  13. Renee says:

    I too was forced to change at work and am desperately searching for another option than dark green I can’t see what cell I am on!!


  14. NOYB, why does it matter, they don't freaking care anyway says:

    MS could give a ratt’s behind what their forced to use a current version “customers” want. Looks like they’ve turned product development over to a bunch of millenials (you know, things like, “print the whole thing” REALLY!?) or perhaps a college design project for a kid of one of the Board members. 2016 is no better…


  15. Gabrielle H says:

    I am having the ABSOLUTE worst time using search and replace because it is using a dark green border on the cell – which is barely distinguishable from black.. I don’t know if the issue is compounded by my color-blindness (yes, women are affected too!!) but it’s just wretched wiggling my head all over to get just the right angle.
    I suppose I could change all my cell borders to yellow or some other bizarre color – will my colleagues approve? Doubtful.


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