Change the color of selected items in Microsoft Office

A Windows setting determines the contrasting color of selected items in your Office applications. Learn how to manipulate that setting.

When you select cells in Excel, text in Word, and even e-mail in Outlook, your system displays the selected data in a contrasting color—the default is gray. Office doesn't control the color, Windows does and it doesn't take long to change the default. Just keep in mind that the change is system-wide and not just a subtle change to Office. If you can live with that, do the following to change the selection color in your Office applications and everything else, in Windows XP:

  1. Right-click the Desktop and choose Properties from the resulting context menu.
  2. Click the Appearance tab.
  3. Click Advanced.
  4. From the Item dropdown, choose Selected Items.
  5. From the Color 1 dropdown, choose the color you want to use with selected items (cells, text, email, and so on).
  6. Click OK twice.

The process is a little different in Windows 7:

  1. Right-click the Desktop and choose Personalize.
  2. Click Window Color (at the bottom of the screen).
  3. Click Advanced Appearance Settings.
  4. Repeat steps 4 through 6 above.

If other people use your system, this change might not be a good idea. At least check with everyone else first. Even if you're the only one using the system, this change impacts almost every application, so be prepared for a bit of adjustment.

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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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