Colored Triangles in Microsoft Excel

Assorted images of Microsoft Excel
Did you know that those triangles in my cells in Microsoft Excel are useful indicators?

In Microsoft Office Excel, there are seven options buttons and three colored triangles that can appear in or next to a cell. These buttons and triangles provide useful commands and information about the contents of the cell, and they appear at the moment you need them. This TEI tip describes what each of these triangles mean and how you can work with them.

Colored triangles that you might see in your worksheet

The three colored triangles that can appear in a cell are green (error), red (comment), and purple (smart tag (smart tags: Data recognized and labeled as a particular type. For example, a person’s name or the name of a recent Microsoft Outlook e-mail message recipient is a type of data that can be recognized and labeled with a smart tag.)).

Green triangle

Image of an MS Excel cell with a green triangleA green triangle in the upper-left corner of a cell indicates an error in the formula in the cell. If you select the cell, the Trace Error button appears. Click the arrow next to the button for a list of options. TIP The color of the error checking triangle indicator can be changed. Use the following procedure to change the color:

1. Click the Microsoft Office Button , click Excel Options, and then click the Formulas category.

2. Under Error Checking, select the Enable background error checking check box.

3. Click the Indicate errors using this color button, and then select a new color

Red triangle

el cell with a red triangleA red triangle in the upper-right corner of a cell indicates that a comment is in the cell. If you rest the mouse pointer over the triangle, you can view the text of the comment.


Purple triangle

el cell with a purple triangleA purple triangle in the lower-right corner of a cell indicates that a smart tag is in the cell. If you rest the mouse pointer over the triangle, the Smart Tag Actions button appears. Click the arrow next to the button for a list of smart tag options.

Connie Pilato

Connie Pilato

Connie Pilato is the Academic Technology Support Specialist for Jamestown Community College, and has more than 20 years providing technology support in various roles at the college. While her primary assignment is to support the faculty of the Cattaraugus County Campus, she is available to assist both full-time and adjunct faculty regardless of their campus location.

Among her significant previous positions, Connie served as Network Design Engineer/Central Office Equipment, and Network Design Engineer/Special Circuits at ALLTEL, a telecommunications company.

Connie holds a M.S. in Curriculum Design and Instructional Technology from University of Albany – SUNY, and a B.S. in Business (Magna Cum Laude) from SUNY Fredonia.

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2 thoughts on “Colored Triangles in Microsoft Excel

  1. Hello Jon,

    If I understand your question, then yes – if the cell indicates an incorrect formula; you should correct the formula to maintain the integrity of the data in the spreadsheet. Typically, when it indicates an error in the formula, it is referring to incorrect syntax or incompatible functions. I suspect that you should not see this often.

    In terms of adding a comment, the process may vary depending upon which version of Excel you are using. For instance, in Microsoft Excel 2013 – you would select the cell where you want to place the comment, then go to the Review tab on the ribbon and select New Comment. A popup window will appear where you can annotate the cell.

    Thanks for reading the blog, and good luck with your spreadsheet!

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