Google Sheets How-To: Easily Highlight Duplicates in Your Spreadsheet

Highlighting duplicates in Google Sheets can be a handy trick to quickly identify and manage repeated information. Whether you’re handling a large dataset or just trying to keep your personal schedule in check, spotting duplicates can save you time and hassle. The process involves using conditional formatting rules that automatically mark the cells containing duplicate values. Let’s dive into the step-by-step tutorial to make your sheet management smoother and more efficient.

Step by Step Tutorial: Highlighting Duplicates in Google Sheets

Before we get into the steps, it’s important to understand what we’re aiming for. By following these steps, you’ll set up a conditional formatting rule that automatically highlights any duplicate values in your selected range of cells.

Step 1: Select the Range of Cells

Select the range of cells where you want to find duplicates.

Once you’ve selected the cells, make sure that they are the ones where you suspect duplicates might be. You can select a single column, multiple columns, or even a specific set of cells within a column.

Step 2: Open ‘Conditional Formatting’

Go to the ‘Format’ menu and select ‘Conditional formatting.’

The ‘Conditional formatting’ sidebar will appear on the right side of your screen. This is where you will set up the rules to highlight your duplicates.

Step 3: Set Up the Rule

Under the ‘Format cells if’ drop-down menu, select ‘Custom formula is.’

This option allows you to input a custom formula that the conditional formatting rule will use to determine which cells to highlight.

Step 4: Enter the Custom Formula

In the formula box, enter the formula “=countif(A:A, A1)>1” (without quotes), replacing ‘A:A’ with your selected range, and ‘A1’ with the first cell in your range.

This formula counts the number of times the value in the first cell of your selected range appears throughout the range. If it appears more than once, the cell will be highlighted.

Step 5: Choose a Highlight Color

Select the fill color you want for the highlighted duplicates.

Choose a color that stands out but doesn’t clash with any other color coding you may have in your sheet.

Step 6: Click ‘Done’

After setting up your rule and choosing your color, click ‘Done’ to apply the formatting.

Your selected range should now automatically highlight any duplicates with the color you chose. If you add more data later, the rule will continue to apply.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a visually organized Google Sheet where duplicates are clearly marked, making it easier for you to spot and address any redundant data. This can be especially useful for tasks like cleaning up contact lists, inventory management, or any situation where unique data is crucial.

Tips for Highlighting Duplicates in Google Sheets

  • Always double-check your selected range before setting up the rule. Accidentally including an extra column or row can lead to incorrect highlighting.
  • If your data includes headers, make sure your formula accounts for them and doesn’t highlight your headers as duplicates.
  • Use a color for highlighting that is easily distinguishable from other colors in your sheet, so the duplicates stand out clearly.
  • Remember that the formula is case-sensitive. If your dataset includes values that are the same but have different cases (e.g., “apple” vs. “Apple”), they won’t be considered duplicates.
  • If you have a large dataset, consider sorting it alphabetically or numerically first to make it easier to spot the highlighted duplicates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to highlight duplicates across multiple columns?

You can adjust the formula to include the range of multiple columns (e.g., “=countif(A:B, A1)>1”) and select the corresponding range of cells before applying the rule.

Can I highlight unique values instead of duplicates?

Yes, simply change the formula to “=countif(A:A, A1)=1” to highlight cells with unique values only.

What should I do if the duplicates are not getting highlighted?

Double-check your formula and make sure you’ve correctly replaced the range and cell references with your actual data range. Also, ensure that your selected range in the sheet matches the range in the formula.

Can I use this method to highlight duplicates in rows instead of columns?

Yes, adjust the formula to reference the rows and use the appropriate range (e.g., “=countif(1:1, A1)>1” for the first row).

How do I remove the highlighting once the duplicates are dealt with?

Go back to ‘Conditional formatting,’ find the rule you created, and either delete it or uncheck the box next to it to disable the rule temporarily.


  1. Select the range of cells.
  2. Open ‘Conditional formatting’ from the ‘Format’ menu.
  3. Set up the rule with ‘Custom formula is.’
  4. Enter the duplicate-finding formula.
  5. Choose a highlight color.
  6. Click ‘Done’ to apply the formatting.


Mastering the art of highlighting duplicates in Google Sheets can revolutionize the way you handle data. It’s more than just a neat trick; it’s a skill that streamlines data analysis, saves time, and prevents errors. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or just someone who loves being organized, understanding how to leverage Google Sheets’ conditional formatting is a valuable addition to your toolkit.

Think about the last time you had to sift through a mountain of data, searching for that one pesky duplicate. Now, with the knowledge you’ve gained, you can let Google Sheets do the heavy lifting for you. Imagine the extra time you’ll have to focus on more important tasks or, better yet, to relax and do something you enjoy. And if you ever find yourself stuck, remember that practice makes perfect. The more you use these features, the more intuitive they’ll become.

But why stop here? Dive deeper into the capabilities of Google Sheets and explore how functions, formulas, and data visualization can further enhance your productivity. The world of data management is vast, and you hold the key to unlock its potential. So go ahead, give it a try, and watch how quickly you become the Google Sheets guru everyone turns to for advice.

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