How to fix Microsoft Excel error “Too many different cell formats”

Matthew Adams By: Matthew Adams
5 minute read

Home » How to fix Microsoft Excel error “Too many different cell formats”

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Steps to fix Excel cell format errors

  1. Clear All the Spreadsheet’s Cell Formatting
  2. Add a Standard Font to all Cells and Remove Fill Colors
  3. Select the Clean Excess Cell Formatting Option
  4. Check out the Style Reduction Tool for Microsoft Excel
  5. Open the File in Alternative Spreadsheet Software
  6. Repair the Spreadsheet With Stellar Repair for Excel

The “Too many different cell formats” error message is one that can pop up for some Microsoft Excel users when they try to add formatting to a spreadsheet cell (or cell range). Or the error message might pop up when you try to copy cells and data from another spreadsheet file or source into a sheet. Consequently, Excel users can’t apply further formatting to the spreadsheet when that error message pops up.

The “cell formats” error occurs when an Excel file reaches the maximum number of cell format combinations. Excel 2003 users can add a maximum of 4,000 unique cell formatting combinations to a spreadsheet. You can apply 64,000 unique cell format combinations in later Excel versions. Those might be large figures, but remember that unique formatting counts any kind of cell formatting for fonts, borders, alignment, numbers, fill colors, etc. So a large spreadsheet might reach the max formatting amount.

Does the “Too many different cell formats” error message pop up for one, or more, of your Excel spreadsheets? If so, check out the “cell formats” error fixes below.

This is how you can fix too many different cell formats Excel error

1. Clear All the Spreadsheet’s Cell Formatting

  • The most straightforward way to fix the “Too many different cell formats” error is to clear all the spreadsheet’s cell formatting. To do that, press the Ctrl + A hotkey to select all the cells in the spreadsheet.
  • Select the Home tab shown directly below.

Press the Clear button to open the submenu in the snapshot directly below.

  • Then select the Clear Formats option. Thereafter, you can apply new formatting to the spreadsheet.

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2. Add a Standard Font to all Cells and Remove Fill Colors

Clearing all a sheet’s formatting, however, might be a slightly drastic fix. If you prefer to retain some of the formatting in the spreadsheet, reducing the amount of unique cell formatting is a better fix. One of the best ways to do that is to add a standardized font to the spreadsheet so that all the cells have the same font.

In addition, removing all separate fill colors in an Excel sheet might also reduce the amount of unique cell formatting. Follow the guidelines below to standardize a sheet’s font and fill color formatting.

  • First, press the Ctrl + A keyboard shortcut to select all spreadsheet cells.
  • Then click the font menu on the Home tab to select a new font for all the cells.

  • Click the Fill Color button to open the palette as in the snapshot directly below.

  • Select the No Fill option to remove all fill colors from the spreadsheet. Then all the spreadsheet cells will have the same font and will not include any fill color formatting.

3. Select the Clean Excess Cell Formatting Option

Remember that blank Excel spreadsheet cells can also include formatting. For example, a column will include the same font formatting in blank cells and those with data in them if you apply the same font to the whole column. Thus, blank cells that aren’t in use can also increase the number of uniquely formatted cells.

As such, removing excess formatting from a spreadsheet is another potential resolution for the “cell formats” error. You can do that quickly with the Inquire add-on’s Excess Cell Formatting option. Inquire is an add-on you can utilize in Excel 2013 and more recent versions. This is how you can erase excess formatting in blank spreadsheet cells with Inquire.

  • Click the File tab and select Options to open the Excel Options window.

  • Click Add-ins on the left of the Excel Options window.
  • Then click the Manage drop-down menu to select COM Add-ins.
  • Select the Inquire check box in the COM Add-ins window, and then press the OK button.
  • Thereafter, you can select an Inquire tab on the Excel window.
  • Click the Clean Excess Cell Formatting button on the Inquire tab.
  • Select to clean all worksheets in the spreadsheet. Thereafter, click Yes to save the spreadsheet changes.

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4. Check out the Style Reduction Tool for Microsoft Excel

The “Too many different cell formats” error message might pop up when some users try to open a spreadsheet file. Consequently, the Excel spreadsheet file doesn’t open; and the users can’t get rid of cell formatting as outlined above. In such circumstances, the Style reduction tool for Excel might be worth noting. That’s a utility which fixes the “cell formats” error by reducing duplicate formatting styles.

Click the Download button on this page to save the software to a folder. Then open the Style reduction tool window shown directly below, and click the File button to select the spreadsheet to fix. Press the Analyze button to scan for duplicate styles, and click Fix to remove the formatting.

5. Open the File in Alternative Spreadsheet Software

Alternatively, you could try opening the Excel file in alternative software. Then you might be able to open and apply more formatting to the spreadsheet in the alternative application without any issues. There are numerous spreadsheet software that also support the Excel file format. LibreOffice Calc is one application that you can open Excel files in, and you can download that office suite from this webpage.

— RELATED: Microsoft Excel is waiting for another application to complete an OLE action [FIX]

6. Repair the Spreadsheet With Stellar Repair for Excel

An Excel file might also be corrupted if the “cell formats” error message pops up when you try to open it. You can fix corrupted Excel spreadsheets with the Stellar Repair for Excel software for Windows. The software is currently retailing at $39 on the publisher’s site. You can also try out a demo version of the software by clicking Free Download on this webpage.

When you’ve installed and opened the software, you can click Select File to select the spreadsheet that might be corrupted. Click Scan to start the scanning. Thereafter, you’ll see a preview of the corrupted file; and can press the Repair button to fix it.

So that’s how you can fix the “Too many different cell formats” error. Reducing unique cell formatting in spreadsheets will certainly resolve the issue when you can edit the sheets. If you can’t open the file in Excel, check out the Style reduction tool and Stellar Repair for Excel software or try editing the spreadsheet with an alternative application.

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