Full Dark Mode in Excel

Brass Contributor

Currently you can set Office Theme to Black which acts as a dark mode. In Word, setting this to Black makes the page dark and the text white when it is set to “Automatic”.


I was wondering if anyone had an idea if Microsoft is planning to release this same thing for Excel too? 

Right now Excel when using the dark theme makes everything dark except the cells. Which kind of makes no sense to me. This is where your eyes are most of the time. It needs to be a proper fully dark theme.


Is there a way to get a full dark mode without manually setting the background color of the cells dark and the text white? Can a plugin be made to do that while keeping the actual cell background “empty” and the text “Automatic”? Is there already a plugin that does that?



39 Replies
The only way I know how to get this is by turning on High contrast in Windows. I expect that is not what you want to do :)
I have the same interest as JulienTheriault, having recently lost part of my vision I found that activating the Windows “dark mode” has been helpful in continuing my work as an engineer. Like wise I am perplexed why the dark mode is not applied to worksheets in Excel. The band-aid fix of using contrast themes is not useful. Using contrast themes reduces the worksheet to two colors, obliterating any highlighted (color filled) cells, colored text and colored boarders. I have found that using an inverted color filter to be more useful, colored text and cells are still visible. Unfortunately, if you have set Windows to “Dark Mode” inverting the colors will bleach out the ribbons, tabs and commands above the worksheet and you will need to toggle back-and-forth to access commands and the worksheet. But this is just a better band-aid, the worksheet not changing to a full dark mode is the problem that needs to be addressed. Repeating JulienTheriault questions:

Is there a way to get a full dark mode?
Is there already a plugin that does that?
Can a plugin be made?

Window settings referenced:
Dark mode:
Settings > Personalization > Colors, choose your mode, Dark (a key board short cut is not available)

Contrast Themes:
Settings > Accessibility > Contrast Themes
Keyboard shortcut: left Alt + Left Shift + Print Screen to toggle between the previously sleeted theme and “none”.
Note: contrast theme’s are different than “Themes” that are a submenu of “Personalization”

Inverted Color Filter:
Settings > Accessibility > Color Filters >
The inverted filter has worked best for me
Keyboard shortcut: Window Logo Key + Ctrl + C (The Keyboard shortcut needs to be turned ON in the settings menu)


Word has a setting to keep the page white:




That is in fact not what I want to do. I don't want to have to switch the High contrast option on & off all the time just to get a black worksheet. I want it to work like Word does, show the page black and text white but in reality it's a white page with black text.
Thank you, I know. That's why I want this option on Excel too! It is not there currently on Excel.
You can vote for the suggestions other people have already posted in this area here:
Voting these up increases the chance Excel is updated to get a true dark mode!
The easiest workaround is to use Microsoft Paint to create a full-on Black photo.

Then Insert that photo from:-

Page Layout -> Background -> select that black image.

Now change the text color from Black to white.

Happy to help!

@abhishekolympics  I have previously used the same method of inserting a black background and changing the text to white, and it works very well. I think there is also a setting where the grid line colour can be changed as well. The problem is that, in a work environment, most people continue to use the normal spreadsheet view. Having a button, as in MS Word, to change to a black background with light coloured text, would be ideal.

The easiest way to do this is to use templates.


Firstly, you have to declare where you want personal templates to be saved..  Using file explorer, create a folder under Documents called Personal Templates, go into that folder and click the location bar so that you can copy that full path..  you'll need it in the next bit..



Now back in Excel go to File > Options > Save and paste the path value in the 'Default Personal Templates Location', and press ok..  this is where any templates you create will be stored.


Create a brand new spreadsheet so everything is completely empty and only a single sheet1.


Press CTRL-A to select all of the sheet and set the background colour, font colour, and border colour 


To set the background colour, press the arrow next to the Fill Colour option and choose More Colours > Custom Tab, and set the background to #101010 which is RGB(16,16,16), and press Ok.



Ensuring all of the sheet is still selected, set the font colour to white in the usual way.


Finally set the border colour.   For the border, press the arrow and choose More Borders (at the bottom of the border list).   Set the Color to the bottom left of the grey cells "White, Background 1, Darker 50%",  then press the Outline and Inside buttons to select all cell borders and press ok.



So now we have a dark background sheet with visible cell lines and white font.   


Ensure you clear an test text before the next step..


To save it choose File - Save As    and use Browse to select the folder you set in the first part for personal templates.   Change the Save as Type dropdown to 'Excel Template (XLTX)', and give the file a meaningful name such as Blank Dark.xltx and press ok.   Now when you do a file New, you can choose that template to start by looking in the personal tab..  once you've used it once, it will appear in the top of the screen to make it easier to select.



If you need to create multiple sheets, then simply highlight sheet1 and Copy, insert a new sheet and then Paste, the new sheet will then be dark too.    If you regularly use multiple sheets, you can always add a 2nd sheet and save it as another template "Blank Dark 2Sheet.xltx" for example.


Hope this helps someone..   As a developer, I do everything I can to avoid looking at white screens all day.   


Adrian Parker


Slightly more complex is how to set the dark template to be the default when you open either a new spreadsheet or just add a sheet.


In Excel, go to File > Options > Trust Center and click Trust Center Settings.  Then select Trusted Locations on the left.


Double click the "Excel default location Excel Startup" and it will display the path so that you can copy it.



Now, the template you created for the dark theme with a single sheet on it, copy it to that folder and rename it to Book.xltx   And also copy it and name it Sheet.xltx.


Now, whenever you create a new spreadsheet or even a new sheet, it will have the dark theme.



Adrian Parker





Thanks! I also had to uncheck to "Show the Start screen..." in general settings to get the first sheet to appear properly.

@AdrianParker thanks, but I would prefer a true black mode. I know we can fake it, but I don't want to change the cell formatting. I want a different display of the grid. 

as far as I can tell, using the template is just setting the defaults for everything, which is what they'd have to do for a 'default' dark mode, so I don't really see any difference.

@JulienTheriault The easiest workaround I can think of, is to open Excel files in the web browser, while using a dark mode extension.


I'm using Chrome with a dark mode extension called "Dark Reader".  I use Office365 or Google Sheets to view Excel sheets in the browser, & I automatically have them viewed in dark mode.


I'm also using this method to view PDFs in dark mode, as I couldn't find an app that views PDFs in dark mode natively.

The earlier steps worked for me very well. But this one for making it default didn't work...

Don't know if it maters, but I'm running office 2019.. perhaps you're using a different version that needs different settings ?

It's worth checking your areas and filenames.. I don't know if the case of the filenames matter but I was careful to set them to Book.xltx and Sheet.xltx.. worth a check.

One other thing I've noticed that was annoying.. if you prefer to use the alphabetic columns instead of the R1C1 format, then you'll need to set that before saving the templates else it will always default to R1C1 format when you open excel.

@AdrianParker You'll have to check all calculation settings as well, as they are also saved with the file.

The Sheet.xltx and Book.xltx names must be aligned with how your language version of Excel names a newly inserted workbook and worksheet. For Dutch Excel, the template names must be Map.xltx (or Map.xltm) and Blad.xltx respectively.

@AdrianParker Thanks for your solution. The issue is when opening and saving multiple shared workbooks in an institutional setting. Resaving/copying 10+ workbooks at the beginning and end of a working session (so as to no not share a dark version) is not really an option.