How to find White text in Excel files

My SUM formula doesn’t match the total value of the cells. I can’t find some of the values in a formula. I’m a reviewer or auditor and I need to check there’s no hidden text in an Excel workbook

All of these questions might be answered through checking for white text in Excel.

What is white text and why might it be in a workbook?

White text is text in cells in Excel that has been set to a white colour. This has the effect of not being able to see the text through simply looking at cells. If you land on a cell in Excel then you’ll be able to see text in the formula bar, but who’s got time to check through a 1 million plus rows of blank data?

White text is frequently used to hide data in a workbook. Sometimes the hiding is for a purely innocent reason e.g. a formula in a workbook references a value in a cell and to make the workbook neater, the value might be coloured white. Other times though within finance teams it could be used to put in extra values in a list of information deliberately to mislead. Being able to find white text in an Excel workbook is therefore an important tool in a reviewer or auditor’s Excel armoury.

How can I find white text?

Option 1: Search through every cell in a worksheet manually. (Don’t do that).

Option 2: use the Find and Replace function. To access this function:

a) simply press Control + F to bring up the Find and Replace menu.
b) Go to the Format drop down on the right hand side of the Find and Replace menu
c) In the resulting menu set the Font colour to white and click ok.
d) On the previous Find and Replace menu, select Find all.
e) If there is any white text in the sheet, the Find and Replace menu will show the cell coordinates at the bottom of the menu and the value hidden in white

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