I have a shared Google spreadsheet where several users have already filled out parts. It would be useful to have alternately colored lines to facilitate correct placement of additional data.

Is there a painless method option to alternately color (say, the cells given that already many of them contain text?

In an empty document, there would always be the "color 2 lines, copy-paste 2 lines, copy-paste 4 lines, etc." option, but in the current document, there is already text and some lines are still liable to be deleted which necessitates a recoloring later.

7 Answers 7


Finally my original answer is completely obsolete.

Google updated features with Alternating Colors features in "Format" menu item. There you can easily select a default scheme and customize as you like:

how to find it

Be sure to remove your old manual formatting, as this doesn't automatically replace/override.


Google added this feature now in the "new spreadsheet format".

This can be enabled for new documents like follows: On "MyDrive" go to settings choose Editing and then "Try the new Google Sheets". Please be aware that as of now not all features are complete, so treat it as a beta version.

One of the changes in this new spreadsheet is the possibility to define custom formulas in the conditional formatting option.

This formula would then allow the alternating coloring in the sheet (if applied to whole sheet):

=MOD(ROW(A2),2) < 1

Update. The following will also work (thx @Qwertman):

=MOD(ROW(),2) < 1

Just for completeness: I'm using the new sheets now for quite some time and did not yet find a feature I was missing. While the custom formulas are very helpful - not only for alternating colors.

Select Conditional Formatting:

Conditional Formatting

Create a custom Formula with Background Color and Range of Cells:

Custom Formula

See the result:


  • 1
    Because currently I use it only in internal company documents. If I find time I will create a dummy.
    – StampedeXV
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 8:48
  • 1
    a screenshot about what? A sheet with alternating colors? How to choose new sheets or where to define the formula?
    – StampedeXV
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 12:23
  • ✔ Best answer, thanks. FWIW, "sheets" is now fully rolled out, and script gallery is now "add ons" Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 1:25
  • You don't need to put anything inside of ROW, it can be just =MOD(ROW(),1)<1
    – M-Pixel
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 22:35
  • 1
    why not simply =ISEVEN(ROW()) ? Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 11:20

There's currently no way for a formula to do this and no default Google feature.

However, there are a few third party scripts that will do this for you:

Installing the script

  1. Open your spreadsheet
  2. Click on Tools menu
  3. Click on Script Gallery
  4. Search for Zebra Stripe
  5. Install
  6. Read the warning (and if you agree go on)
  7. Authorize

Executing the script

  1. Click on Tools menu
  2. Go to Script Manager...
  3. Click on ZebraStripe
  4. Click Run
  5. Profit

Alternating Color Rows

  • You'd have to edit the script to get the color you want
  • It only affects the sheet you are currently looking at
  • 5
    Script gallery is not available anymore.
    – Olli
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 8:36
  1. Select row 1
  2. Color it with Fill color
  3. Select row 2
  4. Color it with another color with fill color
  5. Select row 1 and 2 row and copy it
  6. Select the full sheet
  7. Go to Edit → Paste special → Paste format only

Job done.

  • Good answer, but it could be even better if you added a screenshot demonstrating the process. Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 10:11
  • 1
    Excellent answer. It's really easy thing to do without a screenshot.
    – Olli
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 8:35

You can also use the paint format tool. Highlight the row after you've changed the color, click the icon that looks like a paint roller, then click the next row you want to change color too (as long as it's okay if the rest of the format of both those rows are the same.) It's annoying to have to do it repetitively, but it's slightly faster than selecting the color for each row.

  • If you do this before adding data then the other format changes will go on top.

  • The main problem with this method if you insert rows later it will offset everything unless you insert a pair of rows and format it the same.

hopefully Google will add formulas to conditional formatting soon.


I have posted a script to the Script Gallery called "Zebra Stripe Menu". If you add that to your spreadsheet, and make sure to open and close the script editor (there is a bug with recognizing the script). You will have a menu called "Zebra Stripes" and there you will find a couple of options for striping sheets and groups of cells. Some of the other options don't use Google best practices and can be very difficult to undo or stripe selections. If you find better tools, I'd love to hear about them.

  • 2
    Script gallery is not available anymore.
    – Olli
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 8:35

An alternative solution could be not to change the document at all and just change how it is presented, using custom CSS (eg. with the Stylish Firefox/Chrome plugin):

@-moz-document url-prefix(https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet) {
    .waffle tr:nth-child(even) > td {
        background-color: #A0FFA0 !important;

It is easy to turn on and of, using the stylish menu, and should work on all spreadsheets, even those you do not have write access to. It's not exactly what was asked for, but could be useful regardless.


I have uploaded this style-sheet to the userstyles page as well.

  • Why don't you add a screenshot?
    – Jacob Jan
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 20:57
  • 1
    Didn't think it would help. It's pretty obvious how alternating colors look.
    – Hjulle
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 22:36

The answer of @StampedeXV is correct, but I suggest using a simpler function.
You don't need a parameter for the ROW() function and ISEVEN() is much simpler than MOD:


Targeting the inverse set of rows would be:


Column based zebra tables can be done with:



  • Thanks, but the poster of the accepted answer now chose to add my solution as an update to his answer. Not funny.
    – Jpsy
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 13:12
  • technically, they are allowed to do so IF they link to your answer. Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 14:43
  • btw, you could have just edited their answer instead of adding that detail in a separate answer. you even get 2 rep for that :) Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 14:44
  • No, copying is not allowed. It is allowed to link to another answer, but not to copy. Copying breaks the idea of reputation based answering. And my answer is not a detail, but a complete, more elegant way to solve the problem. As you said yourself: "this should be the accepted answer." So why should I go with 2 reps only?
    – Jpsy
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 9:12
  • 1
    No, @törzsmókus, you'r still wrong. While CC license applies to all content here, it is still NOT allowed to copy from one answer to a question into another answer to that same question. This has nothing to do with CC but with the rules of StackExchange. There is no need to start a Meta on this as there are already plenty of them, all with the same result: It is a no-go. See this example: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/269396/…
    – Jpsy
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 8:21

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