Conditional Formatting with Apache POI

Apache POI is a powerful Java library that provides support for working with Excel files. Conditional formatting is a feature in Excel that allows you to apply formatting rules to cells based on specific conditions. With Apache POI, you can programmatically apply conditional formatting to Excel files, automating the formatting process and enhancing the visual representation of your data. In this tutorial, we will explore conditional formatting in Apache POI and learn how to apply various formatting rules to Excel cells.

Example Code

Before we delve into the details, let's take a look at a simple example of how to apply conditional formatting using Apache POI:

import org.apache.poi.xssf.usermodel.*;

public class ConditionalFormattingExample {
  public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
    Workbook workbook = new XSSFWorkbook();
    Sheet sheet = workbook.createSheet("Sheet1");
    // Create a cell style with conditional formatting
    ConditionalFormattingRule rule = sheet.getSheetConditionalFormatting().createConditionalFormattingRule(ComparisonOperator.GT, "10");
    PatternFormatting patternFormatting = rule.createPatternFormatting();
    CellRangeAddress[] cellRanges = { CellRangeAddress.valueOf("A1:A10") };
    sheet.getSheetConditionalFormatting().addConditionalFormatting(cellRanges, rule);
    // Perform other operations on the workbook
    FileOutputStream fileOut = new FileOutputStream("output.xlsx");

Step-by-Step Tutorial

  1. Create a Workbook object, such as XSSFWorkbook for XLSX files or HSSFWorkbook for XLS files.
  2. Create a Sheet object within the workbook.
  3. Create a ConditionalFormattingRule object with the desired formatting condition, such as ComparisonOperator.GT (greater than) or ComparisonOperator.EQUAL (equal to).
  4. Set the formatting properties, such as fill color, font color, or border style, using PatternFormatting or FontFormatting.
  5. Create an array of CellRangeAddress objects specifying the range of cells to apply the conditional formatting to.
  6. Add the conditional formatting rule to the sheet using the addConditionalFormatting() method of the SheetConditionalFormatting object.
  7. Perform other operations on the workbook, such as adding data to cells or applying additional formatting.
  8. Save the workbook to a file using FileOutputStream and close the workbook and output stream.

Common Mistakes

  • Not creating a Workbook object before attempting to apply conditional formatting.
  • Using the wrong formatting conditions or operators, resulting in incorrect or unexpected formatting.
  • Applying conditional formatting to an incorrect range of cells, causing formatting to be applied to unintended cells.
  • Not saving and closing the workbook properly, resulting in corrupted or incomplete files.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I apply multiple conditional formatting rules to the same range of cells?

    Yes, you can apply multiple conditional formatting rules to the same range of cells by adding multiple ConditionalFormattingRule objects to the SheetConditionalFormatting object.

  2. Can I remove or modify existing conditional formatting rules using Apache POI?

    Yes, Apache POI provides methods to remove or modify existing conditional formatting rules. You can use the removeConditionalFormatting() method to remove a specific rule or clearConditionalFormatting() to remove all rules from a range of cells.

  3. What types of formatting can I apply with conditional formatting?

    You can apply various formatting options, including font color, fill color, border style, data bars, color scales, and icon sets, depending on the version of Excel and the features supported by Apache POI.

  4. Can I apply conditional formatting based on formulas?

    Yes, you can apply conditional formatting based on formulas using the FormulaEvaluator and the formula-based conditional formatting rules.

  5. Does Apache POI support conditional formatting in older Excel file formats?

    Yes, Apache POI provides support for conditional formatting in both XLSX and XLS file formats.


In this tutorial, we have explored conditional formatting in Apache POI. We provided example code, explained the steps involved, highlighted common mistakes, and answered frequently asked questions. With Apache POI, you can easily apply conditional formatting rules to Excel cells, enhancing the visual representation of your data. By automating the formatting process, you can save time and ensure consistent formatting across your Excel files.