BrushTools © Addin  A new easy and intuitive formatting method for working with Microsoft Excel ®
 Details
 Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 15:57
BrushTools is a Microsoft Excel Addin providing added functionality to your Excel spreadsheet.
BrushTools Addin helps you make more sense of your Microsoft Excel spreadsheets:
Just click the "Font Brush" button added by BrushTools addin to your Microsoft Excel toolbar, and BrushTools will immediately assign different font colors according to each cell's underlying formula, thus enabling you to simultaneously view both cell value and formula type.
BrushTools helps you visually distinguish between formulas in your spreadsheet by relating each type of formula to a different font color (Input, Link, Calculation, etc. See the full Color Code Table below).
BrushTools Addin Ribbon (Toolbar) Screen Capture:
For more software screen captures, please see Demonstration.
Color coding and configuring formula types:
BrushTools addin provides two predefined recommended work settings offering default color settings for different types of formulas. Default colors may be changed at the user's discretion.
The following is a table comparing the two work settings:
Font Color Codes According to Formula Type  
Basic Level 
Professional Level 
Empty – Black 
Empty – Black 
Text Input – Dark Blue 
English Text Input – Dark Blue 
NonEnglish Text Input – Dark Blue 

Numeric Input – Red 
Numeric Input – Red 
Calculated Numeric Input – Orange 

Link (Pull) – Green 
Link Cell – Link (Pull) from active sheet – Sea Green 
Link Sheet – Link (Pull) form active workbook – Green 

Link File – Link (Pull) from another workbook – Dark Yellow 

Calculation – Blue 
Calculation – Blue 
SemiCalculation (Retrieving Formula) – Light Blue 

Sensitivity Formula (Data Table) – Brown 

Array Formula – Purple 

Logic and Error – Gold 
Error – Light Orange 
True – Gold 

False – Pink 
The following is an example of the BrushTools addin software formatting output (basic level), before and after "Font Brush" painting:
Before After
No Alternatives
There is no significant alternative to BrushTools addin. Before BrushTools, users who wanted to see the underlying formulas of spreadsheet cells had 4 inefficient options available to them in Microsoft Excel:
 To select a cell in order to view its formula in the Formula Bar, or double click the cell in order to view the formula within the cell itself. This operation can only be carried out for one cell at a time, so it is quite inefficient.
 To activate the Watch Window to display the formula in a separate window. This tool is inefficient for a number of reasons: First, it hides part of the screen/spreadsheet. Second, while the value itself usually takes up a relatively small amount of space, the formula can be far longer than the value, therefore it would be more convenient to view short formulas. Third, at most, the Watch Window can only display the full formula and the value, but does not provide any immediate identification of the type of formula.
 Switch to Show Formulas mode in order to present the formula of each cell rather than the value. This option suffers from the same drawback as the Watch Window: while the value itself usually takes up a relatively small amount of space, the formula can be far longer than its resulting value, which means that the Show Formulas mode often shows only the beginning of each formula, and even this is at the expense of showing the values.
 To use the Evaluate Formula tool, which brings up a dialog box showing the various arguments included in the formula. This tool can only be applied to one cell at a time, so it is not efficient.
BrushTools addin provide a new and better way to immediately distinguish the type of formula underlying each of the cells in an Excel spreadsheet. BrushTools becomes part of the normal Microsoft Excel view and for the first time enables a user to instantly see and perceive both a cell's value and the type of formula generating it, as well as grasp the formulas underlying all cells in a spreadsheet with a single glance. BrushTools is the only tool capable of consistently relating the type of formula in a cell to the cell's formatting.
Learning Curve – BrushTools Addin is Very Catchy
Heavy Excel users who use BrushTools addin daily report that there is a twoday learning curve until one assimilates the rules and colors at the basic level, and another week or two to fully grasp the rules and colors at the professional level. It is recommended that all new BrushTools users start at the basic level, and that only heavy Excel users move to the next stage. The shift from the basic level to the professional level can be done gradually by first assigning the same color to a number of subformulas and shifting later on to the full professional level.
Assigning Priorities
BrushTools addin paints the font of each spreadsheet cell according to the type of formula generating its value. This painting action is identical to manual painting with the Font Color Button that an Excel user can apply in order to paint the font in a cell. In Microsoft Excel however, this (manual) painting of the font color is always overridden by Conditional Formatting and Number Format, though not necessarily by Cell Style. This means that in cells in which font color is also determined by Conditional Formatting and Number Format (that were applied to these cells), their influence will override the effect of BrushTools. In fact, the final font color presented within the cell is determined according to the following order of priorities: First Conditional Formatting, then Number Format, then the regular font color or Cell Style, whereas font color and Cell Style have equal priority so the last one updated will override the other.
An Extended Review of BrushTools Addin Advantages: The shortcomings of working with an ordinary Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in comparison to the advantages provided by BrushTools addin
Fast identification of formula type and easier workbook orientation
A user encountering new and unfamiliar Excel files, and sometimes even familiar ones, may feel disoriented and unable to efficiently grasp the following issues:
 The formulas underlying values
– When a user looks over a spreadsheet he is presented with cell values, but is not presented with any reference regarding the formulas that generate these values. The most common and ordinary approach that a user can adopt in order to view the underlying formula is to select each single cell in order to display its formula in the Formula Bar. Thus, in order to thoroughly investigate a spreadsheet, the user is often obliged to click on many cells in order to understand the relationships between various cells and figure out the formulas underlying each cell. This process is extremely time consuming and burdens the user's memory.
+ However, thanks to the different color of each cell according to its formula, BrushTools addin allows a user to immediately perceive the type of formula underlying each cell in a spreadsheet.
 Distribution of different formulas along the spreadsheet
– In many Excel files, it is customary to use tables that contain columns with uniform formulas that are replicated along their length, so that the formula in the first cell (under the header row) of each column is identical, relative to its location within the spreadsheet, to the formulas underlying the rest of the cells below it. The resulting values change according to the input values, which depend on the relative position of the cell in the spreadsheet. In this way, replicated formulas can present different resulting values in every cell of a table column. According to common ordinary practice, in order to discover the formula underlying each column, the user is required to position the cursor on each column in turn (seemingly, a single cell anywhere in the column is sufficient), in order to see the formula in the Formula Bar. The user can only see the formula of a single cell and in order to understand the distribution of formulas in a table is sometimes obliged to click on many cells.
+ Thanks to differences in column formatting according to the type of formula, BrushTools addin allows a user to immediately perceive the type of formula underlying each column, thus significantly shortening the time required by a user to understand the structure of a spreadsheet table and the distribution of formulas within it.  Flow of workbook calculation process
– In complex Excel files, it is customary to identify each spreadsheet by the specific type of input data contained within it. This creates a certain order in the distribution of data among spreadsheets in a workbook. In order to understand the source of data in each spreadsheet and the process of linking data within the workbook, the user is sometimes obliged to click on many different cells in order to reveal the underlying formula in the Formula Bar or use Trace Precedents/ Dependents for each separate cell.
+ Thanks to differences in spreadsheet formatting according to the type of formulas within them, BrushTools addin allows a user to immediately perceive the type of formulas underlying spreadsheet data, thus significantly shortening the time required by a user to understand the flow of the calculation process inside the workbook, and improving the user's ability to orient himself within the workbook.
Preventing user errors
– A user, who is familiar with the spreadsheet before him, may quickly detect unreasonable numbers within it, but even if he remembers all of the underlying formulas, he will still find it difficult to identify an error in a formula, when such an error does not materially impact the resulting value in a specific cell.
+ Thanks to the difference in cell formatting according to the type of formula, BrushTools addin allows a user to immediately perceive a significant change in a formula. In this way, for example, if a user remembers that the formula underlying a certain cell is a Calculationtype formula but the font color of that cell indicates Input, he can immediately identify the error and correct it.
– Another example regarding the Distribution of different formulas along the spreadsheet (above), involves a case where the user tests a certain range of cells (with Calculationtype formulas) within a table and overwrites one of the underlying formulas with a Linktype formula. Microsoft Excel then marks the corner of the inconsistent cell with a green triangle. However, when more than a single cell is overwritten, for example, if two cells located one above the other are overwritten, or when a single cell or more are overwritten by an Input value, Excel does not mark them at all. Such an operation may eventually be forgotten and remain unnoticed in a table.
+ In this example, BrushTools addin paints the inconsistent cells with a font color indicating its type of formula (Link or Input), while the rest of the cells maintain their font color according to their formulas. The difference in color enables a user to immediately detect errors and correct them.
Increasing confidence in calculated workbook results
– The only things a user can see by looking at a spreadsheet are the cell values and formatting. This partial spreadsheet picture, which does not reflect cell formulas, reduces the level of confidence accorded to the calculations presented in the spreadsheet.
+ BrushTools addin increase user confidence in the correctness of spreadsheet calculations and resulting workbook values, by providing each cell with a visual explanation of its formula type.
Creating a shared language for all files in an organization
– When every employee, team or department is using its own preferred formatting rules, misunderstandings are liable to arise in regard to the significance ascribed by a user to each format. Moreover, there are some organizations that do not implement any uniform Excel language at all.
+ BrushTools addin makes it possible to establish a common language for all Microsoft Excel users, so that each cell's font color is painted according to its formula, while still allowing users to use other formatting parameters (Font Size, Font Style (Bold, Italic, Underline, etc.), Font Typeface, Cell Fill (Color, Effects, Pattern, Shading), Number Format, Borders (Line Style, Color), Alignment, Cell Style) according to the preferences of the user/organization. There is also an option for creating a universal language for work with Excel files (see Our Vision).
Enjoying colors
– Intensive Excel users may become quite tired of the many repetitive colorless black and white cells and tables that they face every day.
+ BrushTools addin brings a little color into Excel users' lives by painting all cells in a selected range, in an entire spreadsheet, or even in an entire workbook (or parts of it) according to user preferences. Microsoft Excel becomes a more pleasant, convenient and userfriendly software.