Too many different cell formats

When you use Excel 2003 you may encounter the “too many cell formats” error, just after you try to open a file.

This happens because Excel 2003 has a limit on the number of different file formats. It can display maximum 4000 combinations.

To say that two cells are the same formats, they need to have same:

  • Font family
  • Font size
  • Borders
  • Fills
  • Number formatting
  • Alignment
  • Orientation

Take a look at the cells in the image below.

Each of these twelve cells has the same cell format.

And now another example.

Solution to the problem

There is a solution to this problem.

First, you need to download the OpenOffice application from

Next, install the application and open it.

Go to File >> Open.

Select Excel file that returns “Too many different cell formats” error. Save the file using a different name and same extension.

Now, try to open the file with Excel 2003 and you shouldn’t get the error message.