Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Excel Has Got Your Number(s)
The following two buttons, Increase Decimal and Decrease Decimal , are simple, too, but a jot more
thought-provoking. With each click, Increase Decimal will indeed add one decimal point to a number—
and that includes numbers that have already received two such points under either of the Accounting
Number Comma Sty l e for mats. T hus:
67
will appear as 67.0, 67.00, 67.000, etc., with each successive Increase Decimal click. If you write:
=4/7
your result will initially appear as:
0.571429
in a cell of default column width. If you execute an Auto Fit, you’ll see:
.0571428571
a nine-digit rendition of this repeating decimal (note that the “9”—the last digit in the original
sixdigit version above—is replaced by 8571—adding additional precision to the number). But you can add
still more decimal digits—up to 15 meaningful ones in total—to a number, after which 5 additional
zeroes will then appear. But of course unless you’re a currency-exchange high roller or a nuclear
physicist, you’re not likely to need all those extras.
Decrease Decimal wor k s i n the opposi te di r e cti on , pa r i n g a de ci ma l poi n t wi th e a ch cl i ck . A n d tha t
means, for example, that if you click Decrease Decimal once on this number:
4.56
you’ll see:
4.6
Click Decrease Decimal again and you’ll see:
5
Now what’s the numerical value of that figure? The answer: 4.56, and that’s because—at the risk of
repeating myself—we’re formatting data, and formatting changes the appearance of the data only, not
their value. And that means in turn that if I write the above number in cell A12, and write somewhere
else:
=A12*2
I’ll realize 9.12, not the 10 you might assume on the basis of appearances. And if you want proof of
all this, type 4.56 in A12, click back in A12 and click Decrease Decimal twice, and grab a look at the
Formula Bar. You’ll see 4.56.
And what this could mean is that a printout of a worksheet containing the above activity would
di spl ay a 5 i n A12 an d a cal cul ati on showi n g 9.12, whe n y ou mul ti pl y A12 by 2—an d that coul d be
rather misleading, to put it mildly. It’s something you need to think about. (It should be added, by the
way, that text entries in cells bearing any of the above number formats will be completely unaffected
by any of this. It’s only when you actually enter a numeric value in such cells that these changes
matter.)
There’s one other clarification to be made about the buttons we’ve examined thus far: that any one
of the buttons overrules the effect of any other. Thus, if I’ve formatted 5457.67 to take on this
appearance:
\$5,457.67

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