Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Formatting Numbers
Formatting Cell
simply ignores the number format. For example, if you enter Half past 12 in a
column full of times, Excel considers it plain ol’ text—although, under the hood, the
cell’s numerical formatting stays put, and Excel uses it if you change the cell content
to a time.
Figure 16-4:
You can learn about the different
number formats by selecting a cell
that already has a number in it,
and then choosing a new
number format from the Category list
(Home Cells Format Format
Cells). When you do so, Excel uses the
Format Cells dialog box to show how
it’ll display the number if you apply
that format. In this example, you see
that the cell value, 5.18518518518519,
will appear as 5.19E+00, which is
scientific notation with two decimal
When you create a new spreadsheet, every cell starts out with the same number
format: General. This format comes with a couple of basic rules:
• If a number has any decimal places, Excel displays them, provided they fit in the
column. If the number has more decimal places than Excel can display, it leaves
out the ones that don’t fit. (It rounds up the last displayed digit, when
appropriate.) If you change a column width, Excel automatically adjusts the amount of
digits it displays.
• Excel removes leading and trailing zeros. Thus, 004.00 becomes 4. The only
exception to this rule happens with numbers between –1 and 1, which retain the
0 before the decimal point. For example, Excel displays the number .42 as 0.42.
As you saw in Chapter 14, the way you type in a number can change a cell’s
formatting. For example, if you enter a number with a currency symbol, the number format
of the cell changes automatically to Currency. Similarly, if you enter three numbers
separated by dashes (-) or forward slashes (/), Excel assumes you’re entering a date,
and adjusts the number format to Date.
However, rather than rely on this automatic process, it’s far better just to enter
ordinary numbers and set the formatting explicitly for the whole column. This approach
prevents you from having different formatting in different cells (which can confuse
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