When working in Microsoft Excel, have you noticed that the data you enter doesn’t have a Number format when you first enter it, rather it has a General format? So, you may be wondering, why does it matter what format the data has?

It is all to do with how Excel sees the data you are entering, especially when it is a number.

We all use Excel for a number of different purposes – it might be for a list, a checklist, a means of tracking information, etc. But where Excel really works for us is to make numbers add up.

Although Excel can add up numbers that have a General format, if you want to show Currency or decimals and get those numbers adding up properly, then you need to apply one of the Numeric formats.

Let’s take a closer look at this.

The Number Group

You can either enter data and then change the formatting, or select the required Number formatting and then enter the data. Either way, this is done in the Number group on the Home tab.

Click the drop-down arrow to see the immediately available options.

Format

What it does

General

No specific format – will add up numbers and display text. Does not display decimals or currency notation

Number

Displays a number with two decimal places, e.g. 12.45

Currency

Shows the currency symbol and two decimal places, e.g. £12.45 – the currency symbol is aligned close to the numbers

Accounting

Shows the currency symbol and two decimal places but the currency symbol is aligned to the far left of the cell, e.g.

£ 12.45

Short Date

Displays the date as, e.g. 12/08/2018

Long Date

Displays the date as, e.g. 12 August 2018

Time

Displays time in hours minutes and seconds, e.g. 12:08:34

Percentage

Shows a number as a whole number with a percent sign, e.g. 12%

Fraction

Turns e.g. 1/4 into ¼

Scientific

Long scientific numbers are displayed using this format

Text

Anything that is absolutely Text should be formatted this way.

More Formats

Gives more formats and the ability to customise how certain formats display

Make your numbers look good

Number formats also help make the spreadsheet make sense so that when you first look at a sea of numbers, you can differentiate between them. Everyone knows that £12.45 denotes money, whereas 12.45 is simply a number.

The Number Format Icons

Just below the Number format drop down, are five icons. Here is what they do.

Icon

What it does

Choose which currency format you wish to apply. However, be aware that this only displays the currency with the correct symbol, it won’t do any conversions!

   

The percentage format. This adds a percent sign to a number – for example, it will turn the decimal .5 into 50%.

   

The comma format. This applies a comma to separate the thousands. For example, 12344.00 will become 1,2344.00

   

Increase Decimal and Decrease Decimal. Click on these to choose the decimal places you want to see, e.g. 1.1 or 1.10

Whether you are setting up a spreadsheet for yourself or to present to other people, I’m sure you’ll find that using Number formats can make all the difference as to ease of understanding. Have a go, see if you can make your data easier to read.

To learn more about Microsoft Excel and how you can speed up routine tasks, take a look at my Microsoft Excel courses for Windows and Mac.

Or take a look at the HUB and have access to ALL my courses including any new ones that are added. Always the best value.

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