Excel Formatting








As well as giving your spreadsheet a professional look, the use of Excel formatting can provide essential information that determines the way a user interprets the data in the spreadsheet.

This is particularly the case with Excel numbers.


As dates, time, percentages and currency values are all stored as numbers in Excel, it is only the formatting of these numbers that tells the user of the spreadsheet what they represent.

For example, a cell containing the data value 0.5 could represent any of the following:

The spreadsheet below shows different ways of formatting Excel cells containing numeric values.

  A B C
1   Formatted Value Underlying Value
2 A number formatted as a percentage: 59% 0.59
3 A number formatted as a currency: $54.27 54.27
4 A number formatted as a date: 01 August 2008 39661
5 A number formatted as a time: 12:27 PM 0.51875
6 A number formatted as a fraction: 1 3/4 1.75

How To Change Formatting in Excel

To format data in Excel cells, you first need to select the cells to be formatted. Some of the more popular formatting options can then be accessed directly from the Home tab of the ribbon (or in older versions of Excel, from the formatting toolbar).

However, for the full menu of formatting options, you will need to use the Format Cells control box, which can be accessed by any of the following methods :

or or

Format Cells Control Box Number Type

The Format Cells control box is shown on the left.

Make sure that the Number tab at the top of the control box is selected. Within this tab, you will see a window with the heading Category, which has several data types listed.

Select the Excel formatting Category that you want to apply to your cell (e.g. Number, Percentage, Date, etc). For most of the categories, this will cause further options to appear on the right hand side of the control box, which you can use to tailor your formatting style.

Once you have selected the formatting style that you want, click OK.

Note that the listed formats will only work with numbers, so if you apply a date format to a cell containing text, the appearance of the cell will remain unchanged.

Continue to Excel Custom Number Formatting >>

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