Excel Formatting

As well as giving your spreadsheet a professional look, the use of Excel formatting can provide essential information that influences 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 numeric values in Excel, the user often has to rely of the formatting of these numbers to understand 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.

1 Formatted ValueUnderlying Value
2A number formatted as a percentage:59%0.59
3A number formatted as a currency:$54.2754.27
4A number formatted as a date:01 August 200839661
5A number formatted as a time:12:27 PM0.51875
6A number formatted as a fraction:1 3/41.75

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 (see below).

Formatting Options on the Excel Ribbon

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



Dialog Box Launcher in the Number Group of the Excel Ribbon
Format Cells Control Box Number Type

The 'Format Cells' dialog box is shown on the leftabove.

Make sure that the Number tab at the top of the dialog box is selected then, from the Category options (on the left of the dialog box), select the Excel formatting type that you want to apply to your cell (e.g. Number, Percentage, Date, etc).

When you select a category, you may be presented with further options on the right hand side of the dialog box, which you can use to specify your formatting style.

Once you have specified the formatting details that you require, click OK to close the dialog box.

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 >>