I’ve put together this Excel custom number format guide as a resource for our members. There are loads of ways to apply custom number formats and as a result I find myself answering questions that are covered in this post on a daily basis.

To be clear, number formatting in Excel is used to specify how a value should appear in a cell or chart, but it doesn’t alter the underlying value that you can see in the formula bar. Unless of course you format a number as text, in which case it can no longer be treated as a number in math formulas.

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## Excel Custom Number Format Guide - Table of Contents

- Excel Custom Number Format Guide
- Download the workbook
- Applying Custom Number Formats
- Number Format Structure
- Hiding All Values
- Hiding Zero Values
- Custom Number Format Characters
- Literal Characters
- Special Characters
- Digit Placeholders
- Thousand Separators and Scaling
- Currency Formats and Parentheses for Negative Values
- Using Symbols in Formats
- Colors
- Date Characters
- Time Formats
- Fractions
- Percentages
- Scientific Notation
- Text/Labels
- Color Code based on Values/Conditions
- Repeating Leading and Trailing Characters
- Padding with Zeros

## Applying Custom Number Formats

To apply a custom number format first select the cell or cells you want to format, then CTRL+1 to open the Format Cells Dialog box, or go to the Home tab and click on the arrow in the Number group:

This opens the Format Cells dialog box in the Number tab (below), where you can choose ‘Custom’ from the Category list and insert your format in the ‘Type’ field:

## Number Format Structure

Let’s start with the anatomy of a number format.

A number format is made up of 4 components, with each component separated by a semi-colon:

Component1;Component2;Component3;Component4

- Component1 formats the POSITIVE value
- Component2 formats the NEGATIVE value
- Component3 formats ZERO values
- Component4 formats TEXT

In other words; POSITIVE ; NEGATIVE ; ZERO ; TEXT

*Note: spaces around semi-colons above are added for clarity but are not required in the format.*

You may be familiar with number formats you find in the Format Cells dialog box, like this:

In the above example only the positive and negative formats are specified, in which case the zero format will be the same as the positive format and text will be formatted as it was entered.

In fact when we omit components Excel behaves as follows:

- When just
**one component**is provided with no semi-colons in the code, Excel will check to see if the format is one of the default ‘Number’ formats and revert to that format. Otherwise, if the format is unique then all numbers will be formatted according to the format provided. - When the first
**two components**are provided Excel will use the same format for zero, and text will appear as entered. - When the first
**three components**are provided Excel will use the formats specified, and text will appear as entered. - If any components are skipped or left blank e.g. in this format the negative component has been skipped, #,##0;;0 and so the negative value will not display as demonstrated below:

## Hiding All Values

When all components are omitted and just the 3 semi-colons specified, Excel will not display anything in the cell. It’s a clever way to hide data in cells and charts.

## Hiding Zero Values

Another common question is ‘how do I hide zero values from displaying in my chart labels’. The answer is simply to use the technique in point 4 above and omit the format for the zero component. See the example below:

## Custom Number Format Characters

You may have noticed custom number formats that contain unusual characters like this:

These characters are used as codes to tell Excel how to format the value. Let’s look at them in turn.

**Literal Characters** – these appear as entered in the custom number format:

**Special Characters** – define how other characters are treated

**Digit Placeholders** – used to control how numbers that contain decimal places are displayed:

## Thousand Separators and Scaling

The comma is used to display the thousand separators in a number when it is enclosed in # signs or by zeros, and when it follows a digit placeholder it scales a number by 1000.

**Tip 1:** We can scale a value to millions by using two commas, as you can see in the example in the last column above. And for billions we add 3 commas.

**Tip 2:** When appending ‘K’ for thousands we simply type it in the format, but ‘M’ for millions must be entered with a preceding \ as the example above, or inside double quotes. This is because ‘M’ is already reserved as a character for the date formats. More on date formats soon.

## Currency Formats and Parentheses for Negative Values

**Tip 1: **In the example in the last column above I’ve used the underscore and right parenthesis to align the decimal places. You can see them in red in the number format here: $#,##0.0,K_);($#,##0.0,K)

Remember the underscore is a special character that adds a space according to the width of the following character, in this example the right parenthesis.

**Tip 2:** if you don’t have a particular currency key on your keyboard, you can enter it into the Custom Number Format dialog box using the ANSI code. To enter an ANSI code, hold the ALT key and type in the 4 digit number. Here are some example ANSI codes that might be useful:

## Using Symbols in Formats

Alternatively, you can use the Symbol tool (Home or Insert tab) to find the character you want and then insert it into a cell. From the cell you can copy it to your clipboard and paste it into the Custom Number Format dialog box.

**Tip**: You can also insert symbols like up or down triangles, just make sure they’re the Arial Geometric Shapes (subset) variety and not Wingdings:

For example, this format displays positive percentages with an upward facing triangle and negative values with a downward facing triangle.

▲0.0%;▼0.0%

Symbols can be quite effective when used in reports or charts like the one below:

## Colors

We can specify a color for a format, for example you might like to format negative values in red. Color formatting is done in one of two ways:

- We can use the color name surrounded by square brackets, like so:

$#,##0.0,K_);[red]($#,##0.0,K)

Which results in negative values like this: ($1.3K)

However, with color names we’re limited to these:

[black]

[green]

[white]

[blue]

[magenta]

[yellow]

[cyan]

[red]

- Alternatively we can specify a color index number e.g.:

$#,##0.0,K_);[color 3]($#,##0.0,K)

Using the color number opens up a total of 56 different colors, although 5 of them are duplicates, as you can see by the hex codes in red below:

**Tip:** Apply color formats to chart axes or labels. Note: if you have labels then you don’t also need the vertical axis or gridlines, unlike my example below:

## Date Characters

We can combine the month, day and year characters together in various configurations to get the desired format. Here are a few examples:

Click here for more on how dates and time are handled in Excel.

## Time Formats

Just like the date characters, we can combine the time characters to get the format we’re after. For example:

And when we’re adding time that exceeds 24 hours, or 60 minutes, or 60 seconds we can display the elapsed time like so:

## Fractions

Let’s go back to school and recap some of the different types of fractions:

- Proper – where the absolute value of the fraction is less than 1 e.g. 1/2
- Improper – where the absolute value of the fraction is greater than or equal to 1 e.g. 4/3
- Mixed Fractions – are another way to write improper fractions where the whole is written separate to the fraction, for example 4/3 would be written 1 1/3

Use the ? symbol to specify the varying number of digits to display.

It’s important to remember that the underlying value in the cell, as displayed in the ‘Value’ column above, is what is used in your formulas that reference those cells. The Formatted result is simply how it appears, but you must be careful if you are using those formatted results in calculations that don’t reference the cell directly. For example if you were to enter those formatted values into a calculator you’d get a different result to a formula that referenced that cell.

## Percentages

Use the % sign to display numbers as a percentage of 100. Remember, a zero in the custom number format displays both significant and insignificant digits, and the # will only display significant digits as per the examples below:

## Scientific Notation

Scientific Notation allows us to express very large numbers in a decimal form of shorthand. It’s commonly used by scientists and mathematicians. Let’s use 7,830,000,000 as our example value. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty big number.

In scientific notation we can express it as 7.83 x 10^{9}

We raise 10 to the power of 9 because 9 decimal places have been removed from the original number to be left with 7.83. And when we multiply 7.83 by 10^{9} we get our original value of 7,830,000,000. Ok, math lesson over.

In Excel (and some calculators) we can’t use ‘x’ in a number, nor can we insert superscript. Instead we use the upper (or lower case) E+ notation like so:

7.83E+09 or 7.83e+09

To apply this formatting the custom number format is 0.00E+00 or 0.##E+00.

Remember we can use 0 to display both significant and insignificant digits, or if we only want to display significant digits we use #.

Here are some examples:

Did you notice the precision in the ‘Formatted Result’ of the 3rd example above? See how it appears to round the value to one decimal place and therefore omits the ‘3’ in 7.83. Be wary of this if you’re likely to refer to the face value of these cells, as opposed to the actual underlying value.

Remember to use the 0 digit place holder to show both significant and insignificant digits, and use the # to only display significant digits.

## Engineering Notation

Engineering notation is a version of scientific notation in which the exponent of ten must be divisible by three. The format contains 3 # before the decimal place and 3 zeros after the decimal place to force the result to return an exponent that is divisible by 3.

## Text/Labels

We can append or prefix our values with text while still maintaining the underlying number for use in formulas. This can be handy when formatting values like kilometres or days/hours/minutes, Over/Under etc.

To display both text and numbers in a cell simply insert your text in double quotes, or if it’s only a single character then precede it with a backslash (\).

*Don’t forget, Literal Characters are displayed without the need for quotation marks.

Here are some examples you might find useful:

The last example uses the @ symbol for Text. In other words, the cell is formatted as text, which is also why it is left aligned, but the custom cell format displays the # tag at the front of the text without the need to actually type it in the cell.

## Color Code based on Values/Conditions

Remember that by default the custom number format is broken into the following components:

Positive ; Negative ; Zero ; Text

However, we can override the default components with up to two conditions and add color coding based on criteria we set.

For example, let’s say we have a threshold of 500 units per day. Anything below this should be red and anything 500 or above should be formatted green. We can use the format:

[red] [<500] #,##0;[color 10] [>=500] #,##0

Which yields the following results:

**Tip:** once a condition is met Excel doesn’t test the other conditions so it’s important you get the order of tests correct so it doesn’t stop at the first criteria. Just like a nested IF formula.

Of course we could also write this format like so:

[color 10] [>=500] #,##0; [red] [<500] #,##0

What if we want 3 conditions? Well, we can’t insert 3 conditions as such, but we can insert 2 and then apply a font color to the cells, which will be picked up for all remaining values. This works because custom cell formats override the font color.

In the example below values less than 500 are red, values less than 1000 are orange/amber and values 1000 and over, for which there is no criteria, pick up the cell font color, which is green:

## Repeating Leading and Trailing Characters

We can fill a cell containing text values with a specific character using the asterisk symbol. For example:

## Padding with Zeros

Remember that zero is a digit placeholder which displays both significant and insignificant digits, so we can exploit this to force Excel to display an insignificant zero at the front of a value, or to apply spacing between digits.

It’s handy for phone number formats, bar codes, product codes etc. Here are a few examples:

## Notes on Custom Number Formats

- Custom Number formats are saved in the workbook in which they’re created and are not available in any other workbooks.
- Custom Number formats
__do not__change the underlying value. This is important if you want to reference those cells in formulas. - Formats can appear to round values which will not be reflected in the results of formulas that reference those cells
- Regional Settings – this post assumes your region uses the full stop/period character for a decimal place and a comma for the thousand separators. If your region differs, please amend accordingly.

## Sources

I’d like to recognise the following resources which I learnt from in the writing of this guide:

Koen

Hi,

I use custom number format #.##0__________ to align on decimal points without showing a decimal point when it is not needed. But I can’t seem to combine this with a currency symbol? Is that possible?

Catalin Bombea

Hi Koen,

Have you tried adding the symbol?

_-$ #.##0__________

Tarzan

This is GREAT!

Mynda Treacy

Great to hear it was helpful 🙂

Tricia Chen

How do you freeze the output of your custom format so u can move them to another workbook while retaining the final output?

Mynda Treacy

Not sure what you mean by freeze, Tricia. You can copy and paste formats only via the Paste Special menu.

Steve

I created a comment moments ago about an issue I had, literally after closing page, realised i can use conditional format by doing Between 0.1 and 1.1 custom format as 1. Sorted.

ref: =SUM(IF(FREQUENCY(MATCH($L$1,$F25:$K25,$L$1),ROW($F25:$K25)-ROW($L$1)+1)=1,1))

6×7 Cells are preformatted to custom as 00:00:00.00 (HH:mm:ss.00), If time is entered it would return a 1 in the last column, but if someone stuck in 1 in the cells the cells would display 24:00:00.00 which still counted as one in last cell of row, but looked crazy being 24:00:00.00. So the above conditional format has solved my problem.

Mynda Treacy

Glad you figured out a solution, Steve. If we can help in future please post your question on our Excel forum where you can also upload a sample file and we can help you further.

Steve

I have table 6 columns x 7 rows and one column on the end for countif, when time is entered into any cells in the row, then cell at the end of table row returns 1.

each row is counted as one test and each column is for entering the data corresponding to what device was timed – So if more than one device was used for that test, it still counts as one test.

=SUM(IF(FREQUENCY(MATCH($L$1,$F24:$K24,$L$1),ROW($F24:$K24)-ROW($L$1)+1)=1,1))

The format of cells is custom, 00:00:00.00, so time is HH:mm:ss.00 when entering stopwatch data.

I then use each cell at the end of table rows that contain 1 to do a count up of how many

tests were done.

The problem I have though is that some people just put 1 in the cell to say that the test was done. by doing that, it shows as 24:00:00.00 – which although works for the final count of tests, it makes it look like that test took 24:00:00.00 to do.

Is there a way that if someone does put in a 1 instead of time, to still be counted / behave in the same way as time so that I can still do the count of tests and the 24:00:00.00 isn’t displayed, 1 is instead?

Thank you in advanced

Steve

Or is there a way that I use ‘If’ function to format cells as number, time, text, etc?

So if 1 is entered then it’s a 1 if not, then just keep as time entered.

Tomas P.

the article does not include custom locale/different languages (eg for month names) formatting available in custome formatting..

Mynda Treacy

Hi Tomas, you might find this tutorial helpful: https://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/excel-dates-displayed-in-different-languages

James Acosta

Problem accumulating days

Hello I have time records in general format “0.000000” and I transform them with “dd hh:mm”, but this works as long as the numbers are less than 32.

For example “3.456789” with “dd hh:mm” results in “03 10:57”.

but if I apply “33.456789” with “dd hh:mm” results in “02 10:57” (due to the haul of the month).

How can I do this with numbers greater than 32?

Mynda Treacy

Hi James,

Displaying elapsed time in days, hours and minutes in Excel is explained here.

Mynda

arash

Hi

I have a question about custom format cell , Which codes or characters in custom format cell should I use that when I copy a formula from another cell and past in formatted cell then the result of formatted cell (displayed number) does not change and main as before pasting?

Mynda Treacy

Hi Arash, the formatting doesn’t dictate whether formats are retained upon pasting or not. If you want to copy the formatting when you copy a cell you simply press ENTER to paste it. By doing this you are copying the whole contents of the cell; formula, formatting etc. when you press ENTER.

arash

hello, thanks for your help

Suppose we have a table where the third column is the product of the first column multiplied by the second.

a b a*b

2 3 6

6 3 18

5 4 20

3 5 15

3 6 18

2 7 14

Then we change one of the cells of the third column using the custom format cell and the character “apple” as follows.

a b a*b

2 3 6

6 3 18

5 4 20

3 5 apple

3 6 18

2 7 14

Now if we copy the second row cell of the third column and paste it in the fifth row cell of the third column, the word apple changes to the number 15.

My question is what character instead of “apple “ to use in the custom format cell that does not change the word apple after copying the second row of the third column and pasting in the fifth row of the third column?(for example add the characters “#*., @ and etc. with apple may be was the answer)

Mynda Treacy

Hi Arash, it’s not the formatting it’s the pasting you need to alter. If you paste all by pressing ENTER to paste then the format from the second row will override the format in the 5th row. It doesn’t matter what format was previously in row 5, you’re replacing it when you paste the data from row 2. If you want to retain the format in row 5, then you must use Paste Special > Values.

arash

Thank you for your guidance ,Mynda

But that was not what I meant. In fact, I might ask the question, is it possible to define a format for a cell that contains a number that when we paste a formula into it , the number does not change in the cell ?

Mynda Treacy

Hi Arash,

Let’s say you want a cell to always display the number 10 despite what is entered into it. You could use this custom number format: “10”

If you then wanted to copy and paste a cell containing a formula into the cell with the format “10” you would have to paste as special > formulas.

Note: if you performed a math equation on the cell formatted with “10” it would ignore the 10 and only read the underlying value/formula result contained in the cell.

Mynda

David Fink

This one is in error: The symbols are reversed.

===

For example, this format displays positive percentages with an upward facing triangle and negative values with a downward facing triangle.

▼0.0%;▲0.0%

===

Mynda Treacy

Well spotted, David! Fixed now 🙂

Lori

Is there a way to combine letters and numbers? For example, I know that I can create a custom format, AA-#### which will return AA-1234. But I would like to create a custom format that would include an unknown letter. Example, AA-1234B. The last letter would change with data entry.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Lori,

I’m not sure how this last letter would be entered as such. Please post your question and sample Excel file on our forum where we can help you further: https://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/excel-forum

Mynda

MonicaPirre

Hi,

I found the topic interesting.

However, I cannot find an explanation of why excel shows a number below zero in this way “375,647,372,869,797,000.0”. It is a result of a formula, but for other results I have 1 decimal.

Thanks.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Monica, please post your question on our Excel forum where you can also upload a sample file and we can help you further.

Sarah

Hi there,

I was wondering if anyone can help me. I am trying to change numbers into phone numbers ( with their correct prefix)

I have a column of numbers, with the + sign , when I go into the ‘number’ – ‘Format Cells’ – ‘Special’ – I have no special text her to change into phone number?

Can anyone let me know if there is something I need to change, I have been googling all morning to see what I can do, but all that seems to come up is to use this method to change into phone numbers,but of course I cant.

Any help would be great.

Thank you.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Sarah, if your number already has a + sign prefixing it, then it’s text and you cannot apply a custom number format to text. Please post your question and sample Excel file on our forum where we can help you further: https://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/excel-forum

sandeep khurana

Hi Mynda,

The article was great and covered a lot of options for Custom Fomatting. Some new tips were available in the comments.

One thing I needed to know was how to convert to different comma placings. In some countries there is a comma as follows : $ 37,230,555.22 is written as Rs. 3,72,30,555.22. Is it possible to define the custom format with a different comma placement. Putting a 0\,00\,00\,000.00 does the job, but is there a proper way with # & $ because as soon as I change the currency to Rs. Hindi it starts showing the 00,000,000.00 format.

Appreciate your help

Mynda Treacy

Hi Sandeep, I’m not an expert in different locales, but Excel is designed to format dates and numbers according to the locale settings in Windows and Excel. If you change the currency by selecting the currency format, then you are also changing the other parts of the format, as opposed to just replacing Rs. in your custom format with the Hindi currency symbol. Mynda

Sandeep Khurana

Hi Mynda,

One would think it should but the Currency format just changes the currency symbol from “$” sign to the sign for Rupees.

But does not change the other parts of the format.

I think I will go with the option that I had earlier.

Thanks anyway

Ryss

I have a column of 1000 #s that are whole numbers and need to be changed to decimals.

Example : 1017000 need it to be 10170.00. I know you can format them I just can’t get the formula rite. Can you help?

Mynda Treacy

Hi Ryss, This isn’t a format, this is dividing a value by 100 to make it a smaller value. You can do this with paste special. In an empty cell type 100. Copy that cell then select the cells you want to convert > paste special > select Values and Divide.

Mynda

Marcus Elivetti

Hello

Some of my cells filled with numbers end with asterisk. I’d like to custom format everything like 0,?????;-0,????? [so commas in one line and up to five decimal places], but can’t find any way to apply this formatting system to those cells with asterisks. Could anyone help with that?

Marcus Elivetti

Mynda Treacy

Hi Marcus,

If a numeric value includes an asterisk then it is text and cannot be formatted with a custom number format. You need to remove the asterisk from the cell. Perhaps you can put it in an adjacent column.

Mynda

Marcus Elivetti

Hello, Mynda

Thanks for your answer.

Actually I can’t do that, they need to be kept, as additional columns would spoil whole the table.

Now I’m thinking of a formula to remove asterisks where they are and conditionally format those cells as having the asterisk added via \* [all those cells have numbers ‘larger than..’ or ‘smaller than..’], but I can’t cope with large distance between a number and *, which, on the other hand, destroys commas vertical alignment..

ME

Sladen Jieta

I am trying to do the 10-digit number (original: 3035559876) and I am trying to change it to 10-digit numbers like (333.555.9876) like a phone number. I kept putting the # and space but I want to (.) decimal in between just like the one above.

Mynda Treacy

You need to use the back slash to force the custom number format to display the period as a literal character. You can use this custom number format:

000\.000\.0000

Mynda

VIPUL D. JHAVERI

Thanks a Lot , Fundamentals explained with great clarity, lucid details with examples

for our clear and quick understanding

Philip Treacy

Thanks Vipul

Casey Early

I use the following format for my management accounts (rounded to nearest £’000)

#,##0,_);(#,##0,);-?

Anything that is actually 0 is expressed as a ‘-‘ but anything that is rounded to 0 becomes ‘0’ and makes the report look untidy.

I don’t want to change the actual values (e.g. MROUND function) as this introduces rounding errors in balance sheet etc.

Grateful for any suggestions. Apols if already covered but I could not see it.

Fabulous resource – keep up the great work.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Casey,

Simply replace the zeros in the format to # i.e.

#,###,_);(#,###,);-?

Mynda

Casey Early

Hi Mynda. Thanks for your response. This has has just replaced the ‘0’ with a ‘blank’ whereas for any amount between 499 and 0 (or -499 and 0), I need to it to show ‘-‘ without changing the underlying value. Can send a screengrab if that helps. Thanks! Casey

Mynda Treacy

Ah, sorry. It can’t be done. I would suggest that if you have values as low as that, you should add decimal places to the rounding instead e.g. #,##0.0,_);(#,##0.0,)

Casey Early

No problem and thanks.

Sarah.K

Very clear guidance. But I still haven’t figure out my issue. I want to custom format when i enter value, it has bracket. example value= 12.22, result= (12.22). I figured this out, but have problem when value=0.32, result=(.32) when I want it to be (0.32)

Please help me with this

Mynda Treacy

Hi Sarah,

The format should be:

(0.0#)

Mynda

YossiD

Very useful guide. Thanks.

I’m looking for a way to display numbers up to two decimal places in normal notation (e.g. 0.12) and smaller numbers in scientific notation (e.g 0.000012 as 1.2E-5). Is there a way to do that?

L.E.:

I ended up accomplishing what I wanted using conditional formatting, but I’m still curious to know if there is a way to do it using some kind of creative number formatting.

Catalin Bombea

Hi,

In excel, the custom format has 4 sections we can use:

2. Negative values

3. Zero values

4. Text values

“1;2;3;4”

There is no switch to evaluate the cell in order to choose what format to apply, only with conditional formatting you can do that, as you already did.

Virendra Vardhaman Upadhye

Unable to format date

Mynda Treacy

We’d love to help, but your comment doesn’t give us anything to go on. Please post your question in our Excel forum where you can also include a sample Excel file.

Al Pada

Hi!

How can I add zeroes to the right of a number to make it 4 digits making it a bigger number rather than not changing its value? for 123 to 1230 and not 123 to 0123.

Thank you so much in advance.

Catalin Bombea

Hi Al,

A custom format will not do that.

Your numbers are integers? Or there will be decimal places?

Mynda Treacy

Hi Al,

If you want to append a zero to all of your numbers, you can format them with this:

###”0″

Note, it will make 123 display 1230 and 1234 will display 12340

The underlying numbers will still be 123 and 1234 respecively.

Mynda

KarYan Leong

Hi, then if the time custom format as below is what means?

[0][h]:mm

Thank you

Mynda Treacy

That’s not a number format Excel recognises.

KarYan Leong

[0][h]:mm;

Mynda Treacy

That isn’t valid either.

Joe

I have a series of reports, all starting with the same 8 numbers (05171007) then the report number 0001, 0002, etc. How can I format the number cell to display 05171007.0001, 05171007.0002 by just typing “1” and “2”, respectively.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Joe,

Use this custom number format: “05171007.”0000

Mynda

Catalin Bombea

Hi Joe,

Use this custom format: “05171007.”0000

Dave Roos

Scientific Notation almost: How to I format “3.14159” as “0.314159E+01”

Paul Shonaman

I require this text string (8/15/2019 6:30:00 PM) to be formatted as a proper date in excel. Neither formatting the cell nor using the DATEVALUE function seems to work. is there a way to do this, or is it just that the format of the text is incompatible with DATEVALUE?

8/15/2019 6:30:00 PM needs to be 2019/08/15 18:30:00

Thanks in advance…

Mynda Treacy

Hi Paul,

The problem is the date is formatted as text, instead of a proper date serial number. Also, if your regional settings are dd/mm/yyyy then Excel will struggle with the date because it’s in a mm/dd/yyyy format. You can use Power Query to fix the date format, if you’re familiar with Power Query, or try some of these techniques to convert the text date to a proper date serial number.convert the text date to a proper date serial number.convert the text date to a proper date serial number.

I suspect you’ll either need to use Text to Columns to separate the date and time portions into their own columns, then add them back together in a formula. If you get stuck, please post your quesiton and sample Excel file on our Excel forum where we can help you further.

Mynda

Paul

Thanks much, Mynda. The incompatible text was, as suspected, the root of the issue. Text to Columns is a fairly straightforward approach. Will do that.

Cheryl

Is there a way that I can change the format for AM/PM to match my company’s brand standard as a.m. or p.m.?

Catalin Bombea

Hi Cheryl,

Just put AM/PM after your format, like: h:mm AM/PM

Lauren

Hi there

Thank you for your resource, very helpful.

I do however have one question I hope you can assist with or point me in the right direction.

I have cells in an excel workbook which are number formatted as Accounting or Currency. The numbers appear like so $180,00.40. However, when I click on the cell it reads 180319 and no longer has the dollar sign, decimals or comma. Can you advise on how 180319 would be able to reflect the number formatting (dollar sign, comma and decimal) in the formula bar as I am unable to mail merge this information across to Microsoft word as it pulls the actual sell value rather than the format that has been applied.

Catalin Bombea

Hi Lauren,

In Excel cells, you can apply number and date formats to numbers, but in that cell it will always be a number, and a number you will see in the formula bar.

If you want to have text in formula bar, you need to have text in the cell, not numbers. Use TEXT function to convert numbers to text: =TEXT(180000.4,”$###,#.00″). In this case, cell content will be text, but in formula bar you will see… the formula. Type the format you need.

Steve

Hi Mynda,

This is a GREAT article! Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Question for you… Is there a way to save custom number formats in Book.xltm so they’re available in all of the new workbooks that I create? I don’t want to save Book.xltm with “pre-formatted cells,” but I’d like the custom number formats to be available in the custom number list, if or when I need them.

For example: I created five different custom number formats in five cells in a worksheet. Those new formats are now available in my Number > Custom List. I deleted the contents of those five cells and reset their format to General (or, Clear All). The five custom number formats are still available in my Custom List. I saved the workbook as Book.xltm in my XLSTART folder. But, when I open Book.xltm, or start a new workbook, the custom number formats no longer appear in my Custom List.

Do I need to create new “Cell Styles” for the custom number formats to be permanent? I’d experiment with this, but my computer is out for repair. Thanks.

Catalin Bombea

Hi Steve,

There is no easy way to store custom formats to be available in any new books. You can use a code in your Book.xltm that applies those formats to some cells of the active workbook. The code can be attached to a button in Book.xltm ribbon, to apply the format to selected cells. It’s even faster than going through the normal menu.

Guru

Is there a way to format the number as below:

1) =1000 and =1000000 and =1000000000 format as billions i.e. B

and

if the resultant number is less than 100 show the decimal value otherwise no need of decimal.

Eg:

33.5 should be 33.5 itself

345.6 should be 346

5655000 should be 5.7M

56550000 should be 56.6M

565500000 should be 566M

Thanks in advance

Mynda Treacy

Hi Guru,

You can’t do this with custom number formats. You’d have to use a formula like IF(A1<1000000,A1,IF(A1>1000000,ROUND(A1/1000000,1),IF(… etc. to round the values depending on their size.

More on the IF Function here.

Mynda

Ron MVP

You missed one time code, decimal values for thousandths of a second ie

sss.000

This format code is needed for precise duration and interval calculation. I found that this custom format works best for me

d “days” hh:mm:ss.000

Good reference for custom data formats. A few more examples would be nice.

(even for events that you count in just seconds.)

You have to enter your times as 00:00:00.000

Unfortunately Excel converts the time display in the formula bar to a date/time stamp starting at 1900-01-00 00:00:00 AM The decimal seconds are there, just not displayed in the formula bar.

The problem I have is I want to record elapsed time

Mynda Treacy

Thanks for sharing, Ron.

Sandeep Kothari

Very useful.

Mynda Treacy

Glad you found it useful, Sandeep 🙂

Samuel Barros

Muito bom o artigo, simples e objetivo, resulta muito no aprendizado.

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Samuel. Glad you found it useful 🙂

ofir

You mentioned “Thousand Separators and Scaling” for big numbers (kilo and mega).

what about little numbers (milli, micro ,piko)?

Mynda Treacy

Hi Ofir,

Great question! There’s no custom number format for these. You’d have to normalize the numbers, as described here: https://excel.tips.net/T002928_Engineering_Calculations.html

Mynda

Shmuel

Hi Mynda

I have subscribed to a number of your courses and continue to be impressed by your flaws delivery. I also teach Excel in Lagos, Nigeria and find myself resorting to “err”s and “emm”s whilst trying to find the best way to put a point across.

FLIGHT DURATION ACROSS TIME ZONES

I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to prepare a spreadsheet of my journey which involved crossing time zones.

The usual “arrival time – departure time” gives erroneous results unless modified in the following way:-

At the heart of the solution is the fact that Excel views time in fractions of 24hrs so you would need to convert the difference in hours between the two time zones into a fraction of 24 then add or subtract this from the departure time in the formula above e.g.

Depart LON (GMT) 07:00 arrive LOS (GMT+1) 14:00

Flight duration = Arrival time – (Departure time + 1/24) = 6 hrs

Warm Regards

Shmuel

Mynda Treacy

Thanks for your kind words, Shmuel!

Good of you to share your tip, too.

Cheers,

Mynda

Jon Wittwer

This is a great article, Mynda! It got me wondering about what would happen if you changed the color palette (because almost all my old templates use a custom color palette). It turns out that the color codes for Color1-56 CAN be changed. For example, [Color10] doesn’t always have to be green. You can go to File > Options > Save > Colors and modify the color palette.

As another side note, the Color1-56 codes in Google Sheets are fixed colors (but match the default Excel color palette), so it doesn’t look like customizing a color will translate into Google Sheets if you upload/convert your customized Excel file.

Mynda Treacy

Cheers, Jon. Great tip about the custom color palette. I didn’t know about that.

Mynda

Hussein

It is really amazing efforts. Do you mind if I translate your post to Arabic along with the example file with keeping all the credit to you and your website?

viaexcel.com (website field is not working in comment area).

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Hussein.

Yes, you’re welcome to translate my post with a link back to my site for credit.

Cheers,

Mynda

Hussein

Thanks Mynda for your permission.

Amadou

Very usefull tips especially when combined with Excel cells styles. I’ve just read the article and it’s already saving me a lot of time. Thanks you so much for this !!

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Amadou 🙂

Simon

Hi Mynda

one of my favourite formats is when I want to show all numbers with the units in line, negatives in red (for screen viewing) and in brackets (for printing).

For this, I use #,##0.00 ;[Red](* #,##0.00) and, because I frequently use it, I’very made it into a macro and saved it in my personal sheet so that it available in any worksheet I use.

There was some fantastic examples in yours that I never even realised that I wanted to use before seeing them

Thanks for noting all of this down.

Mynda Treacy

Thanks for sharing your tip, Simon. It’s always nice to hear what other people find useful and I’m sure there are more who will like this format too.

Mynda

Mehdi HAMMADI

Hi Mynda,

I released several year ago a similar workbook with a presentation to explain and illustrate the custom formating however I never imagine to use symbols to illustrate the grow of a metric like you done for charts. This tip is very interesting and this is what i love from MVP simple tips that make a big difference. Thanks a lot Mynda for sharing this.

Best regards

Mehdi

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Mehdi! Glad you found a new tip amongst it all 🙂

Mitchell Allen

Well, you moved the bar for “pillar” posts. Let’s just call this a “foundational” post! I learned quite a few new tricks, some of which are eye-popping. This will be my go-to guide for formatting numbers!

Cheers,

Mitch

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Mitchell 🙂 Glad you’ll be able to make use of it.

Bill Brooks

This guide is a great tool, the kind I like to save for future use. Is there a better way to save it for offline use than a .PDF? The challenge with printing it to .PDF is the banner ads are still there and they block the guide.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your email. We’ve added a ‘print’ icon to the left side of the page above. Unfortunately it bunches up some of the images a bit but it’s the best we can get it.

Kind regards,

Mynda

Bill Brooks

Mynda, that works just fine. Thanks for the help.

Manish Singhee

Hi Bill,

In Mozilla, you can view the page in “Reader View” (this option is towards the extreme right of the URL bar. In Reader View you get to see only the article minus all the ads and sidebar items. You can then either print a .pdf file using any of the free pdf conversion utilities like CutePDF, PDF-Viewer, etc., and save the pdf file to your system for offline use.

jim

Well done for keeping this to such a short article; it really is a HUGE topic!

a few additional points to confabulate your readers further (and there’s more!)

Using a number formatted as text as a number – can be done if you add a double minus before it to force excel to evaluate it

Full year can also be formatted by using “e” instead of “yyyy”

Line feeds can be added to a format using ANSI code 10 (ALT+0010) – but dates will still show as ###### if the column isn’t wide enough (use the TEXT function if this really bugs you)

If you use a condition then the next rule is still used for negative numbers and the next for others (eg [<-1] -0;0.0;-0.0 will apply the -0.0 format to all zeroes and positives)

Colouring text using conditional formatting trumps number formatting (the two condition limit in normal formatting can be annoying)

Mynda Treacy

Great tips, Jim. Thanks for sharing them.

On your condition example, just to clarify for others; it works that way because you only have one condition, my examples have two conditions.

Fabio

thank you! Very clear and comprehensive guide 🙂

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Fabio!

Jonathan Cooper

Good article. Better than any I have seen done before. One point to be clear on, you are absolutely correct that the format does not affect the underlying value. However, I don’t think you can say “…it doesn’t alter the underlying value that you can see in the formula bar”. If you input a number like 43000 and format it as a date then it does affect what you see in the formula bar. Even if you format it as a percentage it changes what you see in the formula bar slightly.

Mynda Treacy

Ooh, good point, Jonathan. Thanks!

Cindy

Excellent workbook and a great resource! I know I will refer to it often. Thank you!

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Cindy. I’m glad you’ll find it useful.

Serge

Thanks Mynda for a most useful guide.

Mynda Treacy

Cheers, Serge 🙂

Bob Van Winter

Thank you Mynda for the insight into custom number formatting. I have a question. Is there a way to build your own custom number formatting? I need to have a field in my spreadsheets that is a letdown ratio ie: 25 to 1. I currently need to format the column as text and type 25:1. I’d like to be able to have the column as a custom number format rather than as text.

Mynda Treacy

Hi Bob,

You could try this:

This will format any number as :1 e.g. 25:1 or 30:1 etc.

Kind regards,

Mynda

Abraham Heunes

Thank Mynda for an excellent guide on HOW TO with Custom Number Formatting.

Now I don’t have to wreck my brain to figure out How.

Mynda Treacy

Thanks, Abraham! Glad it was worth writing 🙂