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What are Spreadsheet Number Formats?


Formatting Numbers in Excel

Formatting Numbers in Excel

© Ted French
Question: What are Spreadsheet Number Formats?

Formatting Numbers in Excel

Number formatting in spreadsheets, such as Excel, is used to change the appearance of a number or value in a cell in the spreadsheet.

Related Tutorial: Excel Formatting Tutorial: Adding Number Formats

Formatting numbers does not change the actual number that you enter, but just the way it appears in the spreadsheet. Formatting is done to improve the appearance of the spreadsheet and to make the numbers easier to read and understand.

Commonly Used Number Formats

Commonly used number formats include adding percent symbols ( % ), commas ( , ), decimal places, and dollar signs( $ ).

As mentioned, number formatting is attached to the cell and not to the value in the cell.

For Example - If you select a cell containing a number formatted for currency, the plain number, the one used in calculations, is displayed in the formula bar.

Number formatting can be applied to a single cell, entire columns or rows, a select range of cells, or the whole worksheet.

The default format for cells containing a value is the General style. This style has no specific format and displays values as plain numbers – no dollar signs, commas etc.

Changing Cell Formats

To change a cell's format, you can use one of the buttons on the Formatting toolbar, such as comma, percent or currency which apply preset styles to the selected cells.

Another option is to use the Format Cells dialog box. The Number tab in the Format Cells dialog box includes the styles on the formatting toolbar as well as other number categories such as time, date, and fraction.

There are also options for changing the currency symbol displayed to those used in other countries, the number of decimal places shown in a number, and how negative numbers are displayed.

Special Format Category

There is also a Special category for those special numbers, such as phone numbers, zip codes, and Social Security numbers that are formatted a certain way. Using the drop down box under the Locale option will let you format special numbers appropriate to specific countries.

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