A Comprehensive Guide on How to Change Number Format in Excel and Considerations

  • Home
  • / A Comprehensive Guide on How to Change Number Format in Excel and Considerations

Microsoft Excel is a powerful spreadsheet program that allows users to organize, analyze, and present data in a structured manner. One of the fundamental features that contribute to the effectiveness of Excel is its ability to format numbers.

Number formatting in Excel is a crucial aspect, as it not only enhances the visual appeal of the spreadsheet but also plays a significant role in data interpretation.

In this guide, we will delve into the purpose of number formats in Excel and then explore the intricacies involved in changing number formats.

The Purpose of Number Format in Excel:

The primary purpose of number formatting in Excel is to present data in a clear, understandable, and visually appealing manner.

Different types of data require different formats, and Excel provides a wide array of formatting options to accommodate various needs. Here are some key purposes of number formatting in Excel:

  1. Clarity and Readability: Number formatting helps enhance the clarity and readability of data.

For instance, currency values are often formatted with symbols and decimal places to make them easily distinguishable.

  1. Data Consistency: Excel allows users to enforce consistency in data presentation.

For example, percentages can be uniformly displayed with a consistent number of decimal places to maintain a standardized look across the spreadsheet.

  1. Visual Representation: Number formats can be used to visually represent positive and negative values. Color-coded formatting or brackets around negative numbers contribute to a clearer representation of data.
  2. Conciseness: Excel’s number formatting enables users to present large numbers in a concise manner, using features like scientific notation or custom formats to display only essential digits.
  3. Alignment and Indentation: Number formats can influence the alignment and indentation of data in cells, allowing users to create organized and aesthetically pleasing spreadsheets.

Changing Number Format in Excel:

Now that we understand the significance of number formatting, let’s explore how to change number formats in Excel.

  1. Select the Cells: Begin by selecting the cells or range of cells that you want to format.

You can do this by clicking and dragging the mouse or using the keyboard arrow keys while holding down the Shift key.

  1. Go to the Format Cells Dialog Box: Right-click on the selected cells and choose “Format Cells” from the context menu.

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + 1 to open the Format Cells dialog box.

  1. Choose the Number Tab: In the Format Cells dialog box, navigate to the “Number” tab.

Here, you’ll find a variety of categories, including General, Number, Currency, Date, Time, and more.

  1. Select the Desired Format: Choose the desired number format from the list of options. Excel provides pre-defined formats for common types of data, such as currency, percentages, dates, and times. Additionally, you can create custom formats to suit specific requirements.
  2. Adjust Formatting Options: Depending on the selected format, you may need to adjust additional options such as the number of decimal places, currency symbols, date formats, and more.

Use the preview pane to see how the changes will affect the selected data.

Things to Consider When Changing Number Format in Excel:

While changing number formats in Excel is a straightforward process, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure accurate representation and interpretation of data:

  1. Data Integrity: Changing the number format does not alter the underlying data; it only changes its display. Ensure that the chosen format accurately represents the actual data values.
  2. Consistency Across Sheets: Maintain consistency in number formatting, especially when dealing with related data across multiple sheets. Consistent formatting enhances the overall visual coherence of the workbook.
  3. Locale Considerations: Be mindful of locale-specific formatting conventions, such as date formats and decimal separators. Excel allows users to customize regional settings to ensure proper representation.
  4. Negative Numbers: Pay attention to how negative numbers are displayed. Depending on the context, you may want to use parentheses, a minus sign, or other visual indicators to distinguish negative values.
  5. Custom Formatting: Explore custom formatting options to tailor the display of numbers according to specific requirements. Custom formats offer a high degree of flexibility in presenting data exactly as needed.
  6. Cell Styles and Themes: Consider using cell styles and themes for consistent formatting across your entire workbook. This not only saves time but also ensures a cohesive visual presentation.
  7. Undo and Redo: Excel provides the undo and redo functionalities (Ctrl + Z and Ctrl + Y) to revert or reapply formatting changes. Use these options if you need to backtrack or experiment with different formats.


Mastering number format in Excel is essential for creating clear, concise, and visually appealing spreadsheets. Whether you are working with financial data, percentages, dates, or other numeric values, understanding the purpose of number formatting and knowing how to change formats effectively are valuable skills.

By considering the factors mentioned above, you can ensure that your Excel worksheets not only convey information accurately but also present data in a way that is easily comprehensible to your audience.

Excel’s versatile number formatting options empower users to customize their data presentation, contributing to the overall effectiveness of spreadsheet-based analysis and reporting.

Write your comment Here