Excel Tutorial: How To Change To Number Format In Excel


When working in Excel, it's crucial to ensure that your data is accurately formatted. Changing to the number format is essential for tasks such as performing calculations, sorting, and making the data more readable. In this tutorial, we will cover the simple steps to change the format of your data to numbers in Excel.

Preview of Steps:

  • Select the cells you want to format
  • Go to the Home tab and locate the Number group
  • Click on the Number Format drop-down menu and select the desired number format
  • Verify that the data has been correctly formatted

Key Takeaways

  • Correctly formatting data to numbers in Excel is crucial for accurate calculations, sorting, and readability
  • Number format in Excel refers to the way numerical data is displayed, and there are different types available
  • Steps for changing to number format include selecting cells, accessing the Number Format drop-down menu, and choosing the desired format
  • Additional tips for number formatting include using custom formats, adjusting decimal places, and applying currency symbols
  • Using the correct number format helps avoid calculation errors, enhances data visualization, and maintains consistency in data presentation

Understanding Number Format in Excel

Excel is a powerful tool that allows users to manipulate and analyze data in a variety of ways. One important aspect of working with data in Excel is understanding number formats. In this tutorial, we will explore what number format means in Excel and the different types of number formats available.

A. Define what number format means in Excel

Number format in Excel refers to the way in which numbers are displayed in a cell. This includes the appearance of the number, such as the use of commas, decimals, currency symbols, and percentages. Number format does not change the actual value of the number, but rather how it is displayed to the user.

B. Explain the different types of number formats available

Excel offers a wide range of number formats to choose from, depending on the specific requirements of the data being manipulated. Some of the most common number formats include:

  • General: This is the default number format in Excel and is suitable for most basic numerical data.
  • Number: This format is used for general numeric data and allows users to specify the number of decimal places to display.
  • Currency: The currency format is used for monetary values and includes options for displaying currency symbols and specifying decimal places.
  • Percentage: This format is used to display numbers as percentages, and allows users to specify the number of decimal places to display.
  • Date: The date format is used for displaying dates and can be customized to show dates in different styles (e.g. mm/dd/yyyy or dd-mmm-yy).
  • Time: Similar to the date format, the time format is used for displaying time values and can be customized to show times in different styles (e.g. h:mm AM/PM or hh:mm:ss).

These are just a few examples of the many number formats available in Excel. Understanding how to apply and customize number formats can greatly enhance the clarity and usability of your data in Excel.

Step-by-step Guide to Changing to Number Format

Whether you are working with financial data, inventory figures, or any other numerical information in Excel, it is important to ensure that the numbers are displayed in the correct format. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to change to number format in Excel:

A. Open the Excel file that needs the format change

  • First, open the Excel file that contains the data for which you want to change the number format.

B. Select the cells or range of cells that you want to change

  • Using your mouse, click and drag to select the cells or range of cells that you want to change to number format.

C. Click on the 'Number Format' dropdown menu

  • Once the cells are selected, go to the 'Home' tab on the Excel ribbon.
  • Find the 'Number Format' dropdown menu in the 'Number' group.
  • Click on the dropdown menu to see the different number formatting options available.

D. Choose the desired number format option

  • From the dropdown menu, choose the desired number format option that best suits your data. This could be options such as 'Number', 'Currency', 'Percentage', or 'Accounting', among others.

E. Apply the number format to the selected cells

  • After selecting the desired number format option, click on it to apply the format to the selected cells.
  • Your data will now be displayed in the chosen number format, making it easier to read and analyze.

Following these simple steps will allow you to quickly and easily change the number format in Excel, ensuring that your data is presented in the most appropriate and user-friendly way.

Additional Tips for Number Formatting

While changing number formats in Excel is a vital skill, there are some additional tips and tricks that can enhance your number formatting capabilities. Here are some advanced features to further customize your data:

  • Using custom number formats
  • Custom number formats allow you to create your own formatting rules for numbers in Excel. This can be particularly useful when dealing with specific requirements or unique data sets. To use a custom number format, simply select the cell or range of cells you want to format and navigate to the 'Number' tab in the Excel ribbon. From there, choose 'Custom' and enter your desired format using a combination of symbols and text. For example, you can create a custom format to display negative numbers in red or add text before or after the number.

  • Changing decimal places
  • When working with decimal numbers, Excel allows you to easily adjust the number of decimal places displayed. To do this, select the cell or range of cells containing the decimal numbers and go to the 'Number' tab. Then, choose the desired number of decimal places from the 'Decrease Decimal' or 'Increase Decimal' options. This can be particularly useful when dealing with financial data or measurements that require specific precision.

  • Applying currency symbols
  • When working with monetary values, it's important to apply the correct currency symbol to ensure clear and accurate representation of the data. Excel provides a straightforward way to add currency symbols to your numbers. Simply select the cell or range of cells containing the monetary values, go to the 'Number' tab, and choose the desired currency format from the drop-down menu under the 'Number Format' section. This will automatically add the appropriate currency symbol and format the numbers accordingly, making it easier for your audience to understand the financial data.

Why It's Important to Use the Correct Number Format

Using the correct number format in Excel is crucial for maintaining data accuracy and clarity. Here are the key reasons why it's important to pay attention to number formatting:

Avoiding calculation errors

  • When numbers are not properly formatted, Excel may treat them as text, leading to errors in calculations and formulas.
  • By using the correct number format, you ensure that Excel recognizes the data as numerical values and performs calculations accurately.

Enhancing data visualization

  • Number formatting can significantly improve the visual presentation of data, making it easier to interpret and analyze.
  • Whether it's displaying currency, percentages, or decimal points, choosing the right format enhances the clarity of the information being conveyed.

Maintaining consistency in data presentation

  • Consistent use of number formatting across a workbook or dataset helps to create a professional and organized appearance.
  • It also ensures that all users who access the spreadsheet will interpret the data in the same way, avoiding confusion or misinterpretation.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When changing to number format in Excel, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can occur. By understanding these mistakes, you can ensure that your data is accurately formatted and avoid potential errors.

A. Forgetting to select the correct cells

  • Not selecting all the necessary cells: One common mistake is forgetting to select all the cells that require a change in number format. This can result in only a portion of the data being formatted correctly, leading to inconsistencies.
  • Accidentally selecting the wrong cells: Another error is selecting the wrong cells for formatting, which can lead to unintended changes in the data.

B. Applying the wrong number format

  • Choosing the incorrect format: It's crucial to select the right number format for your data, whether it's currency, percentage, or general. Applying the wrong format can lead to misinterpretation of the data.
  • Using custom formats incorrectly: Custom number formats can be powerful, but if used incorrectly, they can distort the data and lead to confusion.

C. Neglecting to review the changes

  • Not double-checking the formatting: After making changes to the number format, failing to review the data can result in overlooked errors or inconsistencies.
  • Ignoring potential formatting issues: Neglecting to address any warning messages or errors when formatting numbers can lead to data inaccuracies.


In conclusion, this tutorial has covered the key steps to change to number format in Excel. We discussed the importance of number formatting for better data presentation and analysis, as well as the steps to do so using the Format Cells dialogue box. I encourage all readers to practice and apply the number format changes in their own Excel files to enhance their data visualization and reporting.

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