Formatting Cells

Basic formatting in Excel can customize the look and feel of your Excel spreadsheet. Learn about formatting cells in Excel here.

Introduction

Video: Formatting Cells

Launch "Formatting Cells" video!Watch the video (4:10).

All cell content uses the same formatting by default, which can make it difficult to read a workbook with a lot of information. Basic formatting can customize the look and feel of your workbook, allowing you to draw attention to specific sections and making your content easier to view and understand. You can also apply number formatting to tell Excel exactly what type of data you’re using in the workbook, such as percentages (%), currency ($), and so on.

Optional: Download our practice workbook.

To change the font:

By default, the font of each new workbook is set to Calibri. However, Excel provides many other fonts you can use to customize your cell text. In the example below, we'll format our title cell to help distinguish it from the rest of the worksheet.

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Font command on the Home tab. The Font drop-down menu will appear.
  3. Select the desired font. A live preview of the new font will appear as you hover the mouse over different options. In our example, we'll choose Georgia.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a font
  4. The text will change to the selected font.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The new font

When creating a workbook in the workplace, you'll want to select a font that is easy to read. Along with Calibri, standard reading fonts include Cambria, Times New Roman, and Arial.

To change the font size:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Font Size command on the Home tab. The Font Size drop-down menu will appear.
  3. Select the desired font size. A live preview of the new font size will appear as you hover the mouse over different options. In our example, we will choose 16 to make the text larger.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a new font size
  4. The text will change to the selected font size.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The new font size

You can also use the Increase Font Size and Decrease Font Size commands or enter a custom font size using your keyboard.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Modifying the font size

To change the font color:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Font Color command on the Home tab. The Color menu will appear.
  3. Select the desired font color. A live preview of the new font color will appear as you hover the mouse over different options. In our example, we'll choose Green.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a font color
  4. The text will change to the selected font color.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The new font color

Select More Colors at the bottom of the menu to access additional color options.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting more colors

To use the Bold, Italic, and Underline commands:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell
  2. Click the Bold (B), Italic (I), or Underline (U) command on the Home tab. In our example, we'll make the selected cells bold.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Clicking the Bold command
  3. The selected style will be applied to the text.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The bold text

You can also press Ctrl+B on your keyboard to make selected text bold, Ctrl+I to apply italics, and Ctrl+U to apply an underline.

Text alignment

By default, any text entered into your worksheet will be aligned to the bottom-left of a cell, while any numbers will be aligned to the bottom-right. Changing the alignment of your cell content allows you to choose how the content is displayed in any cell, which can make your cell content easier to read.

Click the arrows in the slideshow below to learn more about the different text alignment options.

To change horizontal text alignment:

In our example below, we'll modify the alignment of our title cell to create a more polished look and further distinguish it from the rest of the worksheet.

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell
  2. Select one of the three horizontal alignment commands on the Home tab. In our example, we'll choose Center Align.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing Center Align
  3. The text will realign.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The realigned cell text

To change vertical text alignment:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell
  2. Select one of the three vertical alignment commands on the Home tab. In our example, we'll choose Middle Align.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing Middle Align
  3. The text will realign.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The realigned cell text

You can apply both vertical and horizontal alignment settings to any cell.

Cell borders and fill colors

Cell borders and fill colors allow you to create clear and defined boundaries for different sections of your worksheet. Below, we'll add cell borders and fill color to our header cells to help distinguish them from the rest of the worksheet.

To add a border:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell range
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Borders command on the Home tab. The Borders drop-down menu will appear.
  3. Select the border style you want to use. In our example, we will choose to display All Borders.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a border style
  4. The selected border style will appear.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The added cell borders

You can draw borders and change the line style and color of borders with the Draw Borders tools at the bottom of the Borders drop-down menu.

Screenshot of Excel 2013Drawing custom borders

To add a fill color:

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell range
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Fill Color command on the Home tab. The Fill Color menu will appear.
  3. Select the fill color you want to use. A live preview of the new fill color will appear as you hover the mouse over different options. In our example, we'll choose Light Green.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a cell fill color
  4. The selected fill color will appear in the selected cells.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The new fill color

Cell styles

Instead of formatting cells manually, you can use Excel's predesigned cell styles. Cell styles are a quick way to include professional formatting for different parts of your workbook, such as titles and headers.

To apply a cell style:

In our example, we'll apply a new cell style to our existing title and header cells.

  1. Select the cell(s) you want to modify.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell range
  2. Click the Cell Styles command on the Home tab, then choose the desired style from the drop-down menu. In our example, we'll choose Accent 1.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing a cell style
  3. The selected cell style will appear.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013The new cell style

Applying a cell style will replace any existing cell formatting except for text alignment. You may not want to use cell styles if you've already added a lot of formatting to your workbook.

Formatting text and numbers

One of the most powerful tools in Excel is the ability to apply specific formatting for text and numbers. Instead of displaying all cell content in exactly the same way, you can use formatting to change the appearance of dates, times, decimals, percentages (%), currency ($), and much more.

To apply number formatting:

In our example, we'll change the number format for several cells to modify the way dates are displayed.

  1. Select the cells(s) you want to modify.


    Screenshot of Excel 2013Selecting a cell range
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Number Format command on the Home tab. The Number Formatting drop-down menu will appear.
  3. Select the desired formatting option. In our example, we will change the formatting to Long Date.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013Choosing Long Date
  4. The selected cells will change to the new formatting style. For some number formats, you can then use the Increase Decimal and Decrease Decimal commands (below the Number Format command) to change the number of decimal places that are displayed.
    Screenshot of Excel 2013The applied number formatting

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about different text and number formatting options.

labeled graphic

General

General is the default format for any cell. When you enter a number into the cell, Excel will guess the number format that is most appropriate.

For example, if you enter 1-5, the cell will display the number as a Short Date, 1/5/2010.

Number

Number formats numbers with decimal places.

For example, if you enter 4 into the cell, the cell will display the number as 4.00.

Accounting

Accounting formats numbers as monetary values like the Currency format, but it also aligns currency symbols and decimal places within columns.

This format makes it easier to read long lists of currency figures.

Currency

Currency formats numbers as currency with a currency symbol.

For example, if you enter 4 into the cell, the cell will display the number as $4.00.

More Number Formats

You can easily customize any format in More Number Formats.

For example, with this feature you can change the U.S. dollar sign to another currency, have numbers display commas, and change the number of displayed decimal places.

Text

Text formats numbers as text, meaning what you enter into the cell will appear exactly as it was entered.

Excel defaults to this setting if a cell contains both text and numbers.

Scientific

Scientific formats numbers in scientific notation.

For example, if you enter 140000 into the cell, then the cell will display the number as 1.40E+05.

Note: By default, Excel will format the cell in scientific notation if it contains a large integer. If you do not want Excel to format large integers with scientific notation, use the Number format.

Fraction

Fraction formats numbers as fractions separated by the forward slash.

For example, if you enter 1/4 into the cell, the cell will display the number as 1/4. If you enter 1/4 into a cell that is formatted as General, the cell will display the number as a date, 4-Jan.

Percentage

Percentage formats numbers with decimal places and the percent sign.

For example, if you enter 0.75 into the cell, the cell will display the number as 75.00%.

Time

Time formats numbers as HH/MM/SS and notes AM or PM.

For example, time would appear as 10:25:00 AM.

Long Date

Long Date formats numbers as Weekday, Month DD, YYYY.

For example, the date would appear as Monday, August 14, 2013.

Short Date

Short Date formats numbers as M/D/YYYY.

For example, August 8, 2013, would be 8/8/2013.

Challenge!

  1. Open an existing Excel 2013 workbook. If you want, you can use our practice workbook.
  2. Select a cell and change the font style, size, and color of the text. If you are using the example, change the title in cell A3 to Verdana font style, size 16, with a font color of green.
  3. Apply bold, italics, or underline to a cell. If you are using the example, bold the text in cell range A4:C4.
  4. Try changing the vertical and horizontal text alignment for some cells.
  5. Add a border to a cell range. If you are using the example, add a border to the header cells in in row 4.
  6. Change the fill color of a cell range. If you are using the example, add a fill color to row 4.
  7. Try changing the formatting of a number. If you are using the example, change the date formatting in cell range D4:H4 to Long Date.