Formatting Cells

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

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 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 formats numbers with decimal places.

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


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 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 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 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 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 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 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.