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Converting Forced Text to Numbers

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Converting Forced Text to Numbers.

When you enter information in a worksheet, Excel does its best to decipher what type of data you are entering. If your entry can be translated as a number or a date, then Excel treats it that way. You can overcome this natural tendency of Excel by formatting a cell as text before entering information in it. When you do, the information in the cell is always treated as text.

Of course, forcing Excel to treat your input as text can have unwanted repercussions later. For instance, you may decide that you want to add up the contents of cells that are formatted as text. If you use a formula such as the following, then Excel has no problem:

=A1 + A2

Excel provides the correct sum, provided at least one of the cells (A1 or A2) was not formatted as text. To make matters tricky, however, if you use the SUM function (which most people do when summing an entire column or row), then you won't get the proper sum. The SUM function ignores any cells formatted as text. How do you get around this?

It is possible to remove the text formatting attribute from the cells you want to sum, but that won't cause Excel to reassess the contents of the cells and treat them as numbers or dates, where appropriate. There are several different ways you can force the conversion of forced text into numeric values, ranging from macros to using formulas in other columns to perform the conversion. The following two solutions, however, seem to be the easiest and quickest.

The first method is accomplished by following these steps:

  1. Enter the value 1 in an empty cell.
  2. Select the cell and press Ctrl+C. The value is now in the Clipboard.
  3. Select the range of cells you want to convert to numbers.
  4. Choose Paste Special from the Edit menu. Excel displays the Paste Special dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Paste Special dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Multiply radio button is selected.
  7. Click on OK.

This works because Excel multiples each cell in the range (step 3) by the value in the Clipboard and then again stores the value in the cell. Since any number multiplied by one is that same number, you effectively force Excel to replace the contents of the cell with the numerical equivalent of the text that was previously there.

If the range you want to convert contains only numbers formatted as text and not any actual text, then the following steps work well:

  1. Select the range of cells you want to convert to numbers.
  2. Choose Text to Columns from the Data menu. Excel displays the Convert Text to Columns Wizard. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The Convert Text to Columns Wizard.

  4. Click on Finish.

If you try these three steps on a range of cells that has text containing spaces or tabs, it is possible that you could overwrite data in columns to the right of the selected range. That is why it is safest to use if the range only contains numeric values formatted as text.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2670) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Converting Forced Text to Numbers.

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Comments for this tip:

jss    19 Sep 2016, 12:29
This did not work for me. When I chose paste special I get a box that asks if I want to insert the contents of the clipboard as a unicode text or text. The numbers I am trying to add are transfered to this page by the following formula:
=IF(SLIP!$C5="","",CONCATENATE(" ",SLIP!$C5)).

Slip is the worksheet where the original numbers are located.

Any help would be appreciated.
Kari    10 Feb 2016, 14:02
OMG Thank you!!!!
I've pressed F2 so. many. times.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Joe    01 Feb 2016, 13:44
Can anyone expound on the following:
I have 10 numbers in a column, originally copy/pasted into Excel as text. When I highlight the column, I get green triangles and the option to "Convert to numbers," which I do, and the green triangles go away.

But the drop-down menu in the Numbers menu still lists them as "General." So I highlight the column again and select Format > Format Cells > Numbers.

So what is the difference? And how does this jibe with the rest of the tips given on this page?
DK    17 Jun 2015, 08:43
Select the cells and do Ctrl + Find and under the Replace tab insert , (i.e. comma) in Find field and keep the replace field blank. This will convert all text to numbers.
K Moore    26 Feb 2015, 14:19
Your simple method worked, thank you!
Michael (Micky) Avidan    02 May 2014, 09:25
For general knowledge.
Knowing that the numbers were typed into a pre-formatted TEXT range (the green dialog window) - there is no problem to ADD them with: SUM.

Assuming H1:H6 were formatted as Text BEFORE(!) typing 6 values - one can use an Array(!) Foruma to SUM those cells.

=SUM(--(H1:H6)) (double minus signs)

have a look here: http://i58.tinypic.com/xd9ykm.png

Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2014)

ellemmcee    02 May 2014, 04:07
This just saved me a heck of a lot of time pressing F2 then Enter 2000 times to convert cells to numbers. Thanking you kindly!
Petr    22 Apr 2013, 06:11
Thank you very much! I was basically banging my head against the table until I found your solution to this "feature".
surekha    03 Apr 2013, 13:06
when i need to convert the text file to excel, it is taking some numbers are as text. it is the one great obstacle for calculation. so can anyone tell the right way for doing....
Vesna Zeidel    14 Mar 2013, 07:43
Thanks a lot!!!! It was very helpfull!!
jim murray    13 Feb 2013, 12:46
Is there a wat to convert a text credit to an excel negative number?
karen    06 Nov 2012, 02:31
I am trying to copy and paste lines like this 5/9H 4°/4 2°/2 2/HD 1/H into excel 2007.Each one in it's own cell.I will replace the forward slash with a decimal and delete the circles and letters.When i try to convert them to number like your example,nothing happens!

Any information on this would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time.
Jose Salinas    24 Sep 2012, 22:36
When I do in a manual way, the first method, everything is o.k., but if I do a macro with the same procedure, is not working. I try the macro in diferentways, but still not working.

So, please help me

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