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: Entering Dates in Excel.

Entering Dates in Excel

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 31, 2017)

1

Dates are a special case in Excel. If you enter information that can be translated as a date (by any stretch of the imagination), then Excel treats it as a date. It converts your data into a serial number that is internally used to represent dates and times. For instance, any of the following entries will be translated to a date by Excel:

  • 12/15
  • 12-15/12
  • 15 Dec
  • December 15, 2012

If you enter the first example, Excel will convert it to a date and display that date as best it can determine. If you leave off the year in your entry, Excel assumes you mean the current year. You could also use dashes instead of slashes and Excel will still figure out you are entering a date.

Regardless of how you type a date, it is converted to a special serial number by Excel and stored internally in that format. How you see the date on your screen is a consequence of how the cell is formatted. Even though Excel stores dates in a standard format internally, they can be displayed using any number of different formats.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2177) 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: Entering Dates in Excel.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Choosing an Equation Style

You can define styles for different characters used in the Equation Editor. It is not as full-featured as styles in Word, but ...

Discover More

Identifying Merged Cells

Merging cells is a common task when creating worksheets. Merged cells can play havoc with the normal functioning of some of ...

Discover More

Converting Mainframe Date Formats

Different industries and different computer systems specify dates in all sorts of strange ways. If you need to convert a date ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Entering Data as Thousands

There are many different ways you may need to enter data in a worksheet. For instance, you might want to enter data in ...

Discover More

Modifying Default Year for Dates

When entering dates into a worksheet, you may want the dates to default to last year instead of this year. Here's a way you ...

Discover More

Recording a Data Entry Time

When entering information in a worksheet, it is common to also note a date or time corresponding to the entry. There are ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 4 + 3?

2017-01-16 10:48:09

John

Is there a way to set up a date range, so that instead of taking the current year, it takes the closest possible date?

I need to enter a lot of dates that are a month ahead or behind... so entering for January in December, or for last December now that it is January, can be frustrating and error prone.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.