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: Faster Text File Conversions.

Faster Text File Conversions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 7, 2014)

Pat wondered how to change the default column data type from "general" to "text" for all columns of a comma-delimited text file. Changing the format of each column, especially when there are many of them, can be tedious at best.

Unfortunately, there is no way to change the default. However, the changing of the column data types can be done much more easily by applying a little of the "pick and choose" features available in most Windows programs. Follow these steps:

  1. Start to import your comma-delimited text file as you normally would.
  2. When the dialog box is displayed that allows you to change column data types, select the first column in the table.
  3. Scroll to the right in the dialog box so the last column in the table is visible.
  4. Hold down the Shift key as you click on the last column. Now all the columns should be selected.
  5. Change the data type to Text.
  6. Continue with the import, as usual.

If you prefer an even faster way of inputting the information from the comma-delimited text file, you can do so using a macro, thereby skipping the Excel import filters entirely. The following macro, entitled (appropriately enough) Import, will do the trick:

Sub Import()
    Open "d:\data.txt" For Input As #1
    R = 1
    While Not EOF(1) 'Scan file line by line
        C = 1
        Entry = ""
        Line Input #1, Buffer
        Length = Len(Buffer)
        i = 1
        While i <= Length 'split string into cells
            If (Mid(Buffer, i, 1)) = "," Then
                With Application.Cells(R, C)
                    .NumberFormat = "@" 'Text formatting
                    .Value = Entry
                End With
                C = C + 1
                Entry = ""
            Else
                Entry = Entry + Mid(Buffer, i, 1)
            End If
            i = i + 1
        Wend
        If Len(Entry) > 0 Then
            With Application.Cells(R, C)
                .NumberFormat = "@" 'Text formatting
                .Value = Entry
            End With
        End If
        R = R + 1
    Wend
    Close #1
End Sub

You should note that you can change the first line of the macro to represent the name of the file you are importing. You should also understand that this macro works on the simplest of comma-delimited text files. If the file was created with quote marks around each field (as is sometimes the case), then the macro will not give the desired results and would need to be changed to compensate for the quote marks. Or, as an alternative, you could simply use search for and remove the quotes after the macro is through importing the information.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2235) 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: Faster Text File Conversions.

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. ...

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