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: Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports.

Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 13, 2012)

2

Mark has a text file that he routinely imports into an Excel workbook. The file is created by a different program, and one of the columns in the file contains numbers, the letter "e," and then more numbers. When importing the file into Excel, the column is converted to scientific notation by Excel, rather than being treated as text.

Chances are good that the file you are importing—the one created by the other program—is a CSV file. This means that the values in the file are "comma separated" and easily understood by a program such as Excel. If you open a CSV file, Excel just "does it," without asking very much about the data being imported. This is where the problem would occur—Excel is simply making the assumption that the problem column contains numeric values in scientific notation.

The solution is to get Excel to ask you how you want the data imported. The key to doing this is to rename the file you are importing. Change the file's extension from CSV to something else, such as DAT. When you then try to open the file in Excel (start Excel and then use Open to locate and try to open the newly renamed file), the Import Wizard starts. This wizard gives you complete control over how Excel treats your incoming data.

Most of the wizard is self-explanatory. You'll want to pay particular attention to the third step of the wizard which allows you to specify the data type for each column of the import data. The default data type for each column is "general," which means that Excel tries to interpret the data based upon its regular parsing routines. Instead, you want to locate the column that contains the problem data and specify that the column should be treated as text—exactly what you want.

If you have to import this type of file regularly, you might want to create a macro that does the import for you. All you need to do is use the macro recorder to record each step of the Import Wizard. You can then replay the macro anytime you need to import the file again.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2426) 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: Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports.

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

No-border Text Boxes by Default

Text boxes can be a great design element when laying out your documents. If you want those text boxes to have no borders (or ...

Discover More

Freezing Worksheet Tabs

If you have a lot of worksheets in a workbook, you may wonder if you can "freeze" the position of some of those worksheet ...

Discover More

Strange Message about Others Making Changes in a Workbook

Have you ever tried to save a workbook, only to be notified that someone else has made changes in it? What if you are the ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Using Your Own File Extensions

Don't like the workbook file extensions used by Excel? You can specify your own extensions, as discussed in this tip.

Discover More

Merging Many Workbooks

If you need to combine the contents of a bunch of workbooks into a single workbook, the process can get tedious. Here's a ...

Discover More

Protecting Excel Files from Word

Office easily allows you to use Word to open an Excel document. Doing so, however, can quickly result in and unusable ...

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. 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 7 + 5?

2016-05-27 18:04:25

gabriel

Hi,

Specifying as text for my columns doesn't work. there are still a few that get interpreted as scientific. I was wondering if it is possible to specify as number or if there is an another way around this. Anything helps. Thanks.


2012-12-03 23:31:02

Melissa

Thank you this worked great!


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.