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)

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

Finding and Replacing with Subscripts

Want to use Find and Replace to change the formatting of a cell's contents? You would be out of luck; Excel won't let you do ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Alphabetic Characters

When you need to get rid of characters in the middle of a cell value, the best way to do it is through the use of macros. ...

Discover More

Creating Multiple Highlighter Tools

Some people, while developing documents, like to use the Highlighter tool quite a bit. It can quickly get monotonous, ...

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)

Checking for the Existence of a File

The data stored in a worksheet can often correspond to information external to that worksheet. For instance, you might ...

Discover More

Sorting Files

The Open dialog box allows you to sort the files it presents to you. How you do the sorting depends on the version of Word ...

Discover More

Aligning Cells when Importing from CSV

When you import information from a CSV text file, Excel formats the data according to its default settings. Wouldn't it be ...

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 for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

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.

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.

Links and Sharing
Share