Using Custom Number Formats

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 4, 2014)


Excel provides quite a few predefined number formats that you can use. There may be times when you need a number format that isn't pre-defined by Excel. Fortunately, you can create custom number formats that provide you with complete control over how numbers appear.

Custom number formats are created through the use of formatting codes. Before you can create your own custom number formats, you need to understand how the formatting codes work. The next several tips examine each of the formatting codes understood by Excel. (See here, here, and here.) If you study these codes, you will be ready to create your own formats.

Once you understand formatting codes, you can start to create your own formats. This is done by first selecting the cells you want to format and then choosing Cells from the Format menu. When you see the Format Cells dialog box, make sure you select the Number tab and select Custom as the number category, which is the bottom choice in the Category list. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Number tab from the Format Cells dialog box.

In the Type field at the right side of the dialog box is the code for the currently selected number format. You can change these codes or simply enter your own codes. By adding conditionals and colors to your formats, you can get very complex, indeed. Whatever you enter is automatically added to the Custom category, and can be used anywhere within the workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2673) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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What is 5 + 9?

2014-12-05 06:37:30


Thanks a lot!

2014-12-04 17:27:45


Good catch, JMJ. I've updated the tip to include the links.


2014-12-04 10:51:38


Hi Allen,
You say: "The next several tips examine each of the formatting codes understood by Excel"
I'd be very glad to study these codes, but how can I find "The next several tips"? I never found a chronological list of tips :-(
Thank you.

2014-12-01 06:45:33


To hide numbers I usually just put some text enclosed with inverted commas into the format box.

2014-11-30 07:34:48

Michael (Micky) Avidan

I could not find a way to type, anything, in a GENERAL BOX.
On the other hand - if I choose "Custom Format" there is where I, usually, type the formats.
In addition - if you want to hide Numbers and/or Text - use 3 semicolons (;;;).
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2015)

2014-11-29 09:37:52


A custom format that I've found handy is one that hides numbers.

FORMAT/CUSTOM/GENERAL/;; (2 semicolons in the GENERAL box). Numbers in the cell(s) so formatted cannot be seen. (Numbers only, not text.) It's been useful for printing pretty tables when some numbers might just be clutter.

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