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: Using an Input Mask.

Using an Input Mask

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 12, 2018)

When inputting time into a cell, it is easy to enter digits—that's what the numeric keypad is for, after all. What can really slow you down is the necessity to enter other characters, particularly ones that require the use of the Shift key. For instance, if you are entering times, it is easy to enter 230 for 2:30, but it is a pain to slow down by entering the colon.

Thus, you may wonder if there is a way to set up an input mask that will add the colon automatically. The good news is yes, there is. The bad news is no, there isn't. Sound confusing? Let me explain...

You can set up a custom format that will display your time in any format you want. For instance, you could use the following steps:

  1. Select the cells you want to use for time input.
  2. Choose Format from the Cells menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Number tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  5. In the Category list, choose Custom.
  6. Replace whatever is in the Type box with #":"00 (a pound sign, quote mark, colon, quote mark, and two zeros).
  7. Click on OK.

You can now enter your times using just digits. The problem (and this is the bad news) is that the cell doesn't really contain a time. If you enter 230 (for 2:30), it doesn't contain 2:30 as a time—it contains two hundred and thirty. Thus, you can't use the contents of the cell directly in time calculations.

To overcome this, you can use another column to show the entered digits converted into a time. All you need to do is use a formula to do the conversions. For instance, if the time you entered was in cell A3, you could use the following formula in a different cell to do the conversion:

=(INT(A3/100)/24)+((A3 - (INT(A3/100)*100))/1440)

Format the cell that contains the above formula so it displays one of the various time formats, and you are all set.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2746) 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: Using an Input Mask.

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

Searching for Text With a Certain Format

The Find and Replace tool in Word is very powerful. You can use it to search not only for text but for the formatting ...

Discover More

Freezing Top Rows and Bottom Rows

Freezing the top rows in a worksheet so that they are always visible is easy to do. Freezing the bottom rows is not so ...

Discover More

Calculating the Median Age of a Group of People

Suppose you have a worksheet that contains a list of ages and then a count of people who correspond with those ages. You ...

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)

Picking a Contiguous Range of Cells

There are a variety of ways to pick a range of cells in Excel. Here are three of them you'll find useful.

Discover More

Undoing an Edit

We all make mistakes. Fortunately, Excel makes it rather easy to undo your makes, right after you make them.

Discover More

Canceling an Edit

When editing a cell, you may want to cancel the edit at some point. There are two ways to do this, both described in this ...

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 five minus 4?

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.

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.