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 Fractional Number Formats.

Using Fractional Number Formats

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 29, 2014)

2

Excel supports fractional number formats when displaying numbers in a cell. In some industries, fractions are the norm. For instance, the building industry routinely uses fractions to measure lumber and distances. If you format a cell correctly, you can enter a number as 12.25 and have it displayed as 12 1/4.

You can specify a pre-defined fractional number format by following these steps:

  1. Select the cell (or cells) you want to format.
  2. Choose Cell from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Number tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cell dialog box.

  5. In the Category list, at the left side of the dialog box, choose Fraction.
  6. In the Type list, at the right side of the dialog box, choose the type of fraction you want displayed.
  7. Click on OK.

Even though you can use the predefined fractional formats, there is a good chance these will not meet all your fractional needs. When you define your own fraction formats, Excel assumes that if you provide digit place holders on both sides of the slash (/), you are defining a fractional format. For instance, if you are working with inches, you can define the following format:

#-#/##\"

This results in numbers such as 18.75 being displayed as 18-3/4". (The backslash indicates that the following character should be used literally as is, in this case the quote mark.) This is exactly what the building contractor may need to convey specifications or other measurements.

When you define fractional formats, make sure you use, as the denominator to the fraction, the maximum number of digits you want to appear there. Since there are two digits in the denominator of the above example, the largest fraction that can be displayed using this format is 98/99. If you want larger denominators, you must format for them explicitly, as in:

#–#/###\"

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2759) 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 Fractional Number Formats.

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 Comments

Need to find that misplaced comment in your worksheet? It's easy to do using the Find and Replace capabilities of Excel.

Discover More

Using WordArt in Excel

The WordArt program has been available in Office for a long, long time. It allows you to (dare I say it) create art from ...

Discover More

Implementing a Dynamic Document Control Table

Accurately and repeatedly referencing information within a document is a common task that needs to be done. One way to ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Handling Leading Zeros in CSV Files

When dealing with files containing comma-separated values, you want to make sure that what gets imported into Excel reflects ...

Discover More

Creating a Center Across Selection Button

The ability to center text across a range of cells has long been a staple of experienced Excel users. Here's how to create a ...

Discover More

Copying Formats to a New Worksheet

Do you want to copy formats from one worksheet to another? You can do so easily by using the Format Painter. It even works on ...

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 3 + 8?

2012-02-21 16:36:56

Linda Scheibel

Thanks for a great tip -- I never would have found this tip elsewhere. Great website!


2012-02-18 03:56:11

jmj

Better: "think metric !" ;-)


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.