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

Extra Spaces after Inserting a Building Block

Building blocks are a great tool for inserting standard information in your documents. It is also possible, however, to get ...

Discover More

Changing Shortcut Properties

Want to change how a shortcut behaves when you double-click it? Just display the Properties dialog box for the shortcut and ...

Discover More

Getting Identical Margins

Need to get the margins on your document exactly right? It can be a challenge to get the Word settings where you need them ...

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)

Custom Formats for Scientific Notation

Excel allows you to format your numeric values in a wide variety of ways. One such formatting option is to display numbers in ...

Discover More

Too Many Cell Formats

The error message "too many cell formats" can be difficult to fix. This tip describes ways you can attempt to get rid of the ...

Discover More

Formatting Raw Data

When you get a bunch of raw data into Excel from an external source, it isn't going to be formatted to your liking. The ...

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 four less than 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.