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)

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. ...

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