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: Decimal Tab Alignment.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 30, 2017)
If you have ever aligned numeric information in Word using decimal tabs, you know they can be very handy. The tabs even align text (with no decimal point) to the left of an assumed decimal point, with everything nice and tidy.
Unfortunately, Excel has no such similar feature as a "decimal tab." While it is very easy to get things lined up if they include decimals (at least if they contain the same number of digits to the right of the decimal), adding text into a cell can throw everything out of whack.
To closely approximate the behavior of decimal tab alignment, follow these steps:
Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.
_(* #,##0.00_);_(* (#,##0.00);_(* "-"??_);_(@_._0_0_)
Figure 2. The Alignment tab of the Format Cells dialog box.
The format you are setting up in step 5 allows for two decimal places and parentheses around negative numbers. In addition, for text it leaves room after the text for a period, two zeros, and the optional closing bracket. Step 7 is necessary so that Excel pushes text up to the right end of the cell. Since the format you specified leaves room for the decimal point and everything after it, the text appears to align just to the left of where the period would appear.
Understand that this is only an approximation of the decimal tab alignment offered in Word. There are still a few things you can't do. In Word, if you enter text and it is decimal aligned, and the text includes a period, then the period is aligned as if it were a decimal point. If you put a period in the text entered in a cell that is formatted as directed above, the period will not be treated as a decimal point.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2765) 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: Decimal Tab Alignment.
Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!
Excel, by default, displays numbers with a leading zero, if they are less than 1. Here's how you can get rid of those leading ...Discover More
Need the contents of a cell to be shown in a direction different than normal? Excel makes it easy to have your content appear ...Discover More
You can shade your cells by filling them with a pattern. Here's how to select the pattern you want used.Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
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.