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: Adding a Custom Format to those Offered by Excel.

Adding a Custom Format to those Offered by Excel

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 25, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


When you display the Format Cells dialog box (Format | Cells) and click Custom on the Number tab, Excel displays a list of custom formats. Some of these formats are provided by Excel by default, and others reflect custom formats used within the current workbook.

If you spend some time developing a custom format, it would be helpful to have that format always appear in the list of custom formats, regardless of which workbook you are using. Unfortunately, that is not in the cards for Excel; it lists only those custom formats unique to the current workbook.

There are a couple of workarounds, however. The first is a natural extension to what is already mentioned in this tip—that the custom list includes any custom formats that have been defined in the current workbook. This means that you could replace Excel's default workbook with one of your own, and the custom format will be available in the list provided the format was defined in the workbook you saved as the default.

Sound confusing? It doesn't need to; all you need to do is start with a brand new workbook and define the custom format. Then, save the workbook as a template under the name Book.xlt, in the XLStart folder. (Just use Windows' Search tool to look locate the XLStart folder.) This file (Book.xlt) then becomes the basis for all new workbooks, which means the custom format will be available in them. It will not affect any existing workbooks.

One problem with using the default-workbook approach is that the custom format, while included in the list, is at the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, there is no way to get your own preferred set of custom formats at the top of the list. There is a quick way to get exactly the custom formats you want, however—use macros.

Seriously, you can create a macro that applies a custom format of any desired type. The macro can be stored with individual workbooks or stored in the Personal.xls workbook so it is available to all workbooks on a system. You can use shortcut keys with the macro so that the format can be applied with a single keypress, or you can assign the macro to a toolbar button or custom menu so that it can be applied using the mouse.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3096) 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: Adding a Custom Format to those Offered by Excel.

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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