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: Parsing Non-Standard Date Formats.

Parsing Non-Standard Date Formats

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 11, 2015)

Bill is faced with the challenge of importing data into Excel that was originally created in other applications. The problem is that the data contains lots of dates, but they are in a format that Excel doesn't understand. For instance, the dates may be in the format 01.15.11 or 1.15.2011, neither of which is treated as a date by Excel. Bill wants to know how to convert the non-standard dates to a date format that Excel understands.

If the dates are in the same sequence format that you use in your regional settings, then converting is a snap. For instance, if your regional settings use the date format MDY (month followed by day followed by year), and the date you are importing is in the same format, then you can simply select the cells and replace the periods with a slash. When Excel changes 1.15.2011 to 1/15/2011, it automatically parses the result as a date.

If the format you are importing doesn't match your regional settings, then you need to shuffle around the date into the same format. For instance, if the date you are importing is 01.10.11 (January 10, 2011), and your system would interpret this as October 1, 2011, then the easiest way is to separate the date into individual components, and then put them back together. Follow these general steps:

  1. Insert three blank columns to the right of the date column.
  2. Select the cells containing the non-standard dates.
  3. Using the Text to Columns Wizard (Data | Text to Columns) choose delimited data and use a period as the delimiter. After the wizard is done, you end up with three columns containing the month, day, and year.
  4. In the remaining blank column, enter a formula such as the following:
  5.      =DATE(C1,A1,B1)
    
  6. Copy the formula down to other cells next to the dates.
  7. Select the cells containing the formulas you just created, then press Ctrl+C.
  8. Use Paste Special to convert the formulas to results. (Select the Values option when using Paste Special.)
  9. Delete the three columns that contain the separated dates, and keep the column that contains the final dates.

Another solution is to simply use a macro to do the conversion. The following is a user-defined function that takes the non-standard date and converts it to a properly formatted date value. The macro also switches around the position of the month and day, as done in the Text to Columns technique.

Public Function Convert_Date(A As String) As Date
    Dim K As Long
    Dim K1 As Long
    Dim K2 As Long

    K = Len(A)
    K1 = InStr(1, A, ".")
    K2 = InStr(K1 + 1, A, ".")
    Convert_Date = DateSerial(Val(Mid(A, K2 + 1, _
      K - K2 + 1)), Val(Mid(A, K1 + 1, K2 - K1)), _
      Val(Mid(A, 1, K1 - 1)))
End Function

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3191) 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: Parsing Non-Standard Date 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

Finding a Missing Toolbar

A few methods for finding an errant toolbar in Word.

Discover More

Copying Styles

Styles can make your worksheet formatting easier and more consistent. Here's how to copy styles from an existing workbook ...

Discover More

Changing the Reference in a Named Range

Define a named range today and you may want to change the definition at some future point. It's rather easy to do, as ...

Discover More

Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

The EDATE Function

Want to figure a date a certain number of months in the future or past? The EDATE function may be just what you need for ...

Discover More

Automatically Advancing by a Month

Excel allows you to perform quite a few operations using dates in your worksheet. Sometimes, however, the answer may not ...

Discover More

Using Excel for Timing

Excel allows you to store times in a worksheet. If you want to use Excel to time certain events, there are a couple of ...

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 eight less than 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.