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 a Custom Format to Add Dashes.

Using a Custom Format to Add Dashes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 31, 2015)

Justin has part numbers that he routinely uses in a worksheet, such as 660501C016971. He would like to apply a custom format to the cell and have the part number automatically displayed with dashes at the proper location, such as 6605-01-C01-6971.

Unfortunately this cannot be done with a custom format. Why? Because custom formats are for the display of numbers, not text. There is one text format, designated by the "at" symbol (@), but that is it; there are no others and no others can be defined.

Since custom formats cannot be used, one is left to figure out a workaround. One way to do it is to examine your part numbers and see if the text portion of the number can be removed and the part number still be usable. For instance, Justin's number is 660501C016971. If the format for the part number always calls for the letter C at the same point in the part number (and no other possible letters there), then you could simply delete the C and be left with the number 660501016971. Since it is a number, you can develop a custom format for it that includes dashes in the proper places and the letter C in the proper place. The custom format would look like this:

0000-00-C00-0000

With the format applied to a cell that contains the number 660501016971, you would end up with a correctly formatted part number displayed: 6605-01-C01-6971. This approach does have drawbacks, however. The biggest drawback is that if you ever want to export the part numbers to another program, perhaps as a CSV file, what ends up exporting is the original number without the formatting or the letter C.

Another workaround is to use a formula to display the part numbers in the format you desire. You could enter them into a cell without dashes, and then use the formula to add the dashes at the appropriate places. When creating reports, then, you would simply hide the column that contains the part numbers without the dashes. Here's a formula that will work, provided the part number without dashes is in cell A1:

=LEFT(A1,4) & "-" & MID(A1,5,2) & "-" & MID(A1,7,3) & "-" & RIGHT(A1,4)

If you work with the part numbers quite a bit, you might want a way to both add and remove the dashes easily. The best way to do this is with a macro. You can develop a macro that will allow you to add and remove the dashes from a part number in a selected range of cells. The following is an example of such a macro.

Sub DashesIn()
    DoDashes ("In")
End Sub
Sub DashesOut()
    DoDashes ("Out")
End Sub
Private Sub DoDashes(What As String)
    Dim c As Range
    Dim J As Integer

    For Each c In Selection.Cells
        If c.Value <> "" Then
            J = InStr(c.Value, "-")
            Select Case What
                Case "Out"
                    While J > 0
                        c.Value = Left(c.Value, J - 1) & _
                          Mid(c.Value, J + 1, Len(c.Value))
                        J = InStr(c.Value, "-")
                    Wend
                Case "In"
                    If J = 0 Then
                        c.Value = _
                          Left(c.Value, 4) & "-" & _
                          Mid(c.Value, 5, 2) & "-" & _
                          Mid(c.Value, 7, 3) & "-" & _
                          Right(c.Value, 4)
                    End If
            End Select
        End If
    Next c
End Sub

Note that there are actually three macros in this listing. The first (DashesIn) adds dashes to a part number, while the second (DashesOut) removes them. Simply select the cells containing the part numbers and then run the macro that will perform the operation you want done.

Both DashesIn and DashesOut call the common routine, DoDashes, to actually do the work. The macro examines all the cells in the selection and then performs whatever operation needs to be done on the contents of those cells.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3231) 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 a Custom Format to Add Dashes.

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

Reducing File Sizes for Workbooks with PivotTables

Need to reduce the size of your workbooks that contain PivotTables? Here's something you can try to minimize the ...

Discover More

Making Banners in Word

Word can be used for printing a variety of document types. You may want to use the program to print a festive banner for a ...

Discover More

Inserting Page Number Cross-References

Want to insert a dynamic cross-reference to a particular page number? It's easy to do following the steps in this tip.

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

No New Fonts Error

Sometimes Excel does things that may appear just plain wacky. This particular tip deals with an issue that could crop up when ...

Discover More

Shrinking Cell Contents

Need to cram a bunch of text all on a single line in a cell? You can do it with one of the lesser-known settings in Excel.

Discover More

Formatting for Hundredths of Seconds

When you display a time in a cell, Excel normally displays just the hours, minutes, and seconds. If you want to display 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 7 + 5?

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.