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: Changing Input Conventions.

Changing Input Conventions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 29, 2016)


Roy is from the UK but he works in Italy. There are two major differences in how Excel works on his system in Italy when compared to how his UK system works. One is that commas are used instead of decimal points. The second is that when Roy is working with functions he must enter semicolons between function parameters instead of commas. Both differences are frustrating to him, as he is used to entering decimal points and commas (in functions) without even thinking about it. Roy wonders if there is a way to make the Italian version of Excel function like his copy back in the UK.

A partial solution for the decimal point and separators in numbers can be realized by overriding, within Excel, the symbols used for the decimal point and thousands. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the International tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The advanced options of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Uncheck the checkbox for Use System Separators.
  5. Enter the desired separators for Decimal and Thousands.
  6. Click OK.

This will not solve the entire problem, however. The better solution is to leave Excel unchanged and make your configuration changes in Windows itself. Follow these general steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Open the Regional and Language Options applet and display the Regional Options tab.
  3. Change the language setting in the drop-down menu from Italian (Italy) to English (United Kingdom).
  4. If you can't change the language setting (some implementations of Windows are a pain), you may need to experiment a bit and change the settings for the decimal and thousands separators.
  5. Click OK.

You may have to restart Excel for these changes to be fully implemented.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7659) 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: Changing Input Conventions.

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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What is five more than 3?

2014-11-10 05:37:48


Thank you! The commas and dots almost had me pulling my hair out after a new installation of Excel. I changed my Windows settings and all is well again.

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