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: Getting Rid of Leading Zeros in a Number Format.

Getting Rid of Leading Zeros in a Number Format

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 26, 2015)

When you enter a numeric value into a cell, by default Excel will display a leading zero on values that are less than 1. For instance, if you enter the value 1.234 into a cell, Excel displays just that: 1.234. If you enter .234 into the same cell, Excel includes the leading zero: 0.234.

If you want to get rid of the leading zeros, then you need to rely upon a custom format. This is rather easy to create; just follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell (or cells) that you want to format.
  2. Choose Cells from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. If the Number tab is not displayed, select it.
  4. In the Category list, choose Custom. The dialog box changes so you can enter a custom format. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  6. In the Type box, enter the following pattern: .###
  7. Click OK.

That's it; the number in the cell will no longer have a leading zero if it is less than 1. There are some caveats to this, however. First, if the number you enter in the cell has more than three digits after the decimal place, then the number will be rounded (for display purposes) to only three digits. If you are going to routinely have more than three digits in the value, you should increase the number of hash marks (#) in the custom format.

Second, if the value you enter into the cell has fewer than three digits to the right of the decimal place, then only the number of digits required will be displayed. Thus, if you have multiple cells formatted this way, it is very possible for the numbers to not "line up" along the decimal point. The solution to this is to change the format to something that will always display the same number of digits after the decimal point. A good choice is, in step 5, use the format ".000" (without the quote marks). This format will always display three digits after the decimal point, adding zeros to the end of the value, if necessary.

You could also change the format a bit if you want things to line up on the decimal point, but you don't want any trailing zeros. Try replacing the hash marks (#) in the custom format in step 5 with question marks. Thus, you would use ".???" instead of ".###". This results in up to three digits being displayed, but if there are fewer than three digits the remaining question marks are replaced with spaces.

Third, if the value you enter into the cell is a whole number, then it will always be displayed with a decimal point. Thus, entering 3 in the cell results in the display of 3., with the decimal point. For most people this won't be a big deal, and there is no easy way to modify the custom format to remove the decimal point from whole numbers.

Fourth, if you enter 0 in the cell, it won't be displayed at all. Instead you get a single decimal point in the cell and nothing else. The way around this problem is to make your custom format just a bit more complex. In step 5, above, enter the following as the custom format:

[=0]0;[<1].000;General

This custom format indicates that a 0 value should be shown as 0, any value less than 1 should be shown with no leading zero and three digits to the right of the decimal point, and anything else should be displayed using the General format.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10029) 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: Getting Rid of Leading Zeros in a Number Format.

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

Using the CONCATENATE Worksheet Function

The process of combining string (text) values to make a new string is called concatenation. Excel provides the CONCATENATE ...

Discover More

Full Path Names in Excel

Need to know what the full path name is for the current workbook? With a simple macro you can display the full path name in ...

Discover More

Placing Textbox Text Into a Worksheet

Want to get rid of your text boxes and move their text into the worksheet? It's going to take a macro-based approach, ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Formatted Dates Appear Differently on Different Systems

When you format a date in a specific manner, you may be surprised to see that the format changes when you open the workbook ...

Discover More

Retaining Formatting After a Paste Multiply

You can use the Paste Special feature in Excel to multiple the values in a range of cells. If you don't want Excel to mess up ...

Discover More

Turning Off Names

You can use some of the tools in Excel to convert cell references in formulas into names. Converting back (from names into ...

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 five minus 0?

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.