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

Editing Custom Dictionaries

Custom dictionaries can be great, but they take quite a bit of time to create. Word provides a way you can edit your custom ...

Discover More

Roman Numerals for Page Numbers

Yes, Excel can work with Roman numerals, and it even provides a worksheet function that converts to them. How you use those ...

Discover More

Getting a Word Count

It is often helpful to know how many words you've typed in a document. Perhaps you have a target word count, or you can't go ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Referencing External Cell Colors

If you want to reference cell colors external to your current workbook, there is no way to do it using Excel functions. You ...

Discover More

Changing Font Face and Size Conditionally

Conditional formatting does not allow you to change the typeface and font size used in a cell. You can write your own macro ...

Discover More

Displaying Negative Percentages in Red

Excel includes quite a few different formats you can use for the information in a worksheet. One format that isn't as easy to ...

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 nine minus 3?

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.