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: Setting a Default Date Format.

Setting a Default Date Format

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 2, 2015)

When Jerry enters a date in his worksheet he prefers the format dd/mm/yyyy which does not appear as a standard format in the Format Cells dialog box. He can create a custom format for the date, but he must do that every time he enters a date in a new workbook. Jerry wonders if there is some way to make his desired date format the standard.

There are a couple of things you can do to approach this issue. First, you can take a look at how you are formatting your dates. Instead of using a custom format, you can simply change the format locale used for your dates by Excel. Follow these steps to do your formatting:

  1. Select the cell (or cells) you want to format.
  2. Choose Cells from the Format menu. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Number tab is selected.
  4. Click Date at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  6. Using the Locale drop-down list, choose a country or region that uses the date format you want to use. In the case of Jerry's need, picking English (United Kingdom) is a good choice. Excel modifies the date formats available to you.
  7. Select the desired date format.
  8. Click on OK.

Another approach is to simply change the regional settings in Windows itself. You do this using the Control Panel options (look for Regional Settings in your Control Panel) and changing them to a country that uses the format you want. Excel bases its default date formatting options on which region you specify.

Finally, if you prefer you can create a cell formatting style that uses a data format of dd/mm/yyyy. If you create the style in a blank workbook, you can then save the workbook as a template and then use it to create new workbooks in the future. Since the new workbooks are based on the template, the cell formatting style would be available to apply to any cells in the workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11574) 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: Setting a Default Date 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. ...

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