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Not only does Excel have a wealth of built-in formats for various numbers and text entries, you also have the ability to create your own formats. Let's look at some data from a couple of different perspectives. You may have noticed this column here, column D Social Security number, column E phone numbers. Both of these examples here show that data not being formatted. I think almost anybody would say this is not as easier to read as it could be and should be. Right-click Format Cells or press Ctrl+ 1. Built-in as an automatic format you don't have to create any kind of custom format here, in the category called Special you'll see Social Security Number. Use it! Don't type the hyphens.
Ideally if you are setting up a field to contain Social Security numbers, format this before the data goes in. And when you make your data entries, do not type the hyphens. The format is there. You look in the Formula bar, you don't see the hyphens. Same idea with the phone number. Right- click, Format Cells, Special, Phone Number. There we go. Don't type the parenthesis, the space, the hyphen. Why type 14 characters when you need only type 10. And again when you are editing or making the data entry, just type the numbers.
Here too ideally it's best apply to the format before you put in the data. And then from the beginning it makes it easy and fast. Now what if you prefer your own format here? I wouldn't suggest this is better necessarily. But you probably have seen formats where the phone number has a decimal point after the area code and between the exchange in the last four digits. Suppose you want that kind of a format. Ctrl+1 or right-click here, Ctrl+1 this time a Custom format. And how do we begin with this? Anything that might appear in this panel, just get rid of it.
And certainly not so obvious here, but three zeros and then within double quotes a period and then three more zeros. Each 0 represents a number. And then within double quotes another period and then 0000 and we see that display. It certainly does take up less space and if you are used it that's just fine, and there are any number of variations on the formatting. If you've got certain kinds of data and you like to have leading dots in front of them, we could try this with the Salary column. We could try with the Job Rating. Here's one example. Right-click Format Cells here, stick with General, then slide over to Custom.
What if we were to put in front of the word General here an asterisk and then a period? You see the display. I think in some cases that might make some sense. And by the way the explanation on how that works, once again jumping back here. This time I'll press Ctrl+1. Whatever follows the asterisk gets repeated throughout the width of the entry for whatever space is left over. So we could also use this on numeric columns. Now if I put in a hyphen here, maybe that makes more sense instead of that. I'll switch it to a hyphen now.
We get this kind of display. So you could use it in a variety of different columns. You could also put it after the number if you wish. So there are quite a few possibilities there. Now with date entries there's a ton of options here. And I would say for most people if you right-click, go to Format Cells here, there are quite a few built-in choices. I think most people will find something they like in here. But if you don't or if you have special needs, you might jump into Custom. And then it's a question of using Ms and Ds and Ys in the following way.
If you use four d's, you will get the spelling of the day of the week. If you use 3 d's, you'll get the abbreviation of it. So if you would like to put in for example the three letter abbreviation for the day of the week and then a comma, then a space, fine. You want to spell out the month that would be 4 m's. You want abbreviation is that good enough, just 3 m's. Possibly a space. Putting in d means it will put in the day of the month no matter what it is. If you put in two d's, you get leading 0s with the first nine days of the month.
Say we wouldn't want that maybe. A comma, space. You want to four digit year, yyyy. You want only two digit, yy. So tons of variations as you might imagine on this. So we are about to see in these entries a three letter abbreviation for the day of the week, a three letter abbreviation for the month, the day and then a four digit year. There we are. And lots of variations, and the order is the order that you want it to be in. In this situation too we are not truly changing the content of the cell.
We are simply changing the format of it. Another use of the special formatting could be in a situation where you've got numbers like in column H. Now nothing really wrong with these entries, but if you were to ask someone who had just seen these or someone who knows, you know, what's the population of California? Someone might say "oh, 37.5 million, Texas, it's 25.2 million whatever." Well if we say that, why not display it that way here? Suppose for ease of reading news you might want to display this as 37.5, this as 25.2 and so on.
Let's highlight the data here. We need a custom format here, and the choice here is not at all obvious. In fact, it's pretty strange when you think about it. To begin this process, what you might do is simply slide to the top. Pick one of the simple formats like this one. Now what you wouldn't know here is by putting in a single trailing comma you will suppress the display of three characters from the right. If we were to press Enter here we would be displaying this in thousands with two decimals. If we want to display it in millions we put in another comma. That's going to suppress the display of three more characters.
And if we only want a single decimal place here let's get rid of one of these zeroes here. So how obscure is this. And this sample does alert us to what we are about to do. 37.5 is what we're about to see on that first entry. Click OK and we've simplified the display. And perhaps it would be appropriate to indicate in our titles that these are in millions. I think that would be pretty much implied, but you probably want to do that as well. It's important to know that we've only changed the format. The content of this cell is still 37.5 million. And if we write formulas elsewhere that refer to the data we are referring to the entire number, not the displayed version.
But it does increase readability, and it does remind us that we do have a lot of possibilities when it comes to creating our own custom formats when necessary.
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