Excel 2019: Format as a Façade
November 14, 2019 - by Bill Jelen
Excel is amazing at storing one number and presenting another number. Choose any cell and select Currency format. Excel adds a dollar sign and a comma and presents the number, rounded to two decimal places. In the figure below, cell D2 actually contains 6.42452514. Thankfully, the built-in custom number format presents the results in an easy-to-read format.
The custom number format code in D2 is $#,##0.00. In this code, 0s are required digits. Any #s are optional digits.
However, formatting codes can be far more complex. The code above has one format. That format is applied to every value in the cell. If you provide a code with two formats, the first format is for non-negative numbers, and the second format is for negative numbers. You separate the formats with semicolons. If you provide a code with three formats, the first is for positive, then negative, then zero. If you provide a code with four formats, they are used for positive, negative, zero, and text.
Even if you are using a built-in format, you can go to Format Cells, Number, Custom and see the code used to generate that format. The figure below shows the code for the accounting format.
To build your own custom format, go to Format Cells, Number, Custom and enter the code in the Type box. Check out the example in the Sample box to make sure everything looks correct.
In the following example, three zones are used. Text in quotes is added to the number format to customize the message.
If you create a zone for zero but put nothing there, you will hide all zero values. The following code uses color codes for positive and negative. The code ends in a semicolon, creating a zone for zero values. But since the zone is empty, zero values are not shown.
You can extend this by making all zones blank. A custom format code ;;; will hide values in the display and printout. However, you‘ll still be able to see the values in the formula bar. If you hide values by making the font white, the ;;; will stay hidden even if people change the fill color. The following figure includes some interesting formatting tricks.
In B2 and B3, if you put ** before the number code, Excel will fill to the left of the number with asterisks, like the old check writer machines would do. But there is nothing that says you have to use asterisks. Whatever you put after the first asterisk is repeated to fill the space. Row 3 uses *! to repeat exclamation points.
In B4 and B5, each comma that you put after the final zero will divide the number by 1000. The code 0,K shows numbers in thousands, with a K afterward. If you want to show millions, use two commas. The "M" code must include quotation marks, since M already means months.
In B6, add a stern message in the fourth zone to alert anyone entering data that you want a number in the cell. If they accidentally enter text, the message will appear.
In B7 to B9, the normal zones Positives, Negatives, and Zero are overwritten by conditions that you put in square brackets. Numbers under 70 are red. Numbers over 90 are blue. Everything else is black.
In B10, those odd _( symbols in the accounting format are telling Excel to leave as much space as a left parenthesis would take. It turns out that an underscore followed by any character will leave as much white space as that character. In B10, the code contains 4 zeros. But there are different amounts of space between them. The space between the 1 and 2 is the width of 2 W characters. The space between 2 and 3 is the width of an N. The space between 3 and 4 is the width of a lowercase letter i.
The following figure shows various date formatting codes.
The mmmmm format in row 8 is useful for producing J F M A M J J A S O N D chart labels.
Title Photo: Unsplash.com