Enter Numbers, Dates and Time: MS Excel

Dennis Faas's picture

When entering numbers in Excel you can type the numbers into a cell by using the keys on the top row of the keyboard or, if Num Lock is turned on, by using the keypad on the right side of the keyboard. To do so, follow the steps below:

  • Type the numbers in the cell and press Enter.
  • If you type decimals, such as 1.5000, Excel often eliminates the trailing zeros and displays 1.5. Note that another future article will tell you how to control this.
  • You can also type dollar signs, commas, or percent signs, and Excel displays them with the numbers. Even when you type these symbols, Excel interprets your entry as numbers.
  • Type a negative number by typing a minus sign or by surrounding the number with parentheses.

The numbers appear right-aligned within the cell.

Entering Dates and Times

You type dates and times just as you do text. How you type them determines how they will appear. You can type them several different ways:

  • Type 8/26 or 8/26/06 or 8/26/2006 and press Enter, and Excel displays 8/26/06. If you don't include the year Excel assumes the current year.
  • Type Sep 11, Sept 11, September 11, or September 11, 2001 and press Enter, and Excel displays 11-Sep.
  • Type 8:00 and press Enter, and Excel displays 8:00 (and assumes AM).
  • Type 8:00 a and press Enter, and Excel displays 8:00 AM.
  • Type 8:00 p and press Enter, and Excel displays 8:00 PM.

Shortcut Keys

Excel provides a number of shortcut keys you can press to do something quickly. Often they involve holding down the Ctrl key while pressing another key. Those of you who are fast typists will especially like to use shortcut keys because they save time by allowing you to keep your hands on the keyboard.

Below are two handy shortcut keys for entering dates and times:

  • To enter today's date, hold down the Ctrl key and press ; (semicolon). This shortcut key is written Ctrl+;
  • To enter the current time, hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys and press ; (semicolon). This shortcut key is written Ctrl+Shift+;

Like numbers, dates are right-aligned within the cell, and you can use dates in calculations.

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