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Office 2011 for Mac: Apply Number and Text Formats in Excel

One of the things you might find you do frequently in Excel 2011 for Mac is change the way cells look, and you do so with options on the Home tab of the Ribbon. Other than the visual effect, format also means how a cell treats the content that’s typed inside it.

General format is the default cell format. (Look in the Number group on the Home tab.) Briefly, the General format applies formatting by using these simple rules:

  • A cell that contains any text characters is formatted as text.

  • A cell containing numbers only is formatted as a number or date.

  • A cell that begins with an equals sign (=) is a formula.

You can override General format and apply any other format that you want to a cell. If you change a cell's format from one of the number or date formats into Text format, you can no longer use the number value or date in formula calculations.

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The Number group on the Home tab offers quick formatting options:

  • Number Format: This is a pop-up menu that lets you apply the default format for each of the major format categories.

  • Alternate Currency: This pop-up menu lets you apply accounting formats for specific currencies.

  • Percent: Displays decimal values as a percent.

  • Thousands: Click to toggle commas on or off as thousands separators.

  • Reposition decimal point: Click a button to move the decimal point one position to the left or to the right.

To display the complete list of available number formats, press Command-1 (or choose Format→Cells from the menu bar) and in the Formal Cells dialog, click the Number tab.

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