Leading zeros in Excel can be a huge help in many different projects. However, they’re not always necessary - sometimes you want them, sometimes you don’t. In this article, you’re able to learn how to control leading zeros in your spreadsheets, and switch between the different modes depending on your current work.
A leading zero is any “0” digit that comes before the first nonzero digit in a number string. For example, the string "001" has two leading zeros. This formatting in Excel can be useful when working with a huge set of data, making organization and sorting much easier.
If you don’t want to manually type each leading zero yourself, there are plenty of methods to add them automatically with Excel.
How to add leading zeros in Excel
There are different ways to add leading zeros in Excel. Let’s explore the possibilities that fit your needs.
Method 1. Use the Format Cells menu
- Select all the cells you want to edit and add leading zeros to. You can do this by dragging your cursor, or holding the Shift key on your keyboard while clicking with your mouse.
- Right-click on your selection, then choose Format Cells. Alternatively, use the Ctrl + 1 keyboard shortcut to open the window quicker.
- Select Custom from the Category section.
- Type any number of 0’s in the Type input field. In our example, we used a 6 digit string, meaning we’ll type in “000000”.
- Click the OK button. All of the numbers in your selection should have the corresponding amount of leading zeros now. Please note that this method does not change the value of your cells! The leading zeros are just for appearance.
Method 2. Use the TEXT function
If you’re working with text and not number values, you can add leading zeros using the TEXT function.
To add leading zeros using the TEXT formula, you'll want to use the following:
=TEXT(cell, "number of zeros") for example =TEXT(A1, "000000")
This is going to create a fixed length, in our case 6-character text string. Take note that this method makes it so you’re unable to use your values for calculations and other formulas.
Method 3. Use the REPT and LEN functions
A different approach to adding leading zeros to a text string is by utilizing the REPT and LEN functions together. Again, by following this method you won’t be able to continue using functions and calculations.
The formula is as follows:
=REPT(0, number of zeros-LEN (cell)) &cell for example =REPT(0, 6-LEN (A1)) &A1
Doing this, Excel will automatically add a number of leading zeros to the value in your A1 cell until it creates a 6 character long string.
How to remove leading zeros in Excel
If you want to revert back to your normal numeric values, don’t worry — it’s possible. There are a few methods to use that might fit your approach better.
Method 1. Change the file format
- Select all the cells you want to revert and remove leading zeros from.
- Switch to the Home tab using the Ribbon interface found on top of your window.
- In the Number section, you’ll see a drop-down menu displaying Special. Click on this menu to open the other options.
- Select General. Doing so will revert your cells to the default formatting.
Method 2. Convert text to number
If you changed your numeric values to text in order to add leading zeros, you might want to convert it back to numbers and lose the 0’s. The easiest way of doing this is by selecting the cell you want to convert, then clicking on the yellow exclamation mark. (Bottom-right corner of the cell.)
From the drop-down menu, simply select Convert to Number. You’ll immediately see it change back to its original numeric value.
If you need any further help with Excel and other Office applications, don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer service team, available 24/7 to assist you. Return to us for more informative articles all related to productivity and modern day technology!
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