Working with Decimal Places

All of Excel's number formats use either two or zero decimal places. The exception is General format, which uses as many places as needed for a value. You can establish a fixed number of decimal places or let Excel automatically round numbers for you. The following sections examine both ways to work with decimal places.

Establishing a Fixed Number of Decimal Places

To establish a fixed number of decimal places, use a numeric format other than General format. Two tools on the Formatting toolbar enable you to change the number of decimal places for numbers. The tools are Increase Decimal (its icon contains .0 and .00 with a left arrow) and Decrease Decimal (its icon contains .0 and .00 with a right arrow). Here's how these tools work:

  • Click the Increase Decimal button each time you want to move the decimal point one place to the left.

  • Click the Decrease Decimal button each time you want to move the decimal point one place to the right.

In the To Do exercise, you change the number of decimal places from two to zero for numbers in the Sales workbook.

To Do: Specify Decimal Places
  1. Select the cells in which you want to decrease decimal places for numbers with commas; in this case, select cells B4:C8.

  2. Click the Decrease Decimal button on the Formatting toolbar. Excel moves the decimal point one place to the right. Notice that the number of decimal places for numbers in the selected cells has changed from two to one.

  3. Click the Decrease Decimal button on the Formatting toolbar again and click any cell to deselect the range. The number of decimal places for the numbers is now zero, showing whole numbers.

  4. Select cells B9:C9.

  5. Click the Decrease Decimal button on the Formatting toolbar twice. Excel moves the decimal point two places to the right. Notice that the number of decimal places for numbers in the selected cells has changed from two to zero, displaying whole numbers.

  6. Click any cell to deselect the range.

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To repeat the number format change in another cell, select the Repeat Format Cells option from the Edit menu or press the F4 (Repeat) key. By the way, you can repeat any format command in another cell by using the F4 key.


Rounding Numbers

Excel can store up to 15 decimal places for a value. Many of Excel's preformatted format settings round numbers to two decimal places. For instance, if you enter the value $50.768 into a cell, Excel displays $50.77. Excel uses a dollar format to display the value with two decimal places and a dollar sign.

Remember that the value in the cell has not been changed. The value is merely displayed to look like it has been changed. The cell's actual value is still 50.768, and any references to this cell's value receive the value 50.768. Therefore, formatted values are not rounded at all; they only appear to be rounded.

To round numbers, use the Increase Decimal and Decrease Decimal tools on the Formatting toolbar.



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