Apple’s Numbers: Using Data Formats

| TMO Quick Tip

One of my favorite things to do in Apple’s spreadsheet program, Numbers, is to configure the data format of cells. This’ll help you by automatically formatting what you put in, so if you type “45,” for example, it can change into “$45.00” or “45%” or whatever floats your boat. This’ll save a ton of typing and editing time!

To set this up, first select the range of cells you’d like to apply your formatting to. 

Make sure the “Format” pane is open, but if you don’t see that sidebar on the right, click “Format” in your toolbar. Then under the “Cell” tab, you’ll see the “Data Format” drop-down.

Under that drop-down, you have a bunch of options.

See? There’s just so much to play with. You could pick “Number” and control the decimal places the program will insert, say, or you could use the “Currency” option to automatically add in dollar signs. “Pop-Up Menu” will let you configure just that if you want a range of cells to allow only a few predefined choices.

Or if you pick “Checkbox,” you can add your own checklist to the cells you selected.

And finally, there’s “Create Custom Format.” In my first screenshot, I selected some cells with numbers in them. Using the power of a custom format I set up…

…I told those cells to add in parentheses, hyphens, and spaces to make them look like phone numbers, all nice and neat-like.

It’s just so much easier to type without having to worry about the punctuation or the separators!

So anyway, I think it’s well worth checking this out if you use Numbers, especially if you do a lot of data input. For every moment I don’t spend typing in a dollar sign, I’m gonna go do something fun! OK, that’s not a lot of time, but maybe I could spend those seconds thinking about everything I could be doing that’s not putting stuff into a spreadsheet. Oh, man, I just depressed myself.

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Lee Dronick

Can Apple get away from insisting that phone numbers have a parentheses around the area code? Or at least give us the choice.

Renu Das


Lee, that phone number format seems to be designed by the user, not built into the program.

One important thing about the currency: It doesn’t only let you set that a number is some currency, it also lets you set which one. Maybe someone from Canada can tell us how Canadian dollars and US dollars are displayed in Canada (I’d hope it is $ and US$, while Americans would see CA$ and $.

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