3 Ways To Convert Text To Numbers In Excel
Sometimes you get data and something doesn’t look right. See below. The data in the left column is formatted as text. Therefore, it is useless in calculations (you can see that, when I summed the column, the result was zero).
What you will often want instead is for these “numbers” to be truly formatted as numbers — so that you can use them in formulas.
Below, I have converted the text in the left column to actual numbers in the right column. You can see that the SUM function now works.
How Do I Know The Data Is Formatted As Text?
If you didn’t notice above, when “numbers” are formatted as text, there’ll be little green triangles in the upper left of the cell. When you’ve selected one of those cells, a little yellow diamond with an exclamation point inside appears to the left of the cell. As shown below, when you hover over that yellow diamond, Excel will tell you it is formatted as text by saying, “the number in the cell is formatted as text or preceded by an apostrophe.” In this case there is no apostrophe so I know the data is formatted as text.
So how do I convert the text to numbers?
The First And Easiest Way To Convert Text To Numbers In Excel: Convert To Number
If you click on the little down arrow next to the yellow diamond, you’ll get a drop-down menu as shown below. Simply click on the option that says, “Convert to Number.” You can do this on one cell or on an entire range that you select.
If you do this on a very large range with, say, 100,000 cells, it may take a very long time. In fact, it may even cause Excel to crash. This is happened to me numerous times. Therefore, I learned two other methods that do not suffer from this drawback, which I’ll share with you now.
The Second Way To Convert Text To Numbers In Excel: Text To Columns
Here’s another pretty fast method that doesn’t make Excel slow to a crawl. You will go to the Data tab as shown below, and basically “hack” the Text to Columns feature — after selecting your data.
You’re basically going to “pretend” to split a column into multiple columns, but not allow Excel to actually do that. In the process, Excel magically converts the text to numbers.
Below are the screenshots.
When you click on the Text to Columns button (after selecting your data), you’ll get the first of three screens as shown below. Choose “Delimited,” and then click on Next at the bottom.
This will bring up step two of the wizard, shown below. To make this work, just make sure none of the boxes are checked, as below. Then click Next to go to the third and final step.
Below is the step three window. Just leave “General” selected, click Finish and you’re done.
The only drawback with this method is that sometimes it just doesn’t seem to want to work. You try and try and it just won’t happen. I believe it has something to do with some rare and bizarre data formats.
In these cases you can try a third option which I’m about to show you.
The Third Way To Convert Text To Numbers In Excel: Paste Special (add zero)
In this third method you are performing a mathematical operation on the text by using Paste Special. In the process Excel magically converts that text into numbers.
The key is to perform an operation which will not change the value of the text/numbers. Most people either add 0 or multiply by 1. In my example below, I will add 0.
The fastest way to do this is simply to copy a blank cell, which Excel interprets as 0. This saves you the step of typing a number before copying it.
Next, select the cells where you want to convert the text into numbers.
Finally, right-click, type “S” and then “S” again to get to this Paste Special menu below.
Once you’re in this menu, choose “Values” in the top section, and “Add” in the bottom section, then click on OK. Doing this adds 0 to each cell in your range, magically converting the text to numbers.
Even faster than clicking on “Values” and “Add,” just type “V” and then “D” and then click OK.
Using one big shortcut, you could do, RC-S-S-V-D-Tab-Tab-Tab-Space (RC stands for Right-Click).
Now you have three different ways to convert numbers that are formatted as text into actual numbers, allowing you to use them in formulas.
Convert to Number: this is the easiest method, however it’s dangerous to use when you have extremely long columns.
Text to Columns: this method works fine with extremely long columns, but sometimes it just won’t work.
Adding 0: this method, while not the fastest, always seems to work.