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Data vs. Format in Microsoft Excel

Learn about data vs. format in this Howcast Excel tutorial with expert Shir Moscovitz.


Hi, my name is Shir and I'm the founder and CEO of where we focus on converting the existing data from your business into massive savings and extraordinary profits.
Today we're going to learn the basics of Excel. Let's get started.

So you might be thinking to yourself, "Data and Format are the same thing, right?" And the answer is "No." We have two different things going on here even though they look identical. We have in this column over here the incorrect format shown by an actual currency symbol ($) and then a number whereas the data itself is always shown here in the formula bar. So no matter where you are, if you are clicking on an active cell over here, it will always show you the contents of the actual data inside of it. So as you can see, they look identical but they're not. This is in manual insertion of a currency symbol, of a comma and these two decimals, two zeroes after the decimal.

So what we need to do is always make sure that we enter data properly. First of all it's easier because all we have to do is type in a number and Excel does the rest. And furthermore, if you don't do it properly and you manually put in the currency symbol and some numbers like that and then put information in incorrectly, anything you try and do with it will not take effect. If I try to do a "TOTAL" or a "SUM" of all these numbers, it won't understand what I'm talking about whereas if I change any of these numbers up here, it automatically re-tallies the "SUM."

Not only that we can change a lot of different things here including the number of decimals. I'm going to go up here to increase the number of decimals or decrease. If I try and do that over here, I will be unsuccessful. So as you can see, the percentage symbols over here, while input incorrectly and apparently looking correct, it's not going to do any sort of calculation or any "AVERAGE" if I try and refer to those cells for a calculation. Here it will actually do it properly because this is the right, the correct data type. And if I make a change, it effects it here in the "AVERAGE." So those are some of the key things to look out for.

THINGS that do not belong in a cell include: Spaces, Commas, and this one is really important - Multiple Data Types in the Same Cell. We have tons of cells in the spreadsheet so let's separate everything out even as something as simple as first name and last name. Let's instead of doing it one cell, let's use one cell for first name and another cell for last name. This allows us to do things properly later on.

THINGS that you do want to put in a cell that are okay include: Numbers, Letters, Decimals, Basic Operators such as +-*/ (plus, minus, multiplication symbol and division symbol). We can also use Formulas and Functions.

To recap, here are some reasons why you want to do the correct data.
Number One: It's quicker and easier to input.
Number Two: Excel actually understands what you are trying to say.
Number Three: You can manipulate and calculate the data in countless ways when it's done properly.
And Number Four: You'll make me personally very very happy!

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