Quick, clean, and to the point

How to use scientific formatting in Excel

In this lesson we'll look at the Scientific format. The Scientific format is used to display numbers in scientific or exponential notation. Scientific notation is a compact way to display values in the same column, even when they vary greatly in size.

Let's take a look.

In column C of our table we have a set of very large and small numbers in Number format. Let's first copy these numbers to the rest of our table.

As we can see, they don't fit very well.

Now let's apply the Scientific format to columns D through F using the Number format menu on the ribbon. In Scientific format, all values fit easily.

If we check the Format Cells dialog box, we see that "decimal places" is the only option for Scientific format.

Let's set decimal places to match the table headings. Like other formats, we can adjust decimal places using the buttons on the ribbon or by using the Format Cells dialog box.

When cells are in General format, you can type scientific notation directly. Enter the number, plus "E," plus the exponent. If the number is less than zero, add a minus sign before the exponent.

Note that Excel will automatically use Scientific format for very large and small numbers of 12 or more digits.

If cells are pre-formatted in Scientific format, numbers will be automatically converted to scientific notation as they are entered.

Dave Bruns

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