How does Excel store date values?

Excel internally saves dates as sequential serial numbers that can be utilized in calculations. In Excel's date system, the first day is January 1, 1900, which corresponds to the serial number 1. Because it is 39,447 days after January 1, 1900, January 1, 2008 corresponds to the serial number 39448. When you put in a date into an Excel cell, it is converted to a serial number that Excel may use for calculations immediately.

This system has various benefits:

  • Speed: Calculations and comparisons with numbers are substantially faster than with text strings.
  • Sorting and filtering: Dates stored as serial numbers can easily be ordered chronologically, allowing for better organization and filtering.
  • Compatibility: Serial numbers ensure that data is handled consistently across systems and regions.

How does Excel display date values?

The date text displayed (for example, "12/6/2023") is determined by the serial number underneath. That is to say, it is the outcome of formatting the underlying serial number.

The user's regional choices determine the actual applied date formats. This implies that date formats used in different countries may differ from one another. The following table shows some examples.

RegionShort DateMedium DateLong Date
United States (US)mm/dd/yyyy (e.g., 12/6/2023)mmm dd, yyyy (e.g., Dec 6, 2023)mmmm dd, yyyy (e.g., December 6, 2023)
United Kingdom (UK)dd/mm/yyyyd mmm yyyydd mmmm yyyy
Francedd/mm/yyyyd mmm yyyydd mmmm yyyy mmm yyyydd. mmmm yyyy

Understanding the date system you are using is crucial, particularly when working with dates from various locations and sources.

How do I change the date format?

The default date format in Excel is determined by the geographical settings of the machine. To alter it on Windows 11:

  1. Clicking the Start button. Select Settings.
  2. Select Time & Language.
  3. Select Language & region.
  4. In the Region section, choose the option for Country or region, or select a custom Regional format.
Set Windows 11 default date time format

The Format Cells dialog box in Excel can also be used to manually alter the format that is applied to a date cell. The steps you need to take are as follows:

  1. Select the cell or range of cells that you want to format.
  2. Right-click the cell, and then select Format Cells from the context menu.
  3. Choose the Number tab in the Format Cells dialog box.
  4. Choose Date from the Category list.
  5. Choose the desired date format from the list.
  6. To apply the changes, click OK.

For example, pick the "03/14/2012" format under the Date category if you want the date to appear as "MM/DD/YYYY." To see the date displayed as "Monday, March 14, 2012," choose the Custom category and fill in the Type field with "dddd, mmmm dd, yyyy".

How do I enter dates into Excel?

The most common way to enter dates into Excel is to enter them manually.

  1. Select the cell where you want to enter the date.
  2. Enter the date in the appropriate format, like "DD/MM/YYYY" or "MM/DD/YYYY.".
  3. Press Enter.
  4. You can also enter the current date in a cell by using the keyboard shortcut "Ctrl + ;". Use the keyboard shortcut "Ctrl + Shift + ;" to insert the current date and time.

Alternatively, you can use the Insert Function feature to enter the date. Here are the steps:

  1. Select the cell where you want to enter the date.
  2. Click on the Formulas tab on the ribbon.
  3. Click on the Insert Function button.
  4. In the Insert Function dialog box, type "TODAY" in the Search for a function field.
  5. Select the TODAY function from the list of functions.
  6. Click on OK.

Our date picker add-in makes entering dates easier.

A screenshot for our date picker

When you click a date cell, the date picker shows a little icon button. You can then click the icon to open a calendar and click a date to enter it into the cell. This makes entering dates a lot easier and avoids typographical errors and format mistakes. See the tutorial movie to find out how it works.