How to Change Date Formats in Excel

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One nice feature of Microsoft Excel is there's usually more than one way to do many popular functions, including date formats. Whether you've imported data from another spreadsheet or database, or are merely entering due dates for your monthly bills, Excel can easily format most date styles.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel for Microsoft 365, Excel 2019, 2016, and 2013.

How to Change Excel Date Format Via the Format Cells Feature

With the use of Excel’s many menus, you can change up the date format within a few clicks.

  1. Select the Home tab.

  2. In the Cells group, select Format and choose Format Cells.

    Selecting Format in Excel.
  3. Under the Number tab in the Format Cells dialog, select Date.

    The Format Cells dialog box in Excel.
  4. As you can see, there are several options for formatting in the Type box.

    Looking at Locale setting in Format cells in Excel.

    You could also look through the Locale (locations) drop-down to choose a format best suited for the country you're writing for.

  5. Once you’ve settled on a format, select OK to change the date format of the selected cell in your Excel spreadsheet.

Make Your Own With Excel Custom Date Format

If you don’t find the format you want to use, select Custom under the Category field to format the date how you’d like. Below are some of the abbreviations you’ll need to build a customized date format.

Abbreviations used in Excel for Dates
Month shown as 1-12 m
Month shown as 01-12 mm
Month shown as Jan-Dec mmm
Full Month Name January-December mmmm
Month shown as the first letter of the month mmmmm
Days (1-31) d
Days (01-31) dd
Days (Sun-Sat) ddd
Days (Sunday-Saturday) dddd
Years (00-99) yy
Years (1900-9999) yyyy
  1. Select the Home tab.

  2. Under the Cells group, select the Format drop-down, then select Format Cells.

    Selecting Format in Excel.
  3. Under the Number tab in the Format Cells dialog, select Custom. Just like the Date category, there are several formatting options.

    Using the Custom date in Excel.
  4. Once you’ve settled on a format, select OK to change the date format for the selected cell in your Excel spreadsheet.

How to Format Cells Using a Mouse

If you prefer only using your mouse and want to avoid maneuvering through multiple menus, you can change the date format with the right-click context menu in Excel.

  1. Select the cell(s) containing the dates you want to change the format of.

  2. Right-click the selection and select Format Cells. Alternatively, press Ctrl+1 to open the Format Cells dialog.

    Selecting Format cells by right clicking in Excel.

    Alternatively, select Home > Number, select the arrow, then select Number Format at the bottom right of the group. Or, in the Number group, you can select the drop-down box, then select More Number Formats.

  3. Select Date, or, if you need a more customized format, select Custom.

    Using the Custom date in Excel.
  4. In the Type field, select the option that best suits your formatting needs. This might take a bit of trial and error to get the right formatting.

  5. Select OK when you’ve chosen your date format.

    Whether using the Date or Custom category, if you see one of the Types with an asterisk (*) this format will change depending on the locale (location) you have selected.

Using Quick Apply for Long or Short Date

If you need a quick format change from to either a Short Date (mm/dd/yyyy) or Long Date (dddd, mmmm dd, yyyy or Monday, January 1, 2019), there's a quick way to change this in the Excel Ribbon.

  1. Select the cell(s) for which you want to change the date format.

  2. Select Home.

  3. In the Number group, select the drop-down menu, then select either Short Date or Long Date.

    Short Date and Long Date in Excel

Using the TEXT Formula to Format Dates

This formula is an excellent choice if you need to keep your original date cells intact. Using TEXT, you can dictate the format in other cells in any foreseeable format.

To get started with the TEXT formula, go to a different cell, then enter the following to change the format:

=TEXT(##, “format abbreviations”)

## is the cell label, and format abbreviations are the ones listed above under the Custom section. For example, =TEXT(A2, “mm/dd/yyyy”) displays as 01/01/1900.

A formula for changing a text date to a date format in Excel.

Using Find & Replace to Format Dates

This method is best used if you need to change the format from dashes (-), slashes (/), or periods (.) to separate the month, day, and year. This is especially handy if you need to change a large number of dates.

  1. Select the cell(s) you need to change the date format for.

  2. Select Home > Find & Select > Replace.

    Find and Select in Excel.
  3. In the Find what field, enter your original date separator (dash, slash, or period).

    The Find and Replace dialog box in Excel.
  4. In the Replace with field, enter what you’d like to change the format separator to (dash, slash, or period).

    An example of using Find and Replace in Excel.
  5. Then select one of the following:

    • Replace All: Which will replace all the first field entry and replace it with your choice from the Replace with field.
    • Replace: Replaces the first instance only.
    • Find All: Only finds all of the original entry in the Find what field.
    • Find Next: Only finds the next instance from your entry in the Find what field.

Using Text to Columns to Convert to Date Format

If you have your dates formatted as a string of numbers and the cell format is set to text, Text to Columns can help you convert that string of numbers into a more recognizable date format.

  1. Select the cell(s) that you want to change the date format.

  2. Make sure they are formatted as Text. (Press Ctrl+1 to check their format).

    Confirming a date is formatted as text in Excel.
  3. Select the Data tab.

    Data tab in Excel.
  4. In the Data Tools group, select Text to Columns.

    Text to Columns option in Excel.
  5. Select either Delimited or Fixed width, then select Next.

    Convert Text to Columns Wizard

    Most of the time, Delimited should be selected, as date length can fluctuate.

  6. Uncheck all of the Delimiters and select Next.

  7. Under the Column data format area, select Date, choose the format your date string using the drop-down menu, then select Finish.

    Date format in the text to columns wizard in Excel.

Using Error Checking to Change Date Format

If you’ve imported dates from another file source or have entered two-digit years into cells formatted as Text, you’ll notice the small green triangle in the top-left corner of the cell.

This is Excel’s Error Checking indicating an issue. Because of a setting in Error Checking, Excel will identify a possible issue with two-digit year formats. To use Error Checking to change your date format, do the following:

  1. Select one of the cells containing the indicator. You should notice an exclamation mark with a drop-down menu next to it.

    Cell highlighted with error checking in Excel.
  2. Select the drop-down menu and select either Convert XX to 19XX or Convert xx to 20XX, depending on the year it should be.

    Convert the 2 digit year to 4 digits in Excel.
  3. You should see the date immediately change to a four-digit number.

Using Quick Analysis to Access Format Cells

Quick Analysis can be used for more than formatting the color and style of your cells. You can also use it to access the Format Cells dialog.

  1. Select several cells containing the dates you need to change.

  2. Select Quick Analysis in the lower right of your selection, or press Ctrl+Q.

    Using Quick Analysis to change the date format in Excel.
  3. Under Formatting, select Text That Contains.

    Selecting the text format in Quick Analysis in Excel.
  4. Using the right drop-down menu, select Custom Format.

    Selecting what to change the cell to in Excel.
  5. Select the Number tab, then select either Date or Custom.

    Using Format Cells with Quick Analysis in Excel.
  6. Select OK twice when complete.

    Confirming the Text That Contains dialog in Excel.
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