Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports.

Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 10, 2017)

Mark has a text file that he routinely imports into an Excel workbook. The file is created by a different program, and one of the columns in the file contains numbers, the letter "e," and then more numbers. When importing the file into Excel, the column is converted to scientific notation by Excel, rather than being treated as text.

Chances are good that the file you are importing—the one created by the other program—is a CSV file. This means that the values in the file are "comma separated" and easily understood by a program such as Excel. If you open a CSV file, Excel just "does it," without asking very much about the data being imported. This is where the problem would occur—Excel is simply making the assumption that the problem column contains numeric values in scientific notation.

The solution is to get Excel to ask you how you want the data imported. The key to doing this is to rename the file you are importing. Change the file's extension from CSV to something else, such as DAT. When you then try to open the file in Excel (start Excel and then use Open to locate and try to open the newly renamed file), the Import Wizard starts. This wizard gives you complete control over how Excel treats your incoming data.

Most of the wizard is self-explanatory. You'll want to pay particular attention to the third step of the wizard which allows you to specify the data type for each column of the import data. The default data type for each column is "general," which means that Excel tries to interpret the data based upon its regular parsing routines. Instead, you want to locate the column that contains the problem data and specify that the column should be treated as text—exactly what you want.

If you have to import this type of file regularly, you might want to create a macro that does the import for you. All you need to do is use the macro recorder to record each step of the Import Wizard. You can then replay the macro anytime you need to import the file again.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12201) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Combining Word Documents

At some point you may want to insert one Word document inside another Word document. An easy way to do this is to use the ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Modify Style Message

When you apply styles to a paragraph, you may periodically see a message asking if you want to reapply the style or modify ...

Discover More

Easy Filtering Specifications for a PivotTable

When you want to include specific records from a source table into a PivotTable, you need to employ some sort of filtering. ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Faster Text File Conversions

Want to make your importing of text data faster than ever? Here are some ideas you can apply right away.

Discover More

CSV File Opens with Data in a Single Column

When you import a CSV file into an Excel worksheet, you may be surprised at how the program allocates the information among ...

Discover More

Finding the Size of a Workbook

Keeping tabs on the size of a workbook can be important when using Excel. You have a couple of options that will allow you to ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is nine more than 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.