Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Using an Input Mask.

Using an Input Mask

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 16, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


1

When inputting time into a cell, it is easy to enter digits—that's what the numeric keypad is for, after all. What can really slow you down is the necessity to enter other characters, particularly ones that require the use of the Shift key. For instance, if you are entering times, it is easy to enter 230 for 2:30, but it is a pain to slow down by entering the colon.

Thus, you may wonder if there is a way to set up an input mask that will add the colon automatically. The good news is yes, there is. The bad news is no, there isn't. Sound confusing? Let me explain...

You can set up a custom format that will display your time in any format you want. For instance, you could use the following steps:

  1. Select the cells you want to use for time input.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Number group. Excel displays the Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.
  4. In the Category list, choose Custom. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box.

  6. Replace whatever is in the Type box with #":"00 (a hash mark, quote mark, colon, quote mark, and two zeros).
  7. Click on OK.

You can now enter your times using just digits. The problem (and this is the bad news) is that the cell doesn't really contain a time. If you enter 230 (for 2:30), it doesn't contain 2:30 as a time—it contains two hundred and thirty. Thus, you can't use the contents of the cell directly in time calculations.

To overcome this, you can use another column to show the entered digits converted into a time. All you need to do is use a formula to do the conversions. For instance, if the time you entered was in cell A3, you could use the following formula in a different cell to do the conversion:

=(INT(A3/100)/24)+(MOD(A3,100)/1440)

Format the cell that contains the above formula so it displays one of the various time formats, and you are all set.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12550) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Using an Input Mask.

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. ...

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What is one more than 7?

2023-09-17 10:42:16

J. Woolley

If you want to apply an input mask to a range of cells on a worksheet so that each numeric constant entered is interpreted as "military" time (hhmm) and replaced by its corresponding time serial value, add this VBA to the worksheet's Sheet module (like Sheet1):

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
    Dim TimeCells As Range, cell As Range, valu As Variant
    Set TimeCells = Range("A:A") 'adjust as requuired
    For Each cell In Target
        If Not (Application.Intersect(cell, TimeCells) Is Nothing _
            Or cell.HasFormula) Then
            valu = cell.Value
            If VarType(valu) = vbDouble Then
                valu = valu Mod 2400
                If valu < 0 Then valu = valu + 2400
                valu = TimeSerial(Int(valu / 100), (valu Mod 100), _
                    (valu - Fix(valu)) * 60)
                Application.EnableEvents = False
                    cell.Value = valu 'low risk of error
                Application.EnableEvents = True
            End If
        End If
    Next cell
End Sub

The range of cells with the input mask is identified by TimeCells. If the cells are formatted as General, the time serial value will be displayed in "Long" format (like 02:30:00 am, see Settings > Time & Language > Region); otherwise, format the cells as Time.


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