Let’s take a look. The General format has just two basic rules. The first rule is that if a number contains decimal places, they will be displayed up to the number that fits inside the column. When the column width is increased or decreased, Excel will adjust the number of visible decimal places automatically. If the width of a column is decreased, the number will be rounded as needed. The actual cell values remain unchanged. The second rule is that all leading and trailing zeros are removed, except when the number is between -1 and 1, in which case a leading zero is automatically added. With larger numbers, you might see Excel switch to the Scientific Notation format to allow the number to fit inside the column. If you make the column narrow enough, Excel will eventually show only hash symbols, indicating that the column is too narrow to display the number properly. In this way, the General format is good when you have to display values that have different numbers of decimal places. Finally, because the General format is Excel’s default format, the Clear Formats command will strip all formatting and automatically apply the General number format. If we apply the Accounting format to our numbers, then Clear Formats, we see this in action: In the same way, applying the General Format is the same as resetting the number format to its default.

Dave Bruns

Hi - I’m Dave Bruns, and I run Exceljet with my wife, Lisa. Our goal is to help you work faster in Excel. We create short videos, and clear examples of formulas, functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, and charts.