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What is Formatting in Microsoft Excel

Formatting is simply a fancy word that refers to changing the appearance of the cells with your Excel workbook.

Formatting can refer to the alignment, font, background color, and more when it comes to the appearance of the cells.

So in this article, I will briefly cover the different types of formatting and explain what they are regarding Microsoft Excel.

The Different Types of Formatting

Below are the different types of formatting and what they refer to in Excel.

  • Number formatting – Refers to how text and numbers are represented. For example, formatting a number to have two decimal places and a comma for a thousand separator. (1,234.00)
  • Alignment – Refers to how text is aligned within a cell.
  • Font – Refers to the font size, color, style, etc.
  • Borders – Refers to the lines that surround a cell, including the thickness and color of those lines.
  • Fill – Refers to the background color of a cell.
  • Protection – Refers to the edit permissions of a cell when a worksheet is protected.

Check out the sections below to learn more about each type of formatting.

Number Formatting

Number formatting refers to the way text and numbers appear in Excel.

You can use number formatting to control:

  • The number of decimal places
  • How dates and times appear
  • Currency symbols
  • And so much more


Alignment refers to the alignment of text within a cell. For example, you can change the alignment to have the text right in the center, to the left, or in the upper right corner.

You can even use the alignment to get the text to sit vertically within a cell.


Font refers to the size, style, and color of the text within cells. Take a look at a few of the examples below.


Working with border formatting allows you to add borders around the edges of any cell. Take a look at a few of these examples.


Fill refers to the background color of a cell within Excel.

You can make the background color anything you want. Plus, you can even add a pattern or gradient as the background as well.


Protection refers to locking cells or hiding their formulas whenever the worksheet is protected. If you lock a cell and then protect the worksheet, the user will no longer be able to edit the contents of that cell.

Learn All About Excel

To learn all about formatting and even more about Excel, check out my Excel Total course, where I start from the absolute basics and move all the way up to Pivot Tables.

If you want to learn Excel and actually take those skills and remember them forever, then the Excel Total Course is the perfect course for you.

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