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I'm one of today's best-selling computer book writers, with more than 15 million books in print.

This website keeps you up-to-date on my books, and your computers. Each week, I answer a reader's question on-line.

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Making a spreadsheet display numbers, not random dates

Formatting cells in a spreadsheetQ: My wife keeps a spreadsheet for our finances. Now, when she types in an amount (£4492, for example), the computer translates the entry into a random date (30/9/1911, for example). Where has she gone wrong?

A: The solution depends on the brand of spreadsheet she’s using. But it sounds like she’s accidentally formatted that column’s cell to display its conents as a date rather than currency. To fix this problem in Microsoft Excel, for example, your wife needs to right-click anywhere inside the problematic cell and choose “Format Cells” from the pop-up menu.

The Format Cells window appears, letting her choose how Excel should display that cell’s contents: General, Number, Currency, Accounting, Date, etc. In your wife’s case, choosing “Currency” rather than “Date” should fix the problem. In fact, all her current nonsensical dates should then revert to the currency amount she originally entered.

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