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Excel International Issues

International Issues

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Successful use of Microsoft Excel in international environments requires that users consider several factors. Of primary importance to Excel users is the punctuation of numbers (money) and dates. Europeans, for example, format numbers using a comma as a decimal point (where the US format uses a period), and the European format uses the period to separate thousands, where US users use a comma. European dates typically (although not always) use the day number, followed by the month number, and then the year, separated by a hyphen (-), where the US formats show the month first, then the day, then the year, separated by the slash (/).

Excel responds to the settings in the computer's control panel to determine what formats to use. To change Excel to use a different format, open the Control Panel. For Windows 7, choose Language, Clock, and Region. In Windows Vista, choose Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options. In Windows XP, choose Regional Settings. Then, in Windows 7, choose Change the date, time, or number format under Region and Language. Older versions of Windows have similar selections. The Windows 7 Region and Language dialog box appears as follows:

Windows date, time, and number format dialog box

The easiest method to change Excel's behavior is to set the Format combo box to the country you are dealing with. Beware, however, that these settings affect all the applications on your computer, not just Excel. It is probably advisable to only change the settings you need to work with, most likely being the number format. These are found in Additional settings, which brings up this dialog box:

Windows 7 Customize Format dialog box

In this dialog box, users can set formats granularly where, say, US dates are desired but European currency formatting is needed.

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