How to Set a Date and Time in Microsoft Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Setting a date and time in Microsoft Excel can be accomplished by entering the date or time into a cell and then formatting the cell to display the date or time in the desired format. After completing this action, the cell will display the date or time in the selected format, and you can use this data for scheduling, analysis, or tracking purposes.


Microsoft Excel is not just about numbers and formulas; it’s also a powerful tool for managing dates and times. Whether you’re scheduling appointments, tracking deadlines, or recording events, Excel’s date and time functions are indispensable. Understanding how to set a date and time in Excel is crucial for anyone who manages schedules, plans projects, or analyzes time-based data.

Excel’s flexibility allows you to format and manipulate dates and times in various ways, making it a useful skill for students, professionals, and anyone who relies on organized timing. This article will guide you through the process, ensuring your spreadsheets are time-accurate and professionally formatted.

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Set a Date and Time in Microsoft Excel

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to know that Excel stores dates and times as serial numbers. This means that when you enter a date or time, Excel converts it into a number behind the scenes, which allows you to use it in calculations and analyses.

Step 1: Enter the Date or Time

Type the date or time directly into a cell in your Excel worksheet.

When you enter a date, Excel usually recognizes it as such and automatically applies a date format. However, if you’re entering just a time without a date, make sure you include AM or PM to distinguish the time of day, or use a 24-hour format.

Step 2: Format the Cell

Right-click on the cell, select ‘Format Cells,’ and then choose the desired date or time format from the list.

Excel offers a wide range of date and time formats to choose from, and you can even create custom formats if the standard options don’t fit your needs.

Step 3: Use the Date and Time

Once formatted, use the date and time for scheduling, calculations, or any other purpose within your spreadsheet.

Remember that you can also use Excel’s date and time functions, like TODAY() and NOW(), to insert the current date and time into a cell.


Accurate Record-KeepingSetting a date and time in Excel ensures accurate and consistent recording of time-based data.
Easy Scheduling and PlanningExcel allows for efficient scheduling and planning by providing clear and precise date and time formats.
Enhanced Data AnalysisWith correctly set dates and times, you can perform time-based analyses and calculations, enhancing the value of your data.


Learning CurveNew users may find it challenging to understand Excel’s date and time systems, including serial numbers and custom formats.
Potential for ErrorsMistyping or misunderstanding Excel’s date and time conventions can lead to errors in data recording and analysis.
Regional Format DifferencesDate and time formats vary by region, which can cause confusion when sharing spreadsheets with users in other locations.

Additional Information

Excel’s versatility with dates and times extends to functions and formulas that can perform complex calculations. For instance, the DATEDIF function calculates the difference between two dates, while the WEEKDAY function identifies the day of the week for a given date. These functions can help you automate and enhance your time-based data management.

Additionally, always be aware of Excel’s default date system (1900 or 1904), as this can affect date calculations. When setting a date and time in Microsoft Excel, consider using shortcut keys like Ctrl+; for the current date and Ctrl+Shift+; for the current time to streamline the process.


  1. Enter the date or time into a cell.
  2. Format the cell to display the desired date or time format.
  3. Utilize the formatted date and time for various spreadsheet functions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the shortcut for entering the current date in Excel?

Ctrl+; (semicolon) is the shortcut to insert the current date into a cell in Excel.

How can I create a custom date or time format?

Right-click the cell, select ‘Format Cells,’ navigate to the ‘Number’ tab, choose ‘Custom,’ and create your desired format using the available code symbols.

Why is Excel changing the year when I enter a date?

Excel may interpret two-digit years based on its default settings. To avoid confusion, always enter four-digit years.

Can I use date and time in formulas?

Yes, you can use date and time in Excel formulas, allowing for calculations like differences between dates, adding time intervals, and more.

How does Excel handle leap years and daylight savings time?

Excel accounts for leap years in its date calculations. However, it does not automatically adjust for daylight savings time, so you may need to make manual adjustments.


Mastering how to set a date and time in Microsoft Excel is a crucial skill for efficient data management and analysis. From scheduling events to tracking important deadlines, Excel’s date and time capabilities are comprehensive and adaptable. With practice, even Excel newcomers can become proficient in utilizing these functions to enhance their spreadsheets and streamline work processes. Remember to always double-check your entries for accuracy and be mindful of regional differences when sharing your work. Happy Excelling!