Are you tired of dealing with Excel’s automatic conversion of large numbers to scientific notation when importing data from a CSV file? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It can be frustrating to work with data that doesn’t display correctly or has lost its precision due to this issue. But the good news is that there are ways to prevent Excel from converting to scientific notation when importing from a CSV file.
Excel is a powerful tool that allows users to organize and analyze large datasets quickly and efficiently. However, the automatic conversion of numbers to scientific notation can lead to problems when working with data that requires high precision, such as financial or scientific data. When numbers are converted to scientific notation, it can be challenging to read, compare, and manipulate the data correctly.
In this article, we will explore some of the solutions to prevent Excel from automatically converting numbers to scientific notation from CSV during the import process. Read on, and discover the solutions that will help you take control of your data!
Why Does Excel Convert Large Numbers to Scientific Notation?
Excel is a useful tool for data analysis and mathematical operations. But it has limitations when working with numbers.
Excel Number Precision is the most digits that Excel can show and calculate accurately. It can handle up to 15 digits, but it may not display or calculate accurately if a number has more than 15 digits. This is the Excel Number Precision Limitation. This can affect calculations and cause errors in data analysis.
Excel shows number precision limitations because of its binary representation of numbers and limited memory. Binary representation can cause rounding errors, and limited memory restricts precision.
- Imagine having a 20-digit number, like 12345678901234567890, and entering it into an Excel cell. Excel will round the number to 12345678901234500000.
- Another example is when you perform a calculation with a large number, like multiplying 1234567890123456 by 2, Excel may give an incorrect result due to the number precision limitation.
Scientific notation in Excel has both advantages and disadvantages. It reduces rounding errors and allows working with larger numbers. Comparing and analyzing data with different orders of magnitude becomes easier.
However, scientific notation can also make data harder to read and understand. Sometimes it is necessary to express the entire number in full to enhance accuracy.
How to Prevent Excel from Converting to Scientific Notation When Opening CSV Files: 3 Easy Ways
Assuming we have a dataset of people who have ordered products through Amazon, the dataset contains the buyer’s name, the product’s UPC code, transaction code, and OTP code. After opening the CSV file in Excel we faced the following problems.
To demonstrate how to prevent Excel from converting CSV to scientific notation, we will use the dataset mentioned above.
1. Save CSV File in Text Format and Open It in Excel by Applying Text Import Wizard
- First of all, go to the folder where you have saved the CSV file.
- Right-click on the CSV file name >> Select Open with, and then select NotePad (or any suitable Text Editor).
Now, the file is opened in a text editor app. Save the file in Text format now. For that,
- Go to the File tab and Click on the Save as command.
Or, press CTRL+SHIFT+S.
- In the Save as window, type a suitable file name >> then press the Save button.
- Now, open the Excel app and click on Open.
- Click on Browse >> then select File type as Text Files (*.prn,*.txt,*.csv) >> select your previously saved text file and then >> press Open.
- The Text Import Wizard will appear now.
The Text Import Wizard tool is available in all versions of Excel, so no one will face any issues using this solution to prevent Excel from converting data into scientific notation.
- Select the Fixed width button and then press Finish.
So, the text file is now opened in Excel. Note that, all the rows here having data are along column A.
- Now, select A1:A12 cells (select all the cells having your desired data).
- Go to the Data tab >> from the Data Tools group, select Text to Columns wizard.
- In the appeared window (Convert Text to Columns Wizard – Step 1 of 3), select Delimited and go to Next.
- In this step, select Comma too as Delimiters (you can keep or unmark the Tab option) and go to Next again.
- In the last step, select the 2nd column (hover your mouse cursor on the area and click once) >> press & hold the SHIFT key and select the last column in a similar manner.
- Now you can see that, Excel is not converting CSV data to scientific notation anymore.
2. Prevent Scientific Notation When All CSV Data Are Numerical, Have Maximum of 15 Digits, and No Leading Zeros
In this case, there are 2 easy methods you can follow.
i. Apply Number Format
This method is only applicable if your CSV data are numerical, and have no leading zeros. Besides, they must have less than or equal to 15 digits.
We can prevent Excel from converting data into scientific notation by using the Format Cell option. Let’s consider the following dataset to demonstrate how to use this feature.
- First select the cells or column that has been converted to scientific notation by default (for example, column B).
- Then, right-click on the selected column to open the menu and select Format Cells at the bottom.
- Or, press CTRL+1 to get to the Format Cells window.
- In the Format Cells window, go to the Number tab and select Number as the category.
- If there are no decimal values, type 0 instead of the default value 2.
- Finally, click OK to apply the changes.
The resulting output will show that the scientific notation has been removed.
ii. Extend Column Width
To prevent Excel from converting data into scientific notation, we can extend the column width when the number of digits is less than the precision limit, which is 15.
For example, in the given dataset, we have two columns: column B with 11-digit numbers and column C with 16-digit numbers.
By simply extending the column width of column B, we can see that there is no more scientific notation. However, even after extending the column width of column C, the scientific notation remains.
Therefore, we can conclude that extending the column width is only effective when the number of digits is less than 15.
3. Import the CSV File in Power Query and Save It as an Excel File
The Power Query tool is a useful feature available from Excel 2016 to 365. It can help prevent Excel from converting scientific notation, which is useful when working with large datasets.
In this method, you can open the CSV file having any type of data with any number of digits, in the Power Query Editor of Excel. Then you have to save the file in XLSX format.
If you save it as CSV and open it, then the scientific notation issue will be back again.
See the video below, to know the whole process.
Check the following steps.
- First, open a blank Excel sheet and go to the Data tab.
- In the Get & Transform Data group, select From Text/CSV file.
- In the Import Data window, select the file you want to import. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a CSV or text file, as the response will be the same.
- For this example, we choose the CSV file.
- In the primary view, you may notice errors in the dataset such as missing leading zeros or scientific notation, while the alpha codes (Confirmation Code Column) remain the same.
There are two ways to use the power query tool.
- The first approach is to change the Data Type Detection.
- Select “Do not detect data types” instead of the default data type detection based on the first 200 rows.
- This immediately reverts the dataset to its original format. Finally, select Load to continue.
- The second approach is to select Transform Data directly, which takes you to the Power Query Editor window.
- To change the data type and prevent scientific notation, select the column that needs to be changed, for example, the Transaction No column.
- Then go to the Home tab >> select Data Type >> and from the drop-down menu, change it from Whole Number to Text.
- When you change the data type of a column in Power Query, a Change Column Type window will pop up.
- If you want to replace the current data format, click Replace Current.
- If you want to keep the current data format and add the new data format as a new step, click Add New Step
- The data will be returned to its original format without any scientific notation.
- Click Close & Load in the upper left-hand corner to load the modified data into the Excel sheet.
- Following these steps will give you a table in the Excel sheet with no scientific notation in the data, making it easier to work with large datasets.
Things to Remember
- Numbers with more than 15 digits will display scientific notation in Excel.
- The delimiter used in CSV files may vary depending on the region. For example, commas are commonly used in North America, while semicolons are preferred in European countries.
- Adding an apostrophe (‘) before a number can prevent scientific notation but may cause issues in performing mathematical operations.
- The recommended way to open CSV files is through the Import Data feature.
- Newer versions of Excel have resolved most of the issues related to scientific notation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is scientific notation and how does it work?
Scientific notation is a method to represent extremely large or small numbers by using a power of 10. For instance, the number 1,234,567,890 in scientific notation would be written as 1.234 x 10^9. In Excel, it would be displayed as 1.2345E+09.
2. Why does Excel use scientific notation for large numbers in CSV files?
Excel converts large numbers to scientific notation to prevent data loss or rounding errors that may occur when exceeding its default precision limit of about 15 digits.
3. How can large numbers be displayed in Excel without scientific notation?
Custom number formatting and using functions such as the ROUND function, and the DECIMAL function are some techniques to display large numbers in Excel without scientific notation.
4. What is a CSV file and why is it used?
CSV is a file format for storing tabular data in plain text. It is widely used because it can be opened and manipulated by most spreadsheet software, and is lightweight in terms of storage space.
5. What are common issues when working with large datasets in Excel?
Common issues include data loss or inaccuracies due to rounding or scientific notation, slow performance or crashes, and difficulty organizing or analyzing data effectively.
6. How do you preserve leading zeros in Excel CSV files?
There are 3 ways.
1. Using Text format
2. Adding apostrophe
3. Using a custom format
Download Practice Workbook
You can download the workbook, where we have provided a practice section on the right side of each worksheet. Try it yourself.
In conclusion, CSV files are widely used in professional life, especially for exchanging data between different applications, and mastering the techniques to prevent scientific notation in CSV files can significantly improve productivity and accuracy in data analysis.
The Text to Columns wizard is a popular method to prevent scientific notation, allowing users to specify column formats for dates and numbers.
The Format Cells option also provides a way to change number formats and prevent Excel from converting to scientific notation from CSV.
Power Query is a powerful tool for transforming and cleaning data, importing from multiple sources, and exporting to new worksheets or CSV files.
Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the best approach depends on project-specific needs. It is important to check for data accuracy and understand the delimiter used in the CSV file to avoid unexpected errors.