What Is the Default Data Type in Excel?


Heather Bennett

What Is the Default Data Type in Excel?

Excel is a powerful tool widely used for data analysis, calculations, and organizing information. When you enter data into an Excel worksheet, it is important to understand the default data type that Excel assigns to each cell. This article will explore the default data type in Excel and its implications for your data.

Default Data Type: General

By default, when you enter data into a cell in Excel, the cell’s data type is set to General. The General data type is a versatile format that can handle various types of content, such as numbers, text, and dates. Excel tries to infer the appropriate format based on the entered value.

This flexibility can sometimes lead to unexpected results. For example, if you enter a series of numbers into cells with the General format and then try to perform mathematical operations on them, Excel may interpret them as text rather than numeric values. This can cause errors or incorrect calculations.

Changing the Default Data Type

If you find that the General data type doesn’t suit your needs or if you frequently work with specific types of data (such as dates or currency), you can change the default data type in Excel.

To change the default data type:

  • Select the File tab at the top-left corner of the Excel window.
  • Click on Options, which is located at the bottom-left side of the File screen.
  • In the Excel Options dialog box, select the Advanced category from the left panel.
  • Navigate to the Editing options section and find the When calculating this workbook option.
  • Choose the desired default data type from the dropdown list.
  • Click OK to save your changes and exit the Excel Options dialog box.

Note that changing the default data type only affects new workbooks. Existing workbooks will retain their original settings unless manually modified.

Implications of Default Data Type

The default data type in Excel can have implications for various aspects of your work, including sorting, filtering, and calculations.

Sorting and Filtering:

If you have a column of mixed data types (e.g., numbers and text) with the General format, sorting or filtering may not yield the expected results. Excel may prioritize alphabetical order over numerical order due to its interpretation of numbers as text. To avoid this issue, ensure that numeric values are stored as numbers and not as text by assigning them a suitable format (e., Number or Currency).


The General format is prone to calculation errors when dealing with ambiguous data types. For accurate calculations, it is recommended to explicitly assign the appropriate data type to cells containing numeric or date values. This can be done by selecting the cells and applying a specific number format (e., Number or Date).

In Conclusion

The default data type in Excel is General, which provides flexibility but may lead to unintended consequences if not used appropriately. Understanding how Excel interprets different data types can help you avoid errors in sorting, filtering, and calculations. By changing the default data type or explicitly formatting your data, you can ensure accurate results in your Excel workbooks.

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