How to Put Zeros in Front of a Number in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Adding zeros in front of a number in Excel might seem like a small thing, but it can be crucial for data integrity and appearance. Whether you’re working with product codes, phone numbers, or any other number sequence where leading zeros are essential, Excel has got you covered. It’s a simple task that can be done in just a few clicks.

Step by Step Tutorial to Put Zeros in Front of a Number in Excel

Before diving into the steps, let’s clarify what we’re aiming to achieve. We want to format cells in Excel so that they display leading zeros. This doesn’t change the actual value of the cell, just how it’s presented.

Step 1: Select the cells you want to format

Click on the cell or range of cells where you want to add leading zeros.

Selecting the correct cells is crucial because any formatting changes will only apply to the selected cells. Make sure you’ve got all the cells you need before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Open the Format Cells dialog box

Right-click on the selected cells and choose ‘Format Cells’ from the context menu, or press Ctrl+1 on your keyboard.

The Format Cells dialog box is where you can find all sorts of formatting options for your cells, not just for adding zeros but also for changing number formats, text alignment, and more.

Step 3: Go to the ‘Number’ tab

In the Format Cells dialog box, click on the ‘Number’ tab to access number formatting options.

The Number tab is where you can tailor how numbers are displayed. This includes decimal places, whether to use a thousand separator, and, of course, leading zeros.

Step 4: Select ‘Custom’ from the Category list

Under the ‘Number’ tab, click on ‘Custom’ at the bottom of the Category list.

Custom format allows you to define exactly how you want your numbers to appear. It’s a powerful tool that can handle a variety of formatting needs.

Step 5: Enter the format code

In the Type field, enter the format code that corresponds to the number of leading zeros you want. For example, if you want three leading zeros, you would type ‘0000’, and then click ‘OK’.

The format code dictates how Excel displays the cell content. Each zero in the format code represents a place for a digit. If the cell’s value doesn’t fill all the places, Excel will pad it with zeros.

After following these steps, any numbers in the selected cells will now display with the specified number of leading zeros. For instance, if you entered ‘1’ and used the ‘0000’ format, it will appear as ‘0001’ in the cell.

Tips for Putting Zeros in Front of a Number in Excel

  • If you’re working with a large dataset, use the Format Painter tool to quickly apply the same formatting to multiple cells.
  • Remember that adding leading zeros with custom formatting is a display change only; it doesn’t affect the cell’s actual value.
  • To permanently add leading zeros, you can use a formula like =TEXT(A1,”0000″), where A1 is the cell with the number.
  • If you’re importing data from a .csv or a text file, ensure that you set the correct data format to avoid losing any leading zeros.
  • Always double-check your work, especially if you’re dealing with crucial data like identification numbers or codes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the maximum number of leading zeros I can add?

You can add as many leading zeros as you need, just ensure that the format code matches the total number of digits you want to display.

Will adding zeros change the number’s value?

No, adding zeros in front of a number using the custom format option won’t change the actual value of the number; it only changes the way it is displayed.

Can I use this method for numbers stored as text?

Yes, you can. The custom format works for numbers stored as text, too.

What if my zeros disappear after saving and reopening the Excel file?

If you’re saving the file in a format other than .xlsx (like .csv), Excel might not save the formatting. Always save your work in Excel’s native format when possible.

Can I remove the leading zeros if I change my mind?

Absolutely! Just repeat the process, but this time choose a different number format that doesn’t include leading zeros.


  1. Select the cells to format.
  2. Open the Format Cells dialog box.
  3. Go to the ‘Number’ tab.
  4. Choose ‘Custom’ format.
  5. Enter the format code with zeros.


Mastering the art of adding zeros in front of a number in Excel can make a significant difference in data presentation and management. Whether you’re tidying up a report, ensuring data consistency, or meeting specific formatting requirements, this skill is a handy one to have in your Excel toolkit. Remember, the transformation is purely cosmetic – the underlying data remains unchanged, which means you can format and reformat without worrying about data integrity. So, why not give it a try and see how those zeros transform your data’s appearance? And if you face any trouble, refer back to this guide or reach out to fellow Excel users. Happy formatting!