Excel formats date and time values in a way that's meaningful to us: 11/12/08; November 12, 2008; 1:36 PM; 11/12/08 13:36, and so on. At a glance, we know exactly what the date and time string represents. Internally, Excel uses a serial value, not the formatted value that we see.
When working with time and date values, it can be beneficial to know a value's serial value. Fortunately, Excel makes it easy to take a quick peek. Simply press [Ctrl]+~ (that's the Shift value for the ` key, just left of the 1 key).
You can test this quickly enough by entering a few date and time values:
- Press [Ctrl]+; to enter the current date.
- Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+; to enter the current time.
- Press [Ctrl]+; then [Spacebar] then [Ctrl]+[Shift]+; to enter the current date and time.
To see the serial values for each date and time value, simply press [Ctrl]+~. When you're done, press [Ctrl]+~ again to return to normal view. Excel automatically adjusts the column width for both views.
Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.