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:

  1. Press [Ctrl]+; to enter the current date.
  2. Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+; to enter the current time.
  3. 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.