What are Microsoft Excel data types? (Plus examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many working professionals use Microsoft Excel within their roles to process data for various projects. Learning the different Microsoft Excel data types can enhance your skills and your Excel proficiency. A thorough understanding of the different data types and how to use them in Excel is key for helping you to use Excel correctly to process data and create spreadsheets. In this article, we define Microsoft Excel's data types and explain how to use the four different data types.

What is Microsoft Excel?

Microsoft Excel is a piece of software created by Microsoft where users can organise, format and calculate data figures using spreadsheets. Excel features a wide range of tools, computation capabilities and calculation abilities to format data. The software is most commonly used for the storage and entry of data, accounting and budget formatting and for the verification and collection of various business data.

Related: 12 basic Excel skills to help you advance your career

What are Microsoft Excel data types?

Within the Microsoft Excel software, there are four different Excel data types. These four different data types represent four different values. Each data type enables users to perform a different function, which is why it's extremely valuable to understand each type and understand how to use these different data types and their functions. The different data types may also change their form in spreadsheets once exported onto them.

Related: 15 basic Excel formulas to learn (with examples)

Excel data types

Here's more information on each of the four data types:

1. Numerical data

This Excel data type includes any type of number. Number data can be qualitative and quantitative data and may also include small fractions and large numbers. When using qualitative and quantitative number values, remember the differences between these values, as not all numbers represent an amount of something.

For example, if you enter a number representing financial earnings into one spreadsheet cell and then enter a number into another spreadsheet cell that's meant to signify a date, they're both considered number data, but they enter into the spreadsheet differently. To ensure accuracy when inputting number data into Excel, using the correct format and correct symbols is key so that the software reads your number data properly. Below are some examples of numerical data that you may use in Excel:

  • dates

  • phone numbers

  • monetary totals

  • percentages

  • integers

  • whole numbers

  • times

Related: How to use data consolidation in Excel: a complete guide

2. Text data

Text data is an Excel data type that includes a range of characters, such as alphabetical letters, numerals and special symbols. The central difference between text data and number data is that you can't calculate on the spreadsheet using text data automatically as you can with numerical data. As there's the potential for a data overlap between number data and text numerals, there's a way to change the cell format manually to ensure that it works in the way you want it to.

Text data is frequently used to label rows and columns so that it's easy to track different categories of information you're looking at. For example, easily label rows with text data such as July 2022 to highlight that the data is from the month of July, the year 2022. Sometimes, Excel can't categorise default text data. Using the correct formatting is key so that the data appears how you want it to. Some examples of text data you may use in Excel include:

  • location addresses

  • sentences

  • written dates instead of numerical dates

  • words

  • times

Related: Shortcuts in Excel to develop better spreadsheet skills

3. Error data

Excel's error data type occurs when the software programme identifies that key processing information is missing or when your entry includes a mistake. For example, Excel usually produces the error value #VALUE! if a user attempts to run a cell function when it contains text data. The function of Excel error data is to help users to identify the specific areas where there's a mistake within their programming so that they can easily rectify it and produce the correct results. Excel's error data is easily identifiable with the # character.

Having a comprehensive knowledge of the error values that Excel produces and what they mean is useful for understanding the ways to resolve the mistakes being accidentally made in the coding. Below are some of the most common error data examples that you may see in Excel:

  • #VALUE!: This error data signifies an invalid operator or argument within one of the formulas or functions within the document. The most frequently occurring instance that produces this error data happens when a user attempts to calculate the sum of cells when one of these cells contains text data.

  • #NAME?: This error data value appears if the user has a value inside a formula without both a beginning and an end quote included. This error data value also occurs when there's a typo error in your written formula, so this value appears to encourage the user to make the required corrections.

  • #N/A: Users typically insert this error data value so that they can identify areas where they can add a value later to the formula. Sometimes Excel automatically populates this value into formulas if a user's imported data has unreadable cells or cells that are empty.

  • #DIV/0: This error data value appears when a user attempts to divide by 0. As the result of dividing by 0 is an undefined number, Excel encourages users to input a differential equation in this place instead by showing this value.

  • #NULL!: This error data value occurs when cells that you're referencing an intersection for are failing to intersect. If some of your cells are also missing some separating commas within the function, this value appears.

  • #NUM!: This error data value signifies when a user has entered a function or a formula that's invalid or incorrect. If the function and formula produced are too large for the Excel software to show in a cell, this value appears.

  • #REF!: This error data value represents an invalid cell reference which can happen when users insert or remove items into a cell that was previously where the formula was. You can easily correct this action with a simple undo and replacement of new data into a cell that doesn't already contain a formula.

Related: How to add error bars in Excel and why they're useful

4. Logical data

The fourth and final Excel data type is logical data. This type of data is always either TRUE or FALSE and usually comes about as the result of a comparison or a test. Logical data types enable users to use functions to determine whether the existing data within a spreadsheet meets the different measures. For example, if a user plans to use their spreadsheet to outline a business's sales goals and then use it to measure the sales performance of the business, they conduct some tests and comparisons using logical data functions for these kinds of scenarios.

There are four different logical data functions that users typically see when using Excel. These four logical data functions include:

  • OR: Users may choose this logical data function to determine whether one of your arguments has successfully met the conditions you've outlined. Excel produces a FALSE value to users if none of the included data successfully matches your conditions.

  • NOT: Users typically choose this logical data function to filter out the arguments that don't successfully match their conditions. This function marks each matching argument as TRUE, so that users can easily analyse data patterns that don't match the outlined conditions.

  • AND: The AND logical function helps users to determine whether their data successfully meets multiple of the outlined conditions. For example, if users wished to test whether one cell's data is larger than the x amount and then if another cell's data is larger than another amount, this logical data function is suitable to use.

  • XOR: This logical function stands for Exclusive Or meaning the data has produced only one argument that's wholly TRUE or FALSE. If a user wanted to ensure that only one of their spreadsheet cells contains a specific value, they use this logical data function to ensure this.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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