Formatted Dates Appear Differently on Different Systems

Edward has noticed a problem with formatted dates on different machines. Many times he will create a workbook on one computer but use a different computer to print the report for inclusion in a mailing. Even though he has the cells formatted one way when he creates the report (i.e., the date is mm/dd/yy), when he opens the workbook on the second computer the date will appear differently (mm/dd/yyyy). This causes problems with the appearance of the final printed report as the cell data is then truncated.

This occurs because of differences in the way that system dates are set up on the two machines. On one machine the system date is set up in Windows to display using two digits for the year, while the other is set up to display using four.

How does this affect Excel? Some of the date formats in Excel automatically use the system date format used by Windows. When you display the Number tab of the Format Cells dialog box you know that Excel provides a number of different date formats you can select. Note that some of the formats have an asterisk in front of them. These represent the “system date” formats. If you select one of these, it means that Excel uses the corresponding system date format to display the information in the cell. If you move the workbook to a different system and the formats used for system dates are different, then the dates will display differently in those cells.

The solution is to either change the system date formats to be the same on both systems (done in Windows, in the Regional Settings applet of the Control Panel), or simply pick a different date format in Excel. You’ll want to pick one that doesn’t have an asterisk in front of it, or define your own custom date format. You should then have no problem with different displays of the dates on the different systems.