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Excel Formatting Issues: ESNs and IMEIs in Scientific Notation
Excel Formatting Issues: ESNs and IMEIs in Scientific Notation
Brennan Zelener avatar
Written by Brennan Zelener
Updated over a week ago

If you've ever opened a Microsoft Excel file with cellular IMEIs/ESNs, you know the hassle: Excel converts your IMEIs and they end up in scientific notation like this: 3.21456E+17.

This is especially frustrating when importing/exporting a CSV of inventory data, a common process for WholeCell users. You export a CSV of individual inventory data from WholeCell with a column for the ESN, open it in Excel, and all of your ESNs appear in scientific notation. If you save the file they stay that way, and if you export as a CSV you might get stuck with scientific notation -- losing the full ESNs from that file.

You'd think Microsoft would have a better solution for this in Excel by now, but it's mid-2022 and they still don't. Do you think, in the entire history of Excel, there's ever been a single time where someone has opened a CSV and said "oh thank god, all of my numbers are scientific notation now"? Yeah, me neither.

Here are the workarounds we recommend to WholeCell users who ask about this:

1. Change the format in Excel

We've found that you can change the format of ESNs in Excel to either Number and then decrease the decimal places, or a Custom Format with Type 0.

a) Number format

b) Custom format with Type 0

2. Use Google Sheets

Google Sheets does a better job with IMEIs/ESNs, even when copy-pasted into a sheet and downloaded as a CSV. If you're frustrated with this behavior in Excel (or other behaviors), we'd recommend giving Google Sheets a try.


When you open a CSV, it will show the ESNs in scientific notation even after you have converted them to the number format and saved the sheet.

If you're changing/adding inventory data using a spreadsheet upload, just convert the ESNs in number format and upload the spreadsheet in WholeCell. As long as you have converted them and saved the sheet, WholeCell will recognize the ESNs in number format. Remember, the moment you open the spreadsheet, you will see the ESNs in scientific notation, and this may always cause anxiety.

When you open a CSV and see the ESNs in scientific notation then do not convert them into the number format before saving the sheet, you will lose some of the data in the sheet and you'll see a big chunk of the ESN turn into 0s (see screenshot below). So to resolve this, convert them to the number format, THEN save.

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