Working with milliseconds in Excel

Milliseconds are not first-class citizens in Excel. There’s no MILLISECOND equivalent to the SECOND function and you will not find a predefined time format that includes hours, minutes, seconds and milliseconds.

This does not mean that Excel cannot process time values with milliseconds. The only requirement is that they are in a format that Excel recognizes. You should also assign a custom format to the cells so that you can easily read the values. I will explain these two aspects in this article and present solutions to common millisecond related tasks and problems. If you’re only interested in a brief summary, jump to the TL;DR at the end.

Note: I’m using US region settings for this article. Other regions may require different formats, e.g. “hh:mm:ss,000” for Germany (with a comma instead of a dot).

Time formats with milliseconds recognized by Excel

Internally, Excel stores time values as fractions of a day (24 hours). This means that 12h are represented as 12÷24 = ½ = 0.5 (half a day) and 3h as 3÷24 = 0.125. In this representation, 1ms is only a tiny value: 1ms ÷ (24h × 60min/h × 60s/min × 1000ms/s) = 1÷86400000 ≈ 0.000000011574074 (compare this to the numeric precision of Excel).

This makes the calculation of time differences very easy, but entering values in this way is not particularly user friendly. Fortunately, Excel also recognizes the following format and similar variants:

hh:mm:ss.000

Example: “01:23:45.678” stands for one hour, 23 minutes, 45 seconds and 678 milliseconds. You do not have to type leading zeros (or trailing zeros in the milliseconds part).

Numbers entered like this or read from a file in this format are converted to fractions of a day. However, they are not displayed correctly until you assign a corresponding custom format to the cells, as explained below.

Custom cell format with milliseconds

Practical example

Click here to download a CSV file created by our data acquisition software Simple Data Logger during a fill weighing operation using an A&D GX-A precision balance. The software was configured to record the date, time (with milliseconds) and weight:

Time with milliseconds in weight recording software
The custom format string in this software is different from the one used by Excel. To the right of the “add time” field, you can see that it produces the desired output.

After opening the CSV file in Excel, you will notice that the time is not displayed correctly:
CSV file opened in Excel, date, time (not formatted correctly) and weight

This can be fixed by assigning the following custom format to the cells (select the column containing the time, right-click and choose “format cells”):

[hh]:mm:ss.000

The square brackets indicate that this is an “elapsed time” format that can display hourly values equal to or greater than 24h. Once applied, the time values are shown in the desired format:

Date, time with milliseconds and weight shown correctly in Excel

Common tasks when using milliseconds in Excel

Calculating time differences

Thanks to the numeric format used internally by Excel, you can perform all kinds of calculations with time values. To calculate a time difference, simply subtract the later time from the earlier one:

Calculating with milliseconds in Excel

If the result consists of “############” instead of the expected time difference, there can be several reasons:

  • You may need to apply the same custom [hh]:mm:ss.000 format as above to the results.
  • The result is a negative value. Excel does not like negative time values, but there are some workarounds.

Be careful with date changes! The simple time difference formula used above will fail at midnight. Fortunately, dates are internally stored as whole numbers and you can therefore simply add the date and time values before performing the subtraction as I’ve explained here.

Show milliseconds only

Excel does not have a MILLISECOND function to return only the milliseconds of a time value. You can use the following formula instead:

=RIGHT(TEXT(D2, "hh:mm:ss.000"),3)*1

This takes the 3 rightmost characters (the milliseconds) from the D2 cell and multiplies them by one to ensure the result is treated as a number (not text).

Format the cells in the result column as a number without decimal places and you will see that only the milliseconds have been extracted:

Milliseconds extracted from time in Excel

You can then easily perform calculations such as MIN, MAX, STDEV.P, etc.

Conversion of time values into milliseconds

If you want to convert entire time values to milliseconds instead of just extracting the milliseconds part, there are two approaches that should lead to the same result.

You can use the built-in HOUR, MINUTE and SECOND functions together with our MILLISECOND function replacement (see above) to convert a time value (in cell D2):

=HOUR(D2)*3600000+MINUTE(D2)*60000+SECOND(D2)*1000+RIGHT(TEXT(D2, "hh:mm:ss.000"),3)

There is also an elegant alternative to this solution: You can simply multiply the time value by 86400000 to convert it into milliseconds. This works because of the internal numeric format used by Excel where 1 is equal to 24h = 24h × 60min/h × 60s/min × 1000ms/s = 86400000ms.

Use an easier format to manually enter times with milliseconds

The time values with milliseconds used for the examples above were already available in the “hh:mm:ss.000” format required by Excel. But what if you must enter many time values manually? Maybe you prefer a format that only uses dots so you can keep your hand on the numeric keypad, e.g. 1.25.54.010 instead of 1:25:54.010.

For Excel to recognize these values as times, they must be converted to the “hh:mm:ss.000” format. However, if you use the SUBSTITUTE function to replace all dots with colons, you wont preserve the last dot. The solution is to limit SUBSTITUTE to replace only the first occurrence of a dot and then apply it again to replace the second dot, leaving the last one intact. The required formula looks complicated but is actually simple (it assumes the value you want to transform is contained in cell A2):

=SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(A2,".",":",1),".",":",1)

Please try it out before you manually enter hundreds of time values using the dot format. It worked fine for me:

Excel time with milliseconds entered with dot

TL;DR (too long, didn’t read)

  1. Make sure that your time values are available as hh:mm:ss.000, e.g. “01:23:45.678”.
  2. Assign the following custom format to your cells: [hh]:mm:ss.000.

Buy a PDF version of this article and support this blog

Did this article help you save some time? It took me many hours to write. You can thank me by clicking here to purchase a PDF version (which contains absolutely no additional content) for US$1/copy. Thank you!

New 2019 Ohaus Navigator scales

The new Ohaus Navigator series consists of a total of 18 scales (incl. 4 LFT models) with a maximum capacity from 220g up to 22kg and a readability starting at 0.01g. As usual in this segment, all scales use load cells with strain gages.

Scale Capacity [g] Readability [g]
NV222 220 0.01
NV422 420 0.01
NV622 620 0.01
NV221 220 0.1
NV621 620 0.1
NV1201 1200 0.1
NVT2201 2200 0.1
NVT6201 6200 0.1
NVT2200 2220 1
NVT6200 6200 1
NVT12000 12000 1
NVT22000 22000 1
LFT scale Capacity [g] Readability [g]
NVT1601M 1600 1
NVT3200M 3200 2
NVT6400M 6400 5

Note: Available models and characteristics may differ depending on your region. This article refers to scales available in Europe as of May 2019.

Differences to the previous Navigator scales

The NVL series (Navigator XL) with its unusual elongated shape is no longer available:

Phased out Ohaus Navigator scales
From left to right: Old Navigator XT scale (NVT), old Navigator XL scale (NVL), old Navigator scale (NV)

On all new scales, the upper side of the housing is now white, and the red display framing is more discreet. Another difference is the even higher contrast of the display:

Old vs. new Ohaus Navigator scales
Old NVT scale (left) and new NVT scale (right)

The touchless IR sensor has been removed from all scales except the LFT models.

Interface options and accessories continue to be available

Numerous interface options are available, making these scales particularly interesting for data transfer to a computer: RS-232, USB device (virtual COM port) and Ethernet.

Ohaus Navigator scale with optional USB interface installed
Ohaus Navigator scale with optional USB interface installed

You can easily use the scales with the free Serial Port Data Collection (SPDC) software available from Ohaus as well as with our 232key keyboard wedge and Simple Data Logger software:

Ohaus Navigator device profile in Simple Data Logger
Ohaus Navigator device profile in Simple Data Logger (SDL)

As standard, all scales are supplied with a plug-in power supply and can alternatively be operated with batteries. An optional lead battery is also available for the larger NVT models.

A carrying case is available to make the scales even more portable:

Ohaus Navigator 30467963 carrying case
Ohaus Navigator carrying case (30467963)

Further information on the new 2019 Ohaus Navigator scales


Note: The photos for this article were not provided by the manufacturer. If you would like to use them on your website or in other publications, please contact us to acquire a license.

Reading force measurement values from A&D’s LCCU-21 button load cell

A&D’s LCCU-21 USB subminiature button load cells are available in capacities ranging from 100 N to 1 kN. Their tiny size makes it easy to incorporate them into your own machinery or test equipment. They are connected to an A/D converter with a USB interface, enabling you to quickly build PC-based force measurement and data acquisition systems at a very affordable price.

A&D LCCU21N100 usb button load cell

LCCU21 device profile in Simple Data Logger

As an alternative to A&D’s free WinCT-DLC application, you can also use these load cells with the most recent release of our Simple Data Logger software (SDL v1.2.1). In this article, I’ll show you how to configure SDL to request data from the load cell in user-defined intervals (polling).

The LCCU-21 button load cell has two data transfer modes: continuous transfer of up to 100 values/s and a command/reply mode. Currently, only the second mode is supported by Simple Data Logger (continuous mode has to be started and stopped by sending special commands to the LCCU-21, which is something that will be available in a future version of SDL).

Force measurement using A&D’s LCCU-21 button load cell and Simple Data Logger

1. Download and install Simple Data Logger.

2. Go to the license tab and enter a license key (required for the polling function). You can purchase license keys from FastSpring through a completely automated process (including a “90 days” license for only US$5). You can also contact us if you require a free trial license or apply to become a reseller if you want to sell our software to your customers.

3. In the input tab, set the device to “A&D LCCU21”, then click on set default parameters for device. This will set all interface parameters for you. The only thing left to set is the (virtual) COM port which appeared on your PC after connecting the LCCU-21 to a USB port (see this PDF document for further information):
A&D LCCU-21 usb button load cell: configuration in input tab

5. Switch to the control tab, enable polling and set the timer to a value that makes sense for your application. Click on set default command for A&D LCCU21; this will automatically enter the “RLMV” command which will be sent to the USB button load to request measurement data:
Set default command for A&D LCCU-21 usb button load cell

6. Select a file in the output tab. Click on the set values button to automatically set the values below for your region so that you can easily open the CSV file in Excel later. If you want to record the time with milliseconds, choose the appropriate format from the drop down list or enter it manually:
CSV file format settings

7. Click on the start button in the start tab to connect to the LCCU-21 USB button load cell and to start sending the polling command. Commands and replies are shown in the event log. Captured measurement values appear in blue and are written to the CSV file. Click on stop to stop data acquisition and to close the file:
Data acquisition from A&D LCCU-21 usb button load cell

Notes on the LCCU-21 button load cell

  • I don’t have the LCCU21N100 I used for testing anymore, so if you have any questions about it, please contact A&D.
  • The product brochure (PDF) contains several creative application examples, including one where load is applied by pressing the button load cell with a finger. When I tried this, it worked, but not very well: I found that it is impossible to press only the load sensitive surface (though maybe that’s not an issue for people with smaller fingers). It is therefore advisable to “apply load to the load cell through a rigid surface” as stated in the user manual.

Further information