How to Mask Data Input in Excel & Google Sheets

Written by

Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Laura Tsitlidze

Last updated on April 3, 2023

This tutorial demonstrates how to mask data input in Excel and Google Sheets.


maskdata intro


What does it mean to “mask” data in Excel?

Click here to jump to the Google Sheets walkthrough.

Mask Data for Privacy

If you wish to mask data for privacy reasons, you can represent the data by a series of hashes or other symbols. Consider the following list of names and phone numbers. Say you want to mask the phone numbers so passersby can’t see them.


maskdata no mask


  1. Highlight the phone number data cells, and then in the Ribbon, go to Home > Number. Click the Number Format drop down.


maskdata ribbon


  1. Scroll down to the bottom and click More Number Formats…


maskdata more formats


  1. Click Custom, and then type in the input mask inside double quotes. In this example, for phone numbers represented by hashes, that’s “(###) ### ####”. Click OK to apply the data mask.


maskdata custom mask


  1. Your data is now formatted with a privacy mask.


maskdata privacy mask


Mask Data Input

When entering data such as time or date, it can be time-consuming to enter preformatted values including symbols like “:” or “/“. Therefore, you can create an input mask that allows a user to enter numbers only and then automatically format them.


For example, if only numbers for a time are inserted, you want Excel to automatically format them as HH:MM. Say you want to create an input mask for a time in cell B2.

  1. Right-click the cell where you want to create a mask input (here, cell B2), and choose Format Cells…


mask data input 1


    1. In the Format Cells window, choose Number > Custom, enter #”:”00 in the Type box, and click OK.


mask data input 2a


Now, you can enter numbers only for the time (here, 450), and Excel formats it as 4:50.


mask data input 3


As you can see, this cell has a custom format. Therefore, it won’t be recognized as a time format by Excel.


In a similar way, you can also mask data input for dates. In this case, each entry should be only numbers (for example, 02282021), and you want Excel to display it as a date (02/28/2021). To do this, repeat the steps above, but for Step 2, type in the following: 00″/”00″/”0000.


mask data input for dates


Now, you can enter 02282021 in cell B2, and it is displayed as 02/28/2021.


mask data input for dates 2


Mask Data Input in Google Sheets

You can also mask data input for times in Google Sheets.

  1. Select the cell where you want to create a mask input (here, cell B2), and in the Menu, go to Format > Number > More Formats > Custom number format.


google sheets mask data input


  1. In the number format box, enter #”:”00 and click Apply.


google sheets mask data input 2


The result is the same as in Excel. If you enter 450 in cell B2, it is formatted as 4:50.


google sheets mask data input 3


Using the steps above, you can also mask data input for dates by entering 00″/”00″/”0000 as a custom number format. Or mask for privacy with, for example, the format “(###) ### ####”.

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