What does it do?

It returns the first character or characters in a text string, based on the number of characters you specify.

Formula breakdown:

=LEFT(text, [num_chars])

What it means:

=LEFT(look in this cell, extract X characters)

There are times when you will need to extract the first few characters of text within a cell, e.g. From a serial number, part number, name, phone number etc.

The LEFT formula in Excel can help you parse and extract the needed text easily.

In our example below, we have a Part # which has 10 characters and we want to extract all the characters before the hyphen “-“.

I explain how you can do this and please go to the bottom of the page to see the animated gif tutorial:



STEP 1: We need to enter the Left function next to the cell that we want to extract the data from:



STEP 2: The Left arguments:


Which text do we want to extract the first X characters from?

Reference the cell that contains the text or value:


1st argument



How many characters do we want to extract from cell C9?

Enter a positive number only:

=LEFT(C9, 8)

2nd argument


STEP 3: Do the same for the rest of the cells by dragging the LEFT formula all the way down using the left mouse button.

Notice all of the first 8 characters in each text are now extracted:

Left 03


If you like this Excel tip, please share itEmail this to someone


Pin on Pinterest


Share on Facebook


Tweet about this on Twitter


Share on LinkedIn


Share on Google+


Related Posts

Count Formula in Excel What does it do? Counts the number of cells that contain numbers Formula breakdown: =COUNT(value1, ...) What it means: =COUNT(range of cells to check, ...) Ever had a column of data and wanted to check if all of the values contain valid numbers? It would ...
Extract First Name From Full Name in Excel There were countless times when I had a list of full names, and all I needed was the First Name. It would be time-consuming to manually get the first names one by one. Thank goodness there are formulas to make my life easier! In Excel, it's very easy to do that with the LEFT a...
Cleaning Data with Excel’s CLEAN Formula   What does it do? Removes all nonprintable characters from text Formula breakdown: =CLEAN(text) What it means: =CLEAN(this dirty text cell) There are times when imported text from other applications contain characters that are unprintable. The CLEAN...
Add Leading Zeros in Excel Do you have a lot of numbers with an uneven number of digits in your Excel list? Do you want to make them uniform by adding leading zeros to them? Well, it's a pain to add zeros in front of them one by one! Thankfully, Excel allows you to add leading zeros with one singl...