The Problem:

You have a spreadsheet that has a column of what you think are numbers in it.  The numbers display fine in their cells, but when you try to do something with them, you find that you can’t.  For example, you may want to sort them or use them as part of a calculation and it doesn’t work.  Here is a screenshot illustrating that the numbers look like numbers in their cells:

apostrophe problem - 01

If you click on one of the cells, you’ll see that the numbers actually have a hidden apostrophe in front of them, like you see in this screenshot:

apostrophe problem - 02

After spending some time on the internet, I finally found out what is going on.  While you think those are numbers, the apostrophe is Calc’s way of saying that the numbers you see are to be treated as text, but they are in a cell that is formatted as a “number.”  You can verify this by right-clicking on the cell, selecting “Format cells” and then clicking on the “Numbers” tab, as illustrated in the screenshots below:

apostrophe problem - 03

apostrophe problem - 04

So, the spreadsheet program is treating a series of number as text in a cell formatted as numbers.  Talk about aggravating.

The Solution:

There is a solution for this.  It involves a “find and replace” function.  From the “Edit” menu, choose “Find & Replace.”  In the “Find” box, type “^.” (i.e., carat + period).  In the “Replace” box, type “&” (without the quotes, of course).  But you have to do one more thing for this to work.  At the bottom of the “Find & Replace” window you’ll see a button that says “More Options.”   Click on it, then select the box next to “Regular Expressions.”  You should now have a “Find & Replace” box that looks like this:

apostrophe problem - 05

Now, hit “Replace All” and all of your apostrophes will disappear.  Your series of numbers will now be seen as numbers by your spreadsheet program and will be in cells formatted as number cells.  Problem solved.

Notes:

I actually don’t know how/why this works, but it does.  I found the solution here.

159 Replies to “remove apostrophes before numbers in OpenOffice Calc”

  1. this doesn’t work for me, the search feature doesn’t find anything. I thought these were “invisible apostrophes”? Doesn’t that mean that they’re not search-able, as they’re not normal?

  2. Did you choose “regular expressions” at the bottom of the find/replace box? If not, it won’t find them.

    Also, from what I understand from the site where I got this, this doesn’t actually find and replace the apostrophes. What it actually does is recalculate all of the cells with numbers in them, turning them into numbers.

    If it’s still not working, not sure what to tell you.

  3. Thanks a ton! I’ve been searching for 2 hours on this (not the apostrophe) and couldn’t find any help. Finally I noticed the ‘ in front of the numbers and started in with the searches. Found your first in google and can now stop pulling my hair out 😛

  4. Hey, there is simpler solution.
    Just select column with these numbers treated as text, choose Data -> Text to Columns.
    Automagically, it converts them all to numbers.

    But I didn’t find it myself, my wife did 🙂

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  7. Say, has anyone had trouble with apostrophes appearing not in front of but behind numbers? Again, the column says it is a number; however, no matter what I do, including the solutions above, the darn apostrophe keeps appearing when I enter a number in a blank cell. I can manually delete it, but what a pain.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      I’ve never run into this problem. Can you describe what you are doing to make it occur in greater detail?

      Best,

      Ryan

  8. Oh my Gosh. I’ve been trying to isolate the apostrophe itself. I’ve spent ~five hours on this, trying to learn regular expressions. This was all it took?! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou

  9. This should be part of the FAQs on OpenOffice’s website.
    Amazing. I consider myself a pretty good Googler / help file searcher. Just lucky my Google Fu turned up your site as the OpenOffice site and help files were no help.

    Thank you so much for your very clear instructions! Two year old post and it still applies.

  10. It is really infuriating how Calc simply ignores the column or cell properties (me forcing it to be ciphers or valuta) and keeps quoting certain numbers like 3.59
    –> ‘3.59 but (most) others in the same column as ciphers the way I wanted them. Manually removing that heinous ‘ will turn 3.59 into 21610,00!!!! Even when carefully removing all digits, pasting them in notepad and pasting etc. won’t get rid of the %##%@! quotes so my calculations simply return 0. It really defies the whole purpose of Open Office if it is so fundamentally messing up in one of the bare essentials of a spreadsheet program. Why this ‘3.59 and ‘10.00 became to be text in stead of ciphers I’ll never know because the original CSV that was imported did not contain any aberrations in that column. Obviously it is an error in the import logarithms used and probably would qualify as ‘bugz’. Anyway, thanks for the tips that I have found here, it has indeed cleared those ridiculous (‘random’) quotes!!! I am glad that I did not have to waste hours on finding a how to. For your information my search engine query was: “open office how to delete quoted values”

  11. Ryan, Thank you very much for this. The last time I had this problem and searched for a solution I found nothing. Your clear, well illustrated advice makes the world a better place.

  12. This might help someone too. I saw someone asking about if it’s AFTER the text. Well, I copied my credit card into calc and one column wouldn’t add. So I figured out that it’s text too just like the above problem, but in my case, no apostrophe. It’s a SPACE, and it’s AFTER the numbers, not before, so it’s not so easy to find. Solution: use find and replace. COPY the space from calc, and replace it with a 0 (zero) Now it will format like numbers. If you’re formatted for 2 decimal points, you won’t even see the extra 0 you added.

  13. Thank you kind denizens of the web. This solved my ever so annoying ‘apostrophe’ problem just in time for tax season.

  14. Thank you!! This will save me hours on my taxes. I’ve just spent 1/2 hour trying to solve this on my own. :p

  15. You my friend, are a saint. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this and help others..gives me hope (and a working bloody spreadsheet…).

  16. Arrrrgh! None of this is working here. When I remove apostrophes by any method, or use data>text to columns, all my dates turn into “###”
    Any ideas?

  17. This is the most clear and concise instructional post I have ever read, and solved my aggravating problem in 1-minute. Thanks author!

  18. Forgive me for looking a gift horse in the mouth, this saved me pulling out all my hair. With mine, it adds the apostrophe each time a check box is clicked. Best I can tell I have to do the find and replace each time the boxes are clicked. Has anyone found a more permanent solution?

  19. @Dan

    Drag the column wider.

    If you see crazy numbers instead of dates, right click on the column and change the number format to ‘date’ – it uses a wacky UNIX epoch type system for them if you view them as integers/floating point.

  20. Thank you!

    To SkEyesOGre (who said that an apostrophe gets added), have you first formatted the column to make sure it’s in the “Number” format?

  21. @Piotr

    This solution worked great for me. Thanks a lot!
    But don’t forget in Data -> Text to Columns to to check “other” as separator and to type ” ‘ ” (without the quotes) just next to this option.

  22. The text to columns suggestion worked and got rid of the apostrophes that were changing my numbers into text. However, after saving the file and reopening it, the apostrophes are back. Does anyone know if there’s a default setting that is causing this?

  23. I’ve wasted several hours trying to figure this out in calc. I finally googled the problem and you solution popped. It works. Thank you!

  24. Mike :
    The text to columns suggestion worked and got rid of the apostrophes that were changing my numbers into text. However, after saving the file and reopening it, the apostrophes are back. Does anyone know if there’s a default setting that is causing this?

    Mike I have only had this problem with date columns imported using csv files. This solution works for me. Highlight the entire column with the offending invisible apostrophe;
    click on Data > Text to Columns > click OK
    in the resulting dialog box. I have never changed the options in the Text to Columns dialog box but the apostrophes disappear. I then can format the dates as needed.

    One further error I get is if the Default language is set to English(USA), I can’t format the entire column of dates as yyyy/mm/dd for import into the database unless I change the default language to English(UK).

  25. I realize this is an older post, but just to update (without reading all the comments to see if it’s been suggested already…sorry) this solution:
    Edit
    Find & replace
    (search for) ‘
    (replace with) leave blank
    Then I just clicked “replace all” and closed.
    Problem solved.

    Thank you for directing me to the right area and saving me tons of time by not needing to correct them individually…. (aargh..)!

  26. Thank you! Don’t know how you figured it out but I have been saved many hours of work thanks to your posting this. Well done!

  27. Hi Ryan,
    Thanks for this. Every year when I do my taxes and download the csv from paypal I always have this problem and always find your website with the solution. If there was a facebook like button I would click on it. It gets the thumbs up from me. Thank you.

  28. For a long time have I put up with this issue and performed the long winded approach of removing each apostrophe one at a time – but I shall do it no more thanks to you! 🙂

  29. Just an explanation of why the find and replace with “^.” and “&” works. A list of wildcards used in regular expressions in open office can be found at . Essentially, you are searching for the first character in every cell, and altering it if it is a format mark

  30. Perfect, exactly what I was search for. It’s very important if you work with HLOOKUP (DE = SVERWEIS) and you’re getting #NV results. Mostly found with XLS files delivered from 3rd party sources.

  31. It took me over a week to find the problem (the apostrophe) and I finally came upon the solution via you! Thank you SO much. Now my accountant will love me again. 🙂

    Nice to see a 5 year old blog is still helping others! You do BOMB! <3

  32. Thanks buddy. This worked for me.
    Sometimes, it really is worthwhile paying Microsoft for their Office suite.
    I do have the licensed version of MS office, but its on my Laptop with windows and my simulations are in linux with lots of columns (~60-100) and lots of rows in each column (~10000) Libreoffice at least takes my data without whining on memory

    I guess we cant have it bothways. Ohh well…

    Anyways, thanks for this.
    May God Bless you. Wish I could share a cup of coffee with you 🙂

    Best,

  33. It works because it’s a regular expression.
    ^ means “at the beginning of the line”
    . means any character.

    so the “find” means to find the first character at the beginning of the line.

    This is replaced with an ampersand, which is the hidden character signifying a number.

    An apostrophe before a number tells Open Office to treat the number as text.

  34. Awesome!
    This have been driving me crazy since installing Open Office on my Mac!
    Now I don’t have to do either of my previous options which were a) edit them all out or b) not sort by date when merging spreadsheets!
    Again, awesome!
    Thanks

  35. What worked for me: (I’m using Kingsoft Spreadsheets but I think this works universally though)

    1) Copy entire column from spreadsheet
    2) Open Notepad (NOT Wordpad)
    3) Word-wrap should be OFF
    4) Paste column into Notepad and save as damn_you_apostrophe.txt
    5) Close Notepad and reopen
    6) CTRL-A then CTRL-C to copy entire contents of Notepad
    7) Paste in empty unformatted column in your favourite spreadsheet app.
    8) Apostrophe’s GONE!!!

    This took me only two days to discover LOL!!!

  36. Awesome, thank you. Caused endless frustration for me to discover, what the hell is wrong with my calculations (which didn’t gave any result because that f***ing pointless apostrophe)

  37. Yee-ha! Thanks a bunch! This will save me from endlessly finding/replace-all to correct both dates and numbers (e.g. find/replace 04/ with 04/ in a date, etc.) to get rid of the bleeping apostrophe so I can sort and add columns.

    BTW, today I managed to open one of those annoying files without the apostrophes by clicking some combination of boxes on the Text Import box that pops up when opening an Excel file. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to replicate what I did, but if I do I’ll try to remember to come back here and post the solution.

    1. Another thing–another search result told me that selecting a column, choosing Data-Text to Columns, and clicking OK removes the apostrophes in that column. This only works one column at a time, but might feel more simple if you’re only dealing with one or two columns.

  38. I have been doing lots of this over the past week. My bet is that lots of people waste lots of time doing stuff like this. Keeps us slaves busy and not thinking dangerous thoughts. 😉

    Hey, I discovered that you can forget all the paste specials and manual removal of the text tick by simply copying the column into Notebook and then back where it came from. Nice, yes? 🙂 Wish I’d thought of that sooner.
    -NanoSteve-

  39. Awesome…… have been surging for hours to get a trick for that problem………….. Thank You Mister…….. Great Job!!!

  40. I had the opposite problem. Lotus 123, save to xls, import to calc, dates are numbers but calc wants them as text (apostrophe) to use them in date calculations. Took me awhile to find that out, then how to add that apostrophe. Reverse above. find “^.” replace or replace all with “‘&” Options ‘Regular expressions’ ‘Selection only’ if needed.
    THANKS FOR THE HINT

  41. Another cheat I found. copy and paste numbers (text) into a document using Paste Special command and choose unformatted text. Then Copy and Paste back into your spreadsheet and there is a column of numbers to manipulate as normal.

  42. thanks that worked but I wanted to do it from a cell formula so what I did was if A1 had ’01/01/1990 for example, I typed in A2: =A1+0 and then used date as the format for that cell…

  43. Thanks so much for that and your down to earth explanation! It’s about time the programmers of this stuff stop trying to be so damn clever and make things practical and truly logical. My ‘ came in with a Paypal download in the date and time fields. Nearly went mad trying to sort my records in reverse date order. All okay now thanks to your knowledge thanks once again 🙂

  44. Thank you so, so much. Every year, come this time (tax return / accounts hell) I get stuck with this issue, and I’ve always found myself having to re-type all dates in a second column as nothing would sort. So you a complete genius and I now have to print off your solution and file it in seventeen different places (and stick it on the wall and write it on my computer keyboard somewhere) or I’ll go mad trying to find it again next year…
    Massively grateful.

  45. So, did anyone here also get an error message first?

    After following the above advice the following error message flagged up “search key not found”.

    1. That error message would suggest that the software isn’t finding the hidden apostrophes. Are you sure you have numbers that are flagged as text with the hidden apostrophe?

  46. Thank you! you are awesome. I was challenged and spent countless hours trying to change the asterick in front of my date column which had been saved as a text. I used this and it worked perfectly within seconds. TOTAL LIFESAVER!

  47. Thank you so much!!!! One question how did you figure this out? It makes no sense and is a combination I wouldn’t have come up with in a million years.

  48. I used this tip to successfully convert text to date-formatted numbers in a 9,950 row spreadsheet, fixing a problem with date sorting in an ODB file based on the spreadsheet. Thank you very much for writing up the regex instructions!

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