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Excel date conversion

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I put together a post on how to upload to MySQL from a CSV file with dates. It was more or less for my students but one of them was curious how the mega formula worked. As commented, the easier solution is to create a custom format. Oddly, Open Office does support the MySQL default format natively.

Excel doesn’t support the native MySQL date format as a default format mask, which is YYYY-MM-DD, or 2009-06-02 for June 2, 2009. That means you have to convert it from a scalar date to a string or create a custom format mask (see Dmitri’s comment below). If you just shook your head at the term scalar date, maybe a custom format mask is best. However, if you want a programming solution let me explain that Excel supports only three data types. They’re a string literal, a numeric literal, and a formula. Dates in Excel are merely formatted numbers. When the numbers are integers, the date is a date, but when the number has a fractional component, the date is really a timestamp.

Here’s a brief description of the process required to convert a date in Excel into a MySQL date format string literal in a CSV file. You need the following Excel functions:

Date Functions

  • The DAY(date) function returns a 1 or 2 digit numeric value for the day of the month, with ranges of 1 to 28, 1 to 29, 1 to 30, or 1 to 31 dependent on the month and year.
  • The MONTH(date) function returns a 1 or 2 digit numeric value for the month of the year.
  • The YEAR(date) function returns a 4 digit numeric value for the year.

Logical Functions

  • The IF(logical_expression,truth_action,false_action) function returns the truth action when the expression is true, and the false action when the expression isn’t true.

MySQL Server

  • CONCATENATE(string_1, string_2, ...) glues strings together.
  • LEN(numeric_value) function returns the length of a string or number.

MySQL requires that you return an eight character string of numbers. The first four numbers must be a valid year, the fifth and sixth numbers a valid month, and the seventh and eigth numbers a valid day in the context of the year and month provided. Unfortunately, the DAY() and MONTH() functions may return a 1 or 2 digit value. That can’t happen in the CSV file’s string for a date, so you use the IF() and LEN() functions to guarantee a 2 digit return value.

Here are the examples that guarantee 2 digit day and month values, assuming that the base date is in the A1 cell. The concatenation of a "0" (zero between two double quotes) or the "" (two double quotes or a string null) ensures the number data types become strings.


A zero is placed before the day or month when the logical condition is met, which means the day or month value is a single digit string. A null is place before the day or month when the logical condition isn’t met, which means the day or month value is a two digit string. There’s only one problem with these mega functions. They return a number.

The year calculation doesn’t require the explicit casting when you concatenate it with the other strings because it is implicitly cast as a string. However, it’s a better practice to include it for clarity (most folks don’t know about the implicit casting behaviors in Excel).


As Goodwin reported in a comment, there’s an easier way that I missed. You can simply use the TEXT function when the source column is a valid serialized date value.


You can see the full MySQL import from CSV in the previous post. Naturally, you may want to copy and paste special the value before creating the CSV file. Also, don’t forget to delete any unused columns to the right or rows beneath because if you don’t your file won’t map to your table definition.

Written by maclochlainn

June 16th, 2009 at 8:15 pm