How to Quickly Insert Date and Timestamp in Excel

A timestamp is something you use when you want to track activities. For example, you may want to track activities such as when was a particular expense incurred, what time did the sale invoice was created, when was the data entry done in a cell, when was the report last updated, etc.

Let’s get started.

Keyboard Shortcut to Insert Date and Timestamp in Excel

If you have to insert the date and timestamp in few cells in Excel, doing it manually could be faster and more efficient.

Here is the keyboard shortcut to quickly enter current Date in Excel:

Control + : (hold the control key and press the colon key).

Here is how to use it:

  • Select the cell where you want to insert the timestamp.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Control + :
    • This would instantly insert the current date in the cell.

Automatically insert Timestamp in Excel - Keyboard shortcut

A couple of important things to know:

  • This shortcut would only insert the current date and not the time.
  • It comes in handy when you want to selectively enter current date.
  • It picks the current date from your system’s clock.
  • Once you have the date in the cell, you can apply any date format to it. Simply go to the ‘Number Format’ drop-down in the ribbon and select the date format you want.

Note that this is not dynamic, which means that it will not refresh and change the next time you open the workbook. Once inserted, it remains as a static value in the cell.

While this shortcut does not insert the timestamp, you can use the following shortcut to do this:

Control + Shift + :

This would instantly insert the current time in the cell.

Automatically insert date and Timestamp in Excel - shift-control-colon

So if you want to have both date and timestamp, you can use two different cells, one for date and one for the timestamp.

Using TODAY and NOW Functions to Insert Date and Timestamps in Excel

In the above method using shortcuts, the date and timestamp inserted are static values and don’t update with the change in date and time.

If you want to update the current date and time every time a change is done in the workbook, you need to use Excel functions.

This could be the case when you have a report and you want the printed copy to reflect the last update time.

Insert Current Date Using TODAY Function

To insert the current date, simply enter =TODAY() in the cell where you want it.

Automatically insert Timestamp in Excel - Using Today Function

Since all the dates and times are stored as numbers in Excel, make sure that the cell is formatted to display the result of the TODAY function in the date format.

To do this:

  • Right-click on the cell and select ‘Format cells’.Automatically insert Timestamp in Excel - format cells
  • In the Format Cells dialog box, select Date category in the Number tab.Automatically insert Timestamp in Excel - date-category
  • Select the required date format (or you can simply go with the default one).
  • Click OK.

Note that this formula is volatile and would recalculate every time there is a change in the workbook.

Insert Date and Timestamp Using NOW Function

If you want the date and timestamp together in a cell, you can use the NOW function.

Automatically insert date and Timestamp in Excel - now function

Again, since all the dates and time are stored as numbers in Excel, it is important to make sure that the cell is formatted to have the result of the NOW function displayed in the format that shows date as well as time.

To do this:

  • Right-click on the cell and select ‘Format cells’.
  • In the Format Cells dialog box, select ‘Custom’ category in the Number tab.
  • In the Type field, enter dd-mm-yyyy hh:mm:ssinsert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-custom-format
  • Click OK.

This would ensure that the result shows the date as well as the time.

Note that this formula is volatile and would recalculate every time there is a change in the workbook.

Circular References Trick to Automatically Insert Date and Timestamp in Excel

One of my readers Jim Meyer reached out to me with the below query.

“Is there a way we can automatically Insert Date and Time Stamp in Excel when a data entry is made, such that it does not change every time there is a change or the workbook is saved and opened?”

This can be done using the keyboard shortcuts (as shown above in the tutorial). However, it is not automatic. With shortcuts, you’ll have to manually insert the date and timestamp in Excel.

To automatically insert the timestamp, there is a smart technique using circular references (thanks to Chandoo for this wonderful technique).

Let’s first understand what a circular reference means in Excel.

Suppose you have a value 1 in cell A1 and 2 in cell A2.

Now if you use the formula =A1+A2+A3 in cell A3, it will lead to a circular reference error. You may also see a prompt as shown below:

circular reference prompt in Excel

This happens as you are using the cell reference A3 in the calculation that is happening in A3.

Now, when circular reference error happens, there is a non-ending loop that starts and would have led to a stalled Excel program. But the smart folks in Excel development team made sure that when a circular reference is found, it is not calculated and the non-ending loop disaster is averted.

However, there is a mechanism where we can force Excel to at least try for a given number of times before giving up.

Now let’s see how we can use this to automatically get a date and timestamp in Excel (as shown below).

inserting the date and time automatically using circular reference

Note that as soon as I enter something in cells in column A, a timestamp appears in the adjacent cell in column B. However, if I change a value anywhere else, nothing happens.

Here are the steps to get this done:

  • Go to File –> Options.insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-options
  • In the Excel Options dialog box, select Formulas.Changing formulas settings in Excel
  • In the Calculated options, check the Enable iterative calculation option.Enable iterative calculation in Excel for inserting timestamps
  • Go to cell B2 and enter the following formula:
    =IF(A2<>"",IF(B2<>"",B2,NOW()),"")

That’s it!

Now when you enter anything in column A, a time stamp would automatically appear in column B in the cell adjacent to it.

insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-timestamp-demo

With the above formula, once the timestamp is inserted, it doesn’t update when you change the contents of the adjacent cell.

If you want the timestamp to update every time the adjacent cell in Column A is updated, use the below formula (use Control + Shift + Enter instead of Enter):

=IF(A2<>"",IF(AND(B2<>"",CELL("address")=ADDRESS(ROW(A2),COLUMN(A2))),NOW(),IF(CELL("address")<>ADDRESS(ROW(A2),COLUMN(A2)),B2,NOW())),"")

insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-timestamp-update-demo

This formula uses the CELL function to get the reference of the last edited cell, and if it’s the same as the one to the left of it, it updates the timestamp.

Note: When you enable iterative calculations in workbook once, it will be active until you turn it off. To turn it off, you need to go to Excel Options and uncheck the ‘Enable iterative calculation’ option.

Using VBA to Automatically Insert Timestamp in Excel

If VBA is your weapon of choice, you’ll find it to be a handy way to insert a timestamp in Excel.

VBA gives you a lot of flexibility in assigning conditions in which you want the timestamp to appear.

Below is a code which will insert a timestamp in column B whenever there is any entry/change in the cells in Column A.

'Code by Sumit Bansal from https://trumpexcel.com
Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
On Error GoTo Handler
If Target.Column = 1 And Target.Value <> "" Then
Application.EnableEvents = False
Target.Offset(0, 1) = Format(Now(), "dd-mm-yyyy hh:mm:ss")
Application.EnableEvents = True
End If
Handler:
End Sub

This code uses the IF Then construct to check whether the cell that is being edited is in column A. If this is the case, then it inserts the timestamp in the adjacent cell in column B.

Note that this code would overwrite any existing contents of the cells in column B. If you want. You can modify the code to add a message box to show a prompt in case there is any existing content.

Where to Put this Code?

This code needs to be entered as the worksheet change event so that it gets triggered whenever there is a change.

To do this:

  • Right-click on the worksheet tab and select View Code (or use the keyboard shortcut Alt + F11 and then double click on the sheet name in the project explorer).insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-sheet-right-click
  • Copy paste this code into the code window for the sheet.insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-worksheet-change-code2
  • Close the VB Editor.

Make sure you save the file with .XLS or .XLSM extension as it contains a macro.

Creating a Custom Function to Insert Timestamp

Creating a custom function is a really smart way of inserting a timestamp in Excel.

It combines the power of VBA with functions, and you can use it like any other worksheet function.

Here is the code that will create a custom “Timestamp” function in Excel:

'Code by Sumit Bansal from http://trumpexcel.com
Function Timestamp(Reference As Range)
If Reference.Value <> "" Then
Timestamp = Format(Now, "dd-mm-yyy hh:mm:ss")
Else
Timestamp = ""
End If
End Function

Where to Put this Code?

This code needs to be placed in a module in the VB Editor. Once you do that, the Timestamp function becomes available in the worksheet (just like any other regular function).

Here are the steps to place this code in a module:

  • Press ALT + F11 from your keyboard. It will open the VB Editor.
  • In the Project Explorer in VB Editor, right-click on any of the objects and go to Insert –> Module. This will insert a new module.insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-insert-module
  • Copy paste the above code in the module code window.insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-code-in-module
  • Close the VB Editor or press ALT + F11 again to go back to the worksheet.

Now you can use the function in the worksheet. It will evaluate the cell to its left and insert the timestamp accordingly.

insert-date-and-timestamp-in-excel-timestamp-formula

It also updates the timestamp whenever the entry is updated.

Make sure you save the file with .XLS or .XLSM extension as it contains VB code.

Hope you’ve found this tutorial useful.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

You May Also Like the Following Excel Tutorials and Resources:

  • Tara says:

    It worked on one Excel Spreadsheet but when I tried it again on another Spreadsheet (totally different workbook), it just shows a blank cell. I have it formatted for date.

  • Geo Thermal says:

    In the example, “Using VBA to Automatically Insert Timestamp in Excel” I have a condition where a process is running and I want to ‘time stamp’ when it began in one column and ‘time stamp’ (date and time) when the process ended, a few columns to the right…meaning a start and stop time stamp. Can this formula accommodate this requirement?

  • Bernd says:

    Hi,

    Thanks Sumit, very nice contribution 🙂

    To add to your article for those, who like to have a static value for Date or Time Stamp and need a specific date / time format but without going through VBA, you may consider this option:

    1. Choose one Reference Cell, e.g. [A1]. It can be on a separate worksheet.

    Put in the formula
    =today()
    or
    =now()

    2. Give that cell the name “Time” or “Date”

    3. Now, if you want to enter current Date or Time in any cell in your workbook, just type

    =Date
    or
    =Time

    The target cell can be formatted according to your preferences, e.g. “YYYY-MM-DD” or “hh:mm:ss”. The advantage is that you can also catch the seconds which is not possible with the keyboard shortcut [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + [:].

    4. You can also incorporate this in any formulas you are using in your worksheet.

    Example:

    Every time you enter the word “ok” in Row [C], Row [B] will automatically register the current time. To do this format Row [B] as “hh:mm:ss”.
    Now, in cell [B1] you enter the formula

    if(C1=”ok”,Time,””)

    Then you copy this formula to the range you will be using.

    Now, every time you enter “ok” in a cell on Row [C], you will get an automatic (and static) time stamp in the adjacent cell in Row [B].

  • JoeJoe says:

    NICE great article style and super helpful

  • SB says:

    I’m trying to create a timestamp based on a dropdown value, however leveraging the macro is providing a validation error. Is there a workaround? If I use in a blank (no validation field) the vba/macro works correctly.

  • Ed says:

    Function Timestamp(Reference As Range)
    If Reference.Value “” Then
    Timestamp = Format(Now, “dd-mm-yyy hh:mm:ss”)
    Else
    Timestamp = “”
    End If
    End Function

    is not worjking ???

    • francois says:

      there is a typo in the formula,
      replace -yyy by -yyyy (4 letters) and it will work.

  • joe says:

    Hi there – this is FABULOUS! Really saved me a lot of pain!

    Can you assist with one thing?

    I need to be able to create the timestamp, on a separate row, each time a (custom function) button is pressed?

    We will be using this to create a basic “footfall counter” to count the time/date and number of people passing into our IT support area.

    If you can assist, this would be amazing…

  • PowerExcel says:

    Thank you for your tips! I am an italian Excel Professionist and often i read your blog. Good work 😉 Marck

  • ai yaya says:

    Is it possible to write a code that take effect of Cell A or Cell B for the timestamp?

    using below code:
    Function Timestamp(Reference As Range)
    If Reference.Value <> “” Then
    Timestamp = Format(Now, “dd-mm-yyy hh:mm:ss”)
    Else
    Timestamp = “”
    End If
    End Function

    In cell C, should I use =timestamp(A1:B2)

  • Dusan Terzic says:

    This is just what I needed. You rock!
    Thank you!

  • ALWIN KINGSON says:

    =IF($A12<>“”,IF(AND($I12<>“”,CELL(“address”)=ADDRESS(ROW($A12),COLUMN($A12))),NOW(),IF(CELL(“address”)<>ADDRESS(ROW($A12),COLUMN($A12)),$I12,NOW())),””)

    i CHECKED FOR ITERATION ALSO.. EVEN ITS NOT WORKING KINDLY HELP ON THIS

  • ALWIN KINGSON says:

    NOT WORKING SECOND FORMULA

  • Hui Lay Keong says:

    I use the following formula (=IF(A2″”,IF(B2″”,B2,NOW()),””)
    But whenever i type in other cells, the time updated.
    or when i save and close, then reopen the date and time updated automatically.

  • Shrikant Gadewar says:

    Superb Job.Thanks

  • Josh D says:

    Can the custom function be modified to display hh:mm then am or pm?

  • HRSZONE says:

    Wowww This is what I am looking for!!!

    THANK YOU SO MUCHHH!!!!

  • joerockbottom says:

    One issue: keeping the formula options for iterations to prevent the cirucular reference error. The options are not saved with the sheet. They are saved on the computer and those saved options change with each workbook you open. For a timestamp with a circular reference you need to set the options as the workbook opens. Use this macro:

    Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    Application.Calculation = xlCalculationAutomatic
    Application.Iteration = True
    Application.MaxIterations = 1
    End Sub

    That solves the problem and the formula works fine every time.

  • Anand Kumar says:

    Why =IF($A$1″”,NOW()) does not work here.

  • MasterExcel says:

    grate! just you should say that it works mailny or totaly only on ENG versions.
    I have Excel in italian and many of this stuff does not work like that

  • sajid khan says:

    I have checked ‘enable iterative calculation’ option and I have put the formula =IF(A2””,IF(B2””,B2,NOW()),””) in cell B2 but I am getting error #Name? when I enter any text in A2.

    • Sumit Bansal says:

      Hello Sajid.. Your double quotes are not in the right format (it happens sometimes when copied directly from the webpage). Just delete the double quotes and enter it manually. It would work then.

      • sajid khan says:

        Yes, Now it’s working. Thank you so much Sumit.

  • Andrew Evans says:

    I like the automated timestamp, I have users who have asked for similar things, it gives ideas on how to implement.

  • Anand Kumar says:

    Thanks Sumit……..I was searching this for more over decade.

  • Terry says:

    When I tried to use the formulas to insert the timestamp, it returned 1/0/1900. It sounds like some setting that needs to changed but I couldn’t figure out where or what to change.

    • Sumit Bansal says:

      Hello Terry.. You need to check the ‘enable iterative calculation’ option for this to work

  • Ashesh Jain says:

    Good one! thanks

  • GeniusNet says:

    Excellent tip! Thank you!

  • >