2024 Expert Solution for Excel Showing Symbols Instead of Text

2024 Expert Solution for Excel Showing Symbols Instead of Text

Does your Excel Online file look like this? If the correct names are typed into the cells, but the cells are showing symbols instead of the letters/text, we can help.

The image displays a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet. However, most of the cells contain symbols and characters that are nonsensical or corrupted, suggesting a possible encoding issue or file corruption.

If you're encountering issues with Excel Online where text is showing as symbols instead of the text, this guide is for you. As a Managed IT Service Provider with extensive experience in supporting employees of small businesses, we understand how frustrating these issues can be. Misrepresented text in Excel Online can hinder your workflow and affect data interpretation.

Why is Excel showing symbols instead of text?

Excel might show symbols instead of text due to various reasons such as font corruption, issues with Excel settings, compatibility problems between the file and the version of Excel, or conflicts with system settings or other applications. It can also occur if there's a problem with the Excel file itself, like corruption or incorrect formatting.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fix Excel Showing Symbols Instead of Text

Please follow this step-by-step guide to resolve this common but challenging issue.

Step 1: Close All Applications

  • Exit all running applications to prevent any conflicts.

Step 2: Clear the %TMP% Folder

  • In your PC search, type 'Run'

Screenshot of a computer interface showing the 'Run' application highlighted within a search bar on a Windows operating system. The 'Run' window is open in front of the search results.

  • Use the Run application, type %temp%, and hit Ok.

A "Run" dialog box on a Windows operating system with the command "%temp%" typed into the "Open:" field. The cursor is pointing at the "OK" button, indicating an action to open the temporary files directory.

  • Clear all contents from this folder.

 A window showing the contents of the Temp folder on a Windows computer. It is filled with folders and files, each with a unique alphanumeric name. The cursor is hovering over the "Delete" option in the command bar at the top, suggesting an intent to delete the files.

Step 3: Restart Your Computer

  • Reboot your computer to apply the changes effectively.

 A Windows power options menu with the "Restart" option highlighted and the cursor pointing at it. The tooltip explains that this action closes all apps, turns off the PC, and then turns it on again.

Alternative Solution to Fix Excel Showing Symbols Instead of Text

Step 1: Adjust Font in Excel Online

  • Open the affected Excel Online document.
  • Select the text displaying incorrectly.
  • Change the font to Arial or another suitable font.

An Excel Online spreadsheet with a cell selected for text formatting. The dropdown menu for fonts is open, showing various font options including "Arial Black" and "Arial" with the cursor pointing at "Arial," suggesting a font change for the selected text.


  1. Backup Data: Before making changes, ensure your Excel files are backed up to prevent data loss.
  2. Font Compatibility: Ensure the font you choose is compatible with Excel Online.
  3. Regular Updates: Keep your browser and Excel Online updated for optimal performance.
  4. Check Internet Connection: A stable internet connection is crucial for Excel Online to function properly.


  1. Avoid Rushing: Be careful while deleting files from the %TMP% folder to avoid removing necessary system files.
  2. Compatibility Issues: Some fonts may not display correctly in all systems or browsers.
  3. Potential Data Loss: Incorrectly modifying Excel files can lead to data corruption. Proceed with caution.

The image is a promotional banner for a company named BCA Inc., which offers to help fix Excel issues. It shows two individuals in a professional setting, one standing and the other sitting at a desk working on a laptop. The company's branding is visible in the background on a wall, and the text "Managed IT Services | Cybersecurity" suggests that they specialize in IT solutions and cybersecurity.

This guide provides clear steps to quickly correct the font issue, ensuring your Excel documents are presented accurately. If you face any challenges or have further inquiries, feel free to contact your IT team for assistance. For those seeking comprehensive Managed IT Services, our team is ready to provide expert support. Contact us today for tailored solutions that cater to your business needs.