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Usually, when we have to display a text and we do not have enough space to display the whole text, it can be truncated and this could be indicated by an ellipsis.

See for example this question: Truncating long text labels - Best Practices?

But what should I do when I have a table containing data and there are numbers which are too large to be displayed.

Of course this is a situation which should be avoided, e.g. we could scale the data and indicate this. But in a framework which can be used to display any kind of data this can not be completely avoided.

I had a look at Excel and instead of displaying an ellipsis or simply truncating the number, they indicate that a number is too large (or better too wide) to be displayed by replacing the number with hash signs:

enter image description here

Is this a best practice? Can you explain the reasoning behind this?

share|improve this question
See also: – Jørn E. Angeltveit Oct 10 '13 at 7:49
@JørnE.Angeltveit This question is not about delimiters for large numbers. It's about the if / how to truncate numbers which are too wide to be displayed. In fact they could be very small. – stefan.s Oct 10 '13 at 7:53
...where it's briefly described that one can use a unit system to shorten long numbers. Eg. 1M instead of 1000000. But this depends on the context. – Jørn E. Angeltveit Oct 10 '13 at 7:55
I think your suggestion about scaling (rounding) would be more mathematically correct. And more comparable. Once you have some numbers that doesn't fit, you switch to N,NN * 10^e. If the users are not used to the 10^e system, one could use a more readable format: N,NN + the comment "all numbers are in hundreds" (or thousands/millions etc). You will often see "All numbers are in thousands" on public finance reports. – Jørn E. Angeltveit Oct 10 '13 at 8:04
Excel uses this, but it also offers some very convenient ways to make the column width large enough to see the numbers. If your UI does not offer such an option, don't inflict it on your users. – Rumi P. Oct 10 '13 at 8:37
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Can you explain the reasoning behind this?

I think you'll catch the idea from the image.
enter image description here

So, there should be clear indicator of non-completed number.

share|improve this answer
Text truncation is not always obvious though. I had "Only admins may change" truncated to "Only admins" recently. I wrongly understood that as non-users having no Read access, while they actually did, they just did not have Write access. – JOG Oct 10 '13 at 10:52
I saw a blog title once: "It's thanksgiving and time for anal...". Where the actual tittle was "It's thanksgiving and time for analysis" :-P – Jørn E. Angeltveit Oct 10 '13 at 17:05

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