how to use basic formulas - fast and easy
ms excel

USE BASIC EXCEL FORMULAS – FAST AND EASY

Stop slaving over monotonous spreadsheets! Some people shy away from formulas, but they can save you hours of undue labour. You don’t need to be an Excel expert or a maths whizz to use them.

Learn the basics and you’ll gain all these benefits:

  • Less time wasted on repetitive work
  • Reduced risk of calculation errors
  • See clear results at a quick glance
  • Capture data entry errors more easily
  • Analyse your data more clearly
  • Improve your spreadsheet knowledge and skills

Formulas help you dive deep into your data and discover results you mightn’t have been aware of.

What are Excel Formulas

In Microsoft Excel, formulas are used to calculate the value of specific cells. For example, if you want to add rows A1 to A3, you would enter a formula in A4 that will add these values and present the total.

Excel formula example

What are Functions

These are predetermined formulas. Using functions in Excel can save you time creating your own formulas. For example, using ‘Autosum’ to add up your cells:

Functions example

How to Add Formulas

There are various ways you can insert formulas into an Excel spreadsheet:

Manually

Select a cell and type it in yourself. Whenever you use the equals symbol (=) Excel will recognise it as a formula. As you type, the formula will appear in the top formula bar.

  1. Type equals (=) and your desired function.
  2. Excel will give a pop-up of suggestions. To choose one, double click on it or press tab.
  3. Using your mouse, select the cells you want to calculate.

excel formula - manual insert

Insert Function

There’s a vast amount of formulas available to you. The Function Wizard helps determine which formula is best for your task. You can access this via ‘Insert Function’.

Go to ‘Formulas’ tab → ‘Insert Function’ button.

excel insert function

This will display a pop-up box where you describe what you want to do. For example:

  1. Type ‘multiply.’
  2. The wizard suggests the formula ‘Product’, explaining this formula is used for multiplication.
  3. Press ‘OK.’

insert function steps 1 (describe task) step 2 (select function) step 3 (press ok)

  1. Another box appears confirming details → check that it’s multiplying the correct cells → select ‘OK’.

insert function - confirming cell numbers

The total will now appear in the cell you had typed the equals symbol into. The ‘Product’ formula is displayed in the Formula Bar for your reference.

product formula example

Other ways to access the function wizard:

You can use a shortcut button located at the left-hand side of the formula bar.

insert function shortcut

Or you can use the ‘Name’ box, located on the far left of the formula bar:

  1. Type the equals (=) symbol into a cell
  2. In the top left corner, press the box with a drop-down arrow
  3. Choose from the options or select ‘More Functions’ to access the Formula Wizard.

insert function shortcut 2

Autosum

This gives you 5 common functions with the option to search more.

Go to ‘Formulas’ tab → press the ‘Autosum’ button → select from the drop-down menu.

For more options, select ‘more functions’ which will take you to the Function Wizard.

Aside from the Formula tab, you can find a shortcut to Autosum on the home tab.

autosum shortcut

Select from Groups

You can find functions in different groups within the top ribbon.

group formulas located in formulas tab

For example:

Go to ‘Formulas’ tab → press ‘Financial’ or ‘Logical’ button → select from drop-down lists or ‘Insert Function’ to access the Function Wizard.

financial group list

Select Recently Used

This tool is handy if you’re doing repetitive formulas. As the name implies, you can use it for recent formulas you’ve used.

Go to ‘Formulas’ tab → press ‘Recently Used’ button → select from drop-down list or ‘Insert Function’ to access the Function Wizard.

(Refer to previous image).

10 Basic Formulas/Functions

1. Addition/Sum

Adds up your selected cells. As per examples above.

=A1+A2+A3

OR

=SUM(A1:A3)

You can include other functions within Sum. E.g. add cell A1 and A2 then multiply by A3. Using Parentheses () will ensure Excel calculates it in the order you want.

=SUM(A1+A2)*A3

using parantheses - add then multiply

See Video for another example.

2. Subtract

Subtract numbers in your selected cells.

=A1-A2-A3

And you can include negative numbers when calculating a group total.

=SUM(A1:A4)

calculations with negative numbers

3. Multiplication/Product

Multiplies your selected cells.

=A1*A2*A3

OR

=PRODUCT(A1:A3)

multiplication excel formula

4. Division/Quotient

Divides your selected cells.

=A1/A2

OR

=QUOTIENT(A1,A2)

division excel formula

5. Average

Works out the average of your range of cells.

=SUM(A1:A5)/5

OR

=AVERAGE(A1:A5)

average excel formula

6. If

This is used to make comparisons. Using greater (>) and less than (<) symbols can create a ‘true’ or ‘false’ result.

For example, Expenses is less than Sales therefore:

=IFB1>B2   shows as ‘false’

=IFB1<B2    shows as ‘true’

Excel 'true' formula

You can manipulate it to show your desired wording. For example, label results as profit or loss:

If expenses is less than sales, then add “profit” to the formula.

=IF(B1<B2,”PROFIT”)

Excel 'True' formula change wording

7. Count

If you have a mixture of numbers and text, this function counts the number of cells with numerical data.

=COUNT(A1:A5)

Count excel formula

 8. Counta

This counts the total number of cells with values, including numerals and text. But it doesn’t include blank cells.

=COUNTA(B2:D5)

Counta excel formula

9. Min & Max

These find the minimum or maximum number from a group of numerical data.

=MIN(B1:B5)

=MAX(B1:B5)

Excel min and max formula

10. Square Root

To calculate the square root of a number, use the SQRT function. This can be accessed a few ways, such as ‘Math & Trig’ group or ‘Insert Function.’

=SQRT(A1)

Excel min and max formulas

You can view a detailed list of excel function here.

How to Edit Formulas

Edit

You can do this manually. Double click on the cell and edit directly. Or click once on the cell and edit in the top formula bar.

Or you can use the ‘Autosum’ or ‘Insert Function’ tools:

Select the cell with a formula (in this case ‘sum’) → go to ‘Autosum’ menu and select a new function (e.g. ‘Average’) → press enter and this will change your formula.

editing excel formula

Duplicate

Select the cell → click on the handle in the bottom right corner and drag down to the cell below → Excel will copy the formula and automatically adjust the cells.

drag copy excel formula

Or you can copy and paste the formula:

Select the cell to copy → press Ctrl C or right click ‘Copy’ → click on the cell below – press Ctrl V or right click ‘Paste’.

Trim

To avoid formula errors, you can use a trim tool to eliminate empty spaces within a cell.

=TRIM(H21)

trim excel formula

–View videos for more examples —


These are just some of the ways that formulas can save you heaps of time.

Microsoft Excel provides ample tools to make them easy to use. The more you use them, the easier to understand and expand on them. Future tutorials will explore further into formulas. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

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3 thoughts on “USE BASIC EXCEL FORMULAS – FAST AND EASY”

    1. You can use the equation ‘select number divide total’ then press the % button. The % button is located in the top ribbon of the home tab (after ‘merge and center’).

      Example:

      cell B1 (50) / A1 (100) = 0.5
      Press the percentage key which converts it to 50%

      Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+shift+%

      Hope this helps.

      Like

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