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.
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:
How to Add Formulas
There are various ways you can insert formulas into an Excel spreadsheet:
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.
- Type equals (=) and your desired function.
- Excel will give a pop-up of suggestions. To choose one, double click on it or press tab.
- Using your mouse, select the cells you want to calculate.
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.
This will display a pop-up box where you describe what you want to do. For example:
- Type ‘multiply.’
- The wizard suggests the formula ‘Product’, explaining this formula is used for multiplication.
- Press ‘OK.’
- Another box appears confirming details → check that it’s multiplying the correct cells → OK.
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.
Other ways to access the function wizard:
You can use a shortcut button located at the left-hand side of the formula bar.
Or you can use the ‘Name’ box, located on the far left of the formula bar:
- Type the equals (=) symbol into a cell.
- In the top left corner, press the box with a drop-down arrow.
- Choose from the options or select ‘More Functions’ to access the Formula Wizard.
This gives you 5 common functions with the option to search more.
- Go to Formulas tab → Autosum → 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.
Select from Groups
You can find functions in different groups within the top ribbon.
- Go to Formulas tab → press ‘Financial’ or ‘Logical’ button → select from drop-down lists (or Insert Function to access the Function Wizard).
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.
Formulas tab → Recently Used → select from the drop-down list (or ‘Insert Function’ to access the Function Wizard).
Refer to the previous image.
10 Basic Formulas/Functions
Adds up your selected cells. As per examples above.
You can include other functions within Sum.
For example: add cell A1 and A2 then multiply by A3. Using Parentheses () will ensure Excel calculates it in the order you want.
See Video for another example.
Subtract numbers in your selected cells.
And you can include negative numbers when calculating a group total.
Multiplies your selected cells.
Divides your selected cells.
Works out the average of your range of cells.
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’
You can manipulate it to show your desired wording. For example, label results as profit or loss:
If expenses are less than sales, then add “profit” to the formula.
If you have a mixture of numbers and text, this function counts the number of cells with numerical data.
This counts the total number of cells with values, including numerals and text. But it doesn’t include blank cells.
9. Min & Max
These find the minimum or maximum number from a group of numerical data.
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.’
You can view a detailed list of excel functions here.
How to Edit Formulas
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’).
- In the Autosum menu, select a new function (e.g. ‘Average’).
- Press enter and this will change your formula.
- 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.
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.’
To avoid formula errors, you can use a trim tool to eliminate empty spaces within a cell.
These are just some of the ways that formulas can save you a lot of time.
Microsoft Excel provides ample tools to make it 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.