Basic formulas

Basic formulas | Advanced formulas

The formulas presented in this category are easier to type and not complicated to understand, the sidebar (or click the hamburger icon if you are on mobile) displays all articles in this category.

How do I enter a formula?

  1. Double-click with left mouse button on the cell you want to use.

    An input prompt appears in the cell.
  2. Begin typing an equal sign, it looks like this: =

    This tells Excel to interpret the remaining text you type a s a formula.
  3. I am going to type TODAY(), it will return the current date.

    Press Enter when you have finished entering the formula.

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How do I create cell references in a formula?

You can type the cell references or you can use your mouse to click on a cell, here is how:

  1. Select a cell.
  2. Type the equal sign =
  3. Use your mouse and click on a cell you want to reference and the cell reference will appear automatically in the formula.

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How do I type a formula and not let Excel evaluate/calculate the formula?

Begin your formula with a ' character (apostrophe) and then type the equal sign and the formula. Excel will interpret it as a text value and the ' character (apostrophe) will not be shown in the cell. It will, however, be displayed in the formula bar.

The image above demonstrates a formula that begins with a apostrophe. You can also use the FORMULATEXT function to show the contents of a cell.


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Can I combine functions in a formula?

Yes, and I highly recommend it. This makes Excel so powerful and interesting to use, you can customize the formulas to your needs.

The image above demonstrates two functions TODAY function and YEAR function. The TODAY function returns an Excel date that Excel formats as a date. The YEAR function then extracts the year from the Excel date.


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Can a formula return multiple values?

Yes, in fact there are a few functions that actually return multiple values by design. They return values distributed over a number of cells and they require you to enter them as an array formula in order to show all values.

You can also create an array formula that uses regular functions, however, it returns multiple values. This may seem confusing but most regular functions can be used in array formulas.

The new TEXTJOIN function can also concatenate multiple values and return them to single cell.


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How do I add two numbers?

Simply type =5+9 in a cell and then press Enter. Excel returns the calculated value and the Formula bar shows the arithmetic operation.

You can also use cell references pointing to different cells, the image above demonstrates two numbers 9 and 5 in cell B2 and B3 respectively. The formula in cell D2 adds the numbers in cell B2 and B3 based on cell references.


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How do I divide two numbers?

Use the forward slash character / to divide numbers.

Replace the numbers with cell references to cells containing the numbers you want to divide.


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How do I subtract a numbers?

Use the forward slash character / to divide numbers.

Replace the numbers with cell references to cells containing the numbers you want to divide.


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How can I multiply two numbers?

Use the asterisk character * to multiply numbers.

Replace the numbers with cell references to cells containing the numbers you want to multiply.


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How can I sum numbers in a cell range using a formula?

  1. Select the cell where you want the formula.
  2. Type the equal sign =
  3. Type SUM(
  4. Use your mouse and click and hold on a cell containing the first number you want to add.
  5. Drag with mouse to include the remaining cells.
  6. Release mouse button.
  7. Type an ending parentheses )
  8. Press Enter.

How can I sum numbers in a cell range based on a condition?

Use the SUMIFS function.


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How can I multiply numbers in a cell range?

Use the PRODUCT function.


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How do I calculate the power of a number (number is raised to a power) ?

Use the POWER function or simply use this character ^. Example =10^2 returns 100.


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How do I round a number up?

I recommend that you try the ROUNDUP function.


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How do I round a number down?

I recommend that you try the ROUNDDOWN function.


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What is an Excel date?

It is actually an integer from 1 and up. 1 is 1/1/1900 and 1/1/2000 is 36526 so 1/1/2000 is 36525 days from 1/1/1900.

Try it yourself, enter a date in a cell. Select the cell containing the date and then press CTRL + 1 to format the cell.

Change the formatting to "General". Click OK.

The cell now shows the number representing the date.


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How can I get the current date?

Use the TODAY() function.


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Can I add days to a date?

Yes, since dates are integers you simply add a number representing days to the date. The image above displays 1/1/1900 in cell B3, cell C3 contains 7.

The formula in cell D3 is =B3+C3, it adds 7 to 1/1/1900 and returns 1/8/1900.


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Can I subtract days to a date?

Yes, simply use the minus sign in your formula, for example: =B3-C3

The image demonstrates the same formula as the previous example above, however it uses negative numbers as dates instead.


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How can I get the current time?

The NOW function returns the current date and time, however the TEXT function can format the value to show only the time part. Use the following formula: =TEXT(NOW(),"HH:ss")


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How can I add hours to a time value?

1 day or 24 hours is 1 in Excel, 1 hour is 1/24 so to add 1 hour simply add 1/24 to the Excel date and time value.


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Can a formula count values?

Yes, the COUNTA function counts non-empty values in a given cell range.


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Can a formula count values based on a condition?

Yes, use the COUNTIF function.


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Can a formula count empty cells?

Yes, use the COUNTBLANK function.


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Can a formula count cells containing only numbers?

Yes, use the COUNT function.


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Can a formula count text values?

Yes, the image above shows a formula in cell D3 that counts text values in cell range B3:B11.

=SUMPRODUCT(ISTEXT(B3:B11)*1)

The ISTEXT function returns TRUE if a cell contains a text value and FALSE if not. The SUMPRODUCT function simply adds the values and returns the total.


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Can a formula count boolean values?

Yes, the image above shows a formula in cell D3 that counts logical values in cell range B3:B11.

=SUMPRODUCT(ISLOGICAL(B3:B11)*1)

The ISLOGICAL function returns TRUE if a cell contains a boolean value and FALSE if not. The SUMPRODUCT function simply adds the values and returns the total.


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Can a I use parentheses in a formula?

Yes, use it to change the order of calculation. The picture above shows two formulas, the parentheses determines the order of calculation.

The formula in cell C3 calculates 5+4 first and then multiplies with 9. 9*9 = 81

The formula in cell C4 calculates the multiplication first and then the addition. 4*9 equals 36 and then adds 5 equals 41.


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What is a logical expression?

It is an expression that returns either TRUE or FALSE or their equivalents 1 or 0 (zero). It uses the comparison operators in order to determine the outcome.

Example formula: =B3>5

The formula above returns TRUE if the value in cell B3 is larger than 5 and FALSE if it is equal to or smaller than 5.

A logical expression is used in IF functions, Conditional Formatting and in SUMPRODUCT formulas to name a few.


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What is a comparison operator?

It is a character that compares two or more values and is used in logical expressions. They are:

  • <
  • >
  • =

With these three characters you can create logical operators:

  • < - Less than
  • > - Larger than
  • = - Equal to
  • <= - Less than or equal to
  • >= - Larger than or equal to
  • <> - Not equal to

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How do I calculate sine?

Use the SIN function.


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How do I calculate cosine?

Use the COS function.


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How do I calculate tangent?

Use the TAN function.


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How do I calculate secant?

Use the SEC function.


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How do I calculate cosecant?

Use the CSC function.


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How do I calculate cotangent?

Use the COT function.


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How do I remove the sign before a number?

The ABS function allows you to delete the minus sign.

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