Formula Basics

Formulas contain information to perform a numerical calculation such as adding, subtracting, or multiplying. All formulas must start with an equal sign (=). Then they specify more information, like the values to calculate or function to use to calculate the values.

Create Formula

  1. Click the cell where you want to add the formula.

  2. Press = .
    Now you have to specify what to calculate.

  1. Click a cell or type the cell reference in the formula bar to add it to the formula.

  2. Add an operator. Operators include:

    1. + (plus)
    2. – (minus)
    3. * (multiply)
    4. / (divide)
  3. Add additional cells to a formula by typing their cell reference in the formula bar or clicking the cell(s).

    Tip: To change the order of what is calculated, enclose the part of the formula to be calculated first in parentheses.

  4. Click the Enter button when you’re finished.

    In a fraction of a second, Excel calculates the equation and places the result in the cell.

    Shortcut: Press Enter .

    Tip: If you make a change to any value in a cell that’s referenced in the formula, Excel will automatically recalculate the changes.

Edit a Formula

  1. Select the cell with the formula you want to edit.

  2. Click in the Formula bar and edit the formula as necessary.

    Tip: You can also double-click a cell to switch to edit mode, then edit the formula right in the cell.

  3. Click the Enter button when you’re finished.

    Shortcut: Press Enter .

    The formula is updated to reflect the changes.

Use a Function

In Excel, a function is a preset formula. There are several hundred functions available. Some are simple, such as the Sum function. Others are much more complex and contain several different arguments. Arguments are the data used by the function to make a calculation. They appear within the parentheses in the function.

Function Categories
Financial Functions that are used to calculate interest, payments, loans, etc.
Date & TimeFunctions to calculate date and times values.
Math & TrigMath and trigonometry functions, such as SUM, COS, and TAN.
StatisticalFunctions that calculate averages, standard deviations, etc.
Lookup & ReferenceFunctions that lookup or reference values.
Database Functions that lookup or calculate values in a list or database.
TextFunctions that can be used with text or labels.
LogicalConditional functions (IF…THEN).
Information Functions that return information about values and the worksheet itself.
EngineeringFunctions used in engineering calculations.
CubeFunctions that extract data from OLAP cubes.