Quick start: Create a formula

Formulas are equations that can perform calculations, return information, manipulate the contents of other cells, test conditions, and more. A formula always starts with an equal sign (=).

The following table shows some examples of formulas and their descriptions.

Formula Description
=5+2*3     Adds 5 to the product of 2 times 3.
=SQRT(A1)     Uses the SQRT function to return the square root of the value in A1.
=TODAY()     Returns the current date.
=IF(A1>0,"Plus","Minus")     Tests the cell A1 to determine if it contains a value greater than 0. If the result of the test is true, the text "Plus" appears in the cell; if the result is false, the text "Minus" appears.

How?

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Select a cell and start typing    

In a cell, type an equal sign (=) to start the formula.

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Fill in the rest of the formula    

Do one of the following:

  • Type a combination of numbers and operators; for example, 3+7.
  • Use the mouse to select other cells (inserting an operator between them). For example, select B1 and then type a plus sign (+), select C1 and type +, and then select D1.
  • Type a letter to choose from a list of worksheet functions. For example, typing "a" displays all available functions that start with the letter "a."

Creating formulas in different ways

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Complete the formula    

  • To complete a formula that uses a combination of numbers, cell references, and operators, press ENTER.
  • To complete a formula that uses a function, fill in the required information for the function and then press ENTER. For example, the ABS function requires one numeric value — this can be a number that you type, or a cell that you select that contains a number.

Your completed formulas might look like the following examples:

Formula Description
=3+7 Adds two numbers
=B1+C1+D1 Adds the values in three cells
=ABS(-3) Converts a number to its positive value

Next steps

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