Overview of Formulas in Excel

Excel is a powerful tool that can help you perform calculations, analyze data, and create reports. But to use Excel effectively, you need to know how to use formulas. Formulas are expressions that tell Excel what to do with the values in your cells. You can use formulas to perform simple operations like addition and subtraction, or complex functions like finding the average or the maximum of a range of cells.

In this article, we will show you how to use formulas in Excel, and introduce you to some of the most common and useful functions that you can use in your work. We will also share some tips and best practices for writing and editing formulas in Excel.

What is a Formula in Excel?

A formula in Excel is an expression that starts with an equal sign (=) and returns a result. For example, =2+2 returns 4, and =A1+A2 returns the sum of the values in cells A1 and A2.

A formula can consist of different elements, such as:

  • Constants: fixed values that do not change, such as numbers or text
  • Cell references: addresses of cells or ranges of cells, such as A1 or B2:B10
  • Operators: symbols that specify the type of calculation to perform, such as + for addition, – for subtraction, * for multiplication, / for division, ^ for exponentiation, and & for concatenation
  • Functions: predefined formulas that perform specific calculations or operations, such as SUM, AVERAGE, VLOOKUP, IF, and COUNTIF

You can combine these elements in different ways to create complex formulas that can handle various tasks and scenarios.

Creating Formulas in Excel: A Simple Guide

Formulas in Excel are essential for performing calculations and processing data efficiently. Let’s explore how to create formulas step by step:

Step 1: Start by selecting a cell where you want the result of your calculation to appear.

1. select a cell
select a cell

Step 2: Begin the formula by typing the equal sign (=). It’s important to note that all Excel formulas begin with this equal sign.

2. type equal sign
type equal sign

Step 3: Now, you have options. You can either select a cell where you want to source data or directly type its address in the selected cell. This is where your formula will draw data from.

3. select a cell
3.select a cell

Step 4: Enter an operator, such as “-” for subtraction or “+” for addition.

4. select operator
select operator

Step 5: Next, you can select the next cell containing data or type its address in the selected cell to complete the formula.

5. select next cell
select next cell

Step 6: Press “Enter,” and voila! The result of your calculation will appear in the cell with the formula.

6. press enter
press enter

To view a formula in the Formula bar

Simply select the cell containing the formula, and you’ll see it displayed in the Formula bar at the top of the Excel window.

see a formula
see a formula

Creating Formulas with Built-in Functions

You can use built-in functions to make complex calculations easier. Here’s how:

Step 1: Start by selecting an empty cell where you want the result.

1. select cell
select cell

Step 2: Type an equal sign (=) and then type the desired function. For instance, you can use “=SUM” to get the total of a range of values.

2. Type equal sign then type a function
Type equal sign then type a function

Step 3: Add an opening parenthesis “(“.

3. add opening parenthesis
add opening parenthesis

Step 4: Now, select the range of cells you want to include in the calculation and type a closing parenthesis “)”.

4. select range of cell then type closing parenthesis
select range of cell then type closing parenthesis

Step 5: Press “Enter” to get the result, and your formula will perform the calculation for you.

5. enter for a result
enter for a result

Closer Look at Excel Formulas

To truly harness the power of Excel, it’s essential to understand the intricate world of formulas. In this in-depth guide, we’ll dissect the different components that make up an Excel formula, allowing you to dive deeper into your data manipulation capabilities.

Key Formula Elements

part of excel formula
part of excel formula
  1. Functions: Functions like PI() provide specific values, such as the mathematical constant pi (3.142…).
  2. References: References identify cells or cell ranges, directing Excel where to retrieve data.
  3. Constants: Constants are unchanging values like dates, numbers, or text.
  4. Operators: Operators like the caret (^) for exponentiation or asterisk (*) for multiplication are used in calculations.

Understanding Constants


Constants are values that remain unaltered. Whether it’s a date, a number, or text, constants are essential for creating stable formulas. For example, =10+20+60 is a formula with constants. It’s best practice to place constants in individual cells, making them easily adjustable when needed. You can then reference these cells in your formulas.

Mastering References

References pinpoint specific cells or cell ranges in your spreadsheet. They guide Excel in locating the data you need for your formulas. You can reference cells within the same worksheet, different parts of a worksheet, other sheets within the same workbook, or even in other workbooks.

By default, Excel uses the A1 reference style, using letters for columns (A to XFD) and numbers for rows (1 to 1,048,576). For instance, B2 refers to the cell where column B intersects with row 2.

Absolute, Relative, and Mixed References

  • Relative references adjust based on the position of the formula cell. They change when you copy or move the formula.
relative references A
relative references A
relative references B
relative references B
  • Absolute references (e.g., $A$1) stay constant, not changing when you copy or move the formula.
absolute references A1
absolute references A1
absolute references A2
absolute references A2
  • Mixed references combine both relative and absolute elements. For instance, =$A$1 is an absolute column reference and a relative row reference.

Exploring 3-D References

For complex calculations involving multiple worksheets within a workbook, you can use 3-D references. These references include a range of worksheet names followed by the cell or cell range reference. Excel considers all worksheets between the starting and ending names. For example, =SUM(Sheet2:Sheet13!B5) adds the values in cell B5 across Sheet 2 to Sheet 13.

R1C1 Reference Style

In this style, both rows and columns are numbered, denoted as R for rows and C for columns. It’s valuable for macro development and recorded commands. For example, R[-2]C is a relative reference to the cell two rows up in the same column.

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