Know The Basic Formulas in Excel

A worksheet is merely a lifeless collection of numbers and text until you define some kind of relationship among the various entries. You do this by creating formulas that perform calculations and produce results. This chapter takes you through some formula basics, including constructing simple arithmetic and text formulas, understanding the all-important topic of operator precedence, copying and moving worksheet formulas, and making formulas easier to build and read by taking advantage of range names.


Understanding Formula Basics

Most worksheets are created to provide answers to specific questions: What is the company’s profit? Are expenses over or under budget, and by how much? What is the future value of an investment? How big will an employee’s bonus be this year? You can answer these questions, and an infinite number of others, by using Excel formulas.

All Excel formulas have the same general structure: an equal sign (=) followed by one or more operands, which can be values, cell references, ranges, range names, or function names, separated by one or more operators, which are symbols that combine the operands in some way, such as the plus sign (+) and the greater-than sign (>).


Formula Limits in Excel 2016

It’s a good idea to know the limits Excel sets on various aspects of formulas and worksheet models, even though it’s unlikely that you’ll ever bump up against these limits. Formula limits that were expanded in Excel 2007 remain the same in Excel 2016. So, in the unlikely event that you’re coming to Excel 2016 from Excel 2003 or earlier, Table 3.1 shows you the updated limits.


Entering and Editing Formulas

Entering a new formula into a worksheet appears to be a straightforward process:

  1. Select the cell in which you want to enter the formula.
  2. Type an equal sign (=) to tell Excel that you’re entering a formula.
  3. Type the formula’s operands and operators.
  4. Press Enter to confirm the formula.

However, Excel has three different input modes that determine how it interprets certain keystrokes and mouse actions:

  • When you type the equal sign to begin the formula, Excel goes into Enter mode, which is the mode you use to enter text (such as the formula’s operands and operators).
  • If you press any keyboard navigation key (such as Page Up, Page Down, or any arrow key), or if you click any other cell in the worksheet, Excel enters Point mode. This is the mode you use to select a cell or range as a formula operand. When you’re in Point mode, you can use any of the standard range-selection techniques. Note that Excel returns to Enter mode as soon as you type an operator or any character.
  • If you press F2, Excel enters Edit mode, which is the mode you use to make changes to the formula. For example, when you’re in Edit mode, you can use the left and right arrow keys to move the cursor to another part of the formula for deleting or inserting characters. You can also enter Edit mode by clicking anywhere within the formula. Press F2 to return to Enter mode.