The Excel Formulas Ultimate Guide 2019

Introduction to Excel Formulas

In this guide, we are going to cover everything you need to know about Excel Formula. Learning how to create Excel formulas is the building block to the exciting journey to become an Excel Expert. So, let’s get started!

What is an Excel Formula?

Excel Formulas are often referred to as Excel Functions and it’s no big deal but there is a difference, a function is a piece of code that executes a predefined calculation and formula is an equation created by the user.

Formula is an expression that operates on values in a cell or range of cells. An example of a formula looks like this: = A2 + A3 + A4 + A5. This formula will result in the sum of the range of values from cell A2 to Cell A5.

Function is a predetermined formula in Excel. It performances calculation in a particular order defined by its parameters. An example of a function is =SUM (A2, A5). This function will also provide the addition of values in the range of cells from A2 to A5 but here instead of specifying each cell address we are using the SUM function.

How To Write Excel Formulas

Let’s look at how to write a formula on MS Excel. To begin with, a formula always starts with a ‘+’ or ‘=’ sign, if you start writing the formula without any of these two signs, Excel will treat the value in that cell as text and will not perform any function.

In the screenshot below, you need to calculate the total sales amount by multiplying quantity sold with unit price. Select cell D2, type the formula ‘=B2*C2’ and press Enter. The result will display on cell D2.

Apply A Formula To An Entire Column Or Range

To copy a formula to adjacent cells, you can do the following:

  1. Select the cell with the formula and the adjacent cells you want to fill, then drag the fill handle.

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  1. Select the cell with the formula and the adjacent cells you want to fill, then press Ctrl+D to fill the formula down in a column, or Ctrl+R to fill the formula to the right in a row.
  2. Select the cell with the formula and the adjacent cells you want to fill, then Click Home > Fill, and choose either Down, Right, Up, or Left.

How to Copy A Formula And Paste It

Excel allows you to copy the formula entered in a cell and paste it on to another cell, which can save both time and effort. To copy paste a formula:

  1. Select the cell whose formula you wish to copy
  2. Press Ctrl + C to copy the content
  3. Select the cell or cells where you wish to paste the formula. The copied cells will now have a dashed box around them.
  4. Press Alt + E + S to open the paste special box and select ‘Formula’ or Press “F’ to paste the formula.

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  1. The formula will be pasted into the selected cells.

Basic Excel Formulas

Let’s start off with simple Excel Formulas. In the screenshot below, there are two columns containing numbers and we would like to use different operators like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on those to get different results. Excel uses standard operators for formulas, such as a plus sign for addition (+), a minus sign for subtraction (-), an asterisk for multiplication (*), a forward slash for division (/).

Excel Formulas

  • Addition– To add values in the two columns, simply type the formula =A2+B2 on cell C2 and then copy paste the same on the cells below.
  • Subtraction – To subtract values in Column B from Column A, simply type the formula =B2-A2 on cell C2 and then copy paste the same on the cells below.
  • Multiplication – To multiply values in the two columns, simply type the formula =A2*B2 on cell C2 and then copy paste the same on the cells below.
  • Division – To divide values in Column a by values in Column B, simply type the formula =A2/B2 on cell C2 and then copy paste the same on the cells below.

We can also calculate the percentage using Excel Formulas. In the image below, we have sales in Year 1 and Year 2 and we would like to know the % growth in sales from Year 1 to Year 2.

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To do that, select cell C2 and type the formula = (B2 – A2)/B2*100

Basic Excel Functions

A function is a predefined formula that performs calculations using specific values in a particular order. Excel includes many common functions that can be useful for quickly finding the sum, average, count, maximum value, and minimum value for a range of cells. a function must be written a specific way, which is called the syntax.

The basic syntax for a function is an equals sign (=), the function name, and one or more arguments. A Function is generally comprised of two components:

1) A function name -The name of a function indicates the type of math Excel will perform.

2) An argument – It is the values that a function uses to perform operations or calculations. The type of argument a function uses is specific to the function. Common arguments that are used within functions include numbers, text, cell references, and names

Let’s look at some common Excel Functions:

SUM Function

The SUM formula adds 2 or more numbers together. You can use cell references as well in this formula.

Syntax: =SUM(number1, [number2], …)

Example: =SUM(A2:A8) or SUM(A2:A7, A9, A12:A15)

AUTOSUM Function

The AutoSum command allows you to automatically insert the most common functions into your formula, including SUM, AVERAGE, COUNT, MIN, and MAX.

Select the cell where you want the formula, Go to Home > Click on AutoSum > From the dropdown click on “Sum” > Enter.

Excel Formulas

COUNT Function

If you wish to how many cells are there in a selected range containing numeric values, you can use the function COUNT. It will only count cells that contain either numbers or dates.

Syntax: =COUNT(value1, [value2], …)

In the example below, you can see that the function skips cell A6 (as it is empty) and cell A11 (as it contains text) and gives you the output 9.

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COUNTA Function

Counts the number of non-empty cells in a range. It will include cells that have any character in them and only exclude blank cells.

Syntax: =COUNTA(value1, [value2], …)

In the example below, you can see that only cell A6 is not included, all other 10 cells are

counted.

AVERAGE Function

This function calculates the average of all the values or range of cells included in the parentheses.

Syntax: =AVERAGE(value1, [value2], …)

ROUND Function

This function rounds off a decimal value to the specified number of decimal points. Using the ROUND function, you can round to the right or left of the decimal point.

Syntax: =ROUND(number,num_digit)

This function contains 2 arguments. First, is the number or cell reference containing the number you want to round off and second, number of digits to which the given number should be rounded.

  • If the num-digit is greater than 0, then the value will be rounded to the right of the decimal point.
  • If the num-digit is less than 0, then the value will be rounded to the left of the decimal point.
  • If the num-digit equal to 0, then the value will be rounded to the nearest integer.

Example:

MAX Function

 This function returns the highest value in a range of cells provided in the formula.

Syntax: =MAX(value1, [value2], …)

In the example below, we are trying to calculate the maximum value in the dataset from A2 to A13. The formula used is =MAX(A2: A13) and it returns the maximum value i.e. 96.251

MIN Function

This function returns the lowest value in a range of cells provided in the formula.

Syntax: =MIN(value1, [value2], …)

In the example below, we are trying to calculate the minimum value in the dataset from A2 to A13. The formula used is =MIN(A2: A13) and it returns the minimum value i.e. 24.178

TRIM Function

 This function removes all extra spaces in the selected cell. It is very helpful while data cleaning to correct formatting and do further analysis of the data.

Syntax: =trim(cell1)

In the example below, you can see the name in cell A2 contains an extra space, in the beginning, =TRIM(A2) would return “Steve Peterson” with no spaces in a new cell.

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Advanced Excel Formulas

 Here is a list of Formulas that we would feel comfortable referring to as the top 10 Excel Formulas. These formulas can be used for basic problems or highly advanced problems as well, though advanced excel formulas are nothing but a more creative way of using the formulas. Sure, there are legitimate Advanced Excel Formulas such as Array Formulas but in general the more advanced the problem, the more creative you need to be with Formulas.

Currently, Excel has well over 400 formulas and functions but most of them are not that useful for corporate professionals so here is a list that we believe contains the 10

best Excel formulas.

Starting with number 10 – it’s the IFERROR formula

  1. IFERROR Function –
  2. SUBTOTAL Function –
  3. SMALL/LARGE Function –
  4. LEFT Function –
  5. RIGHT Function –
  6. SUMIF Function –
  7. MATCH Function –
  8. INDEX Function –
  9. VLOOKUP Function –
  10. IF Function –

IFERROR Function –

Have you’ve ever presented a worksheet that you thought was perfect but were surprised with a “#DIV /0!” error or an “#N/A” error message (See the screenshot below), then this function is for perfect for you. Excel has an “IFERROR” function that can automatically replace error messages with a message of your choice.

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The IFERROR function has two parameters, the first parameter is typically a formula and the second parameter, value_if_error, is what you want Excel to do if value, the first parameter, results in an error. Value_if_error can be a number, a formula, a reference to another cell, or it can be text if the text is contained in quotes.

That means you can put a formula or an expression in the first part of the IFERROR function and Excel will show the result of that formula unless the formula results in an error. If the formula results in an error, Excel will follow the instructions in the second half of the IFERROR formula.

This function cleans up your sheet and it will visually make things look a lot better and more professional.

Let’s see an example to make the concept clearer.

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In this example, we have two lists – one contains the names of all people (Column A) and the second list contains the name of award winners only (Column F).

We have used a simple Vlookup function to see if the name is an award winner. The Vlookup function (it is covered later in details) will search the list on the right, if the name is present in the award winner list, it will show the name or else it will show an error.

The N/A error makes the worksheet look dirty and unprofessional. Now we will add iferror function here to remedy the same.

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A5,$F$5:$F$10,1,0),””)

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IFERROR function will recognize the error and instead of displaying the error message will display the text, say a blank, or you can show any other message that you desire.

IFERROR is a great way to replace Excel-generated error messages with explanations, additional information, or simply leave the cell blank.

SUBTOTAL Function –

The SUBTOTAL function returns the aggregate value of the data provided. You can select any of the 11 functions that SUBTOTAL can calculate like SUM, COUNT, AVERAGE, MAX, MIN, etc. SUBTOTAL Function can also include or exclude values in hidden rows based on the input provided in the function.

Excel’s traditional formulas do not work on filtered data since the function will be performed on both the hidden and visible cells. To perform functions on filtered data one must use the subtotal function.

Syntax: SUBTOTAL(function_num,ref1,…)
The first parameter is the name of the function to be used within the subtotal function and the second parameter is the range of cells that should be subtotalled

The list of functions that can be used in given below. If the data is filtered manually, the numbers from 1 – 11 will include the hidden cells and number from 101 – 111 will exclude them.

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Let’s understand this function with an example.

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Here we have a list of name of person, with their country and the total sales they have achieved in Q1. We will use the subtotal function to calculate the total sales in cell C26. We will also select the function in such a way that it works on filtered data as well.

The formula will be =SUBTOTAL (109,C5:C24)

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This will display the total sales. Now, we filter the data to see the sales made by people in US only. You will see the value in the cell containing the SUBTOTAL function updates and it filters the dataset and displays the total sales made by US only.

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Another benefit of using SUBTOTAL function is that when you’re creating an information summary, especially like a profit and loss statement where you’ve got lots of subtotals, what you can do is you can use the subtotal formula and then at the end you can put a big old formula right at the end and it will just ignore your subtotal.

Here we have 4 different tables for sales in 4 different countries.

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We can add individual SUBTOTAL functions for each table and then a grand total function in the end. The SUBTOTAL function in the end will ignore all the other SUBTOTAL functions above it and will provide you the total sales.

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SMALL/LARGE Function –

Here, we have two formulas and they’re two sides of the same coin – the small formula and the large function. So, imagine you’ve got a list of, let’s say, sales data or cost data and what SMALL Function will do is provide you with the smallest value in the data set. You can also specify if you want the first smallest or second smallest. Similarly, with the large formula, you can extract the largest value in this dataset, the second largest and so on.

Syntax: =LARGE(array,k); SMALL(array,k)

The first parameter is the range of data for which you want to determine the k-th largest value and the second is the position (from the largest/smallest) in the cell range of the value to return.

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Now, in the dataset above if you want to know the person who has achieved the highest sales, you can use the LARGE function – =LARGE($C$4:$C$23,E5). We have used E5 for the second parameter as it contains the value 1. If we copy paste the formula in the cells below, you will get the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th largest value in the dataset. Similarly, we have used the function SMALL to get the value for lowest sales.

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LEFT & RIGHT Function –

A lot of people work on text manipulation with functions like text to columns or even do it manually but being able to extract the exact number of characters that you want from the left or the right side of a string is absolutely invaluable. This is what the LEFT and RIGHT function does – it extracts a given number of characters from the left/right side of a supplied text string.

Syntax: =LEFT (text, [num_chars]) and RIGHT(text,num_chars)

The first parameter is the text string containing the characters you want to extract and the second parameter specifies how many characters you want LEFT/RIGHT to extract; 1 if omitted.

In the example below, we have full names of people and we would like to extract the first name. We can surely do it using text to column, but using LEFT function will give us a more automated result. So, let’s see how it can be done.

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When you look at the data, you can see that a character is common in all names and it separates the first name and last name – it is a “space”. If we can find out the position of space in each cell, we can easily extract the first name.

Does Excel have a formula for this as well? Off course! SEARCH is the function that will come to your rescue.

SEARCH function provides the position of the first occurrence of the specified character.
SEARCH (find_text, within_text, start_num) has three parameters – first is the character you want to find, second is the text in which you want to search and third is the character number in Within_text, counting from the left, at which you want to start searching. If omitted, 1 is used.

So, going back to our example, we use the formula SEARCH to find the position of the character – space in Column A. We will need to subtract “1” from the position to get the desired result. The formula will be =SEARCH (“ “,A5)-1 and copy paste it down.

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Now we will use the LEFT Function to get the first name. =LEFT(A5,B5) – A5 contains the full name and B5 contains the number of characters from left that contains the first name.

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SUMIF(S) Function –
This function is used to conditionally sum up a range of values. It returns the summation of selected range of cells if it satisfies the given criteria. It is like the SUM function because it adds stuff up. But, it allows us to specify conditions for what to include in the result. Criteria can be applied to dates, numbers, and text using logical operators (>,<,<>,=) and wildcards (*,?) for partial matching. For example, SUMIF function can add up the quantity column, but only include those rows where the SKU is equal to, say A200.

Syntax: =SUMIF (range, criteria, [sum_range])

The first argument is the range of values to be tested against the given criteria, second argument is the condition to be tested against each of the values and the last argument is the range of numeric values if the criteria is satisfied. The last argument is optional and if it is omitted then values from the range argument are used instead.

SUMIF can handle one criterion only. For multiple conditional summing – we can use SUMIFS.

The Syntax of this function is =SUMIFS( sum_range, criteria_range1, criteria1, [criteria_range2, criteria2], … ); where sum_range is the range of values to add, criteria_range1 is the range that contains the values to evaluate and criteria1 is the value that criteria_range1 must meet to be included in the sum. You can add additional pairs of criteria range and criteria if further conditions are to be met.

It is advisable to use SUMIFS even if you have only one criteria to evaluate as it will help you to easily modify the function if additional conditions come up over time.

Let’s dive into an example. Below we have data containing name, country in which sales were made, and the different quarterly sales data.

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Using SUMIFS function, we would like to calculate the sum of sales in Q1 for the different countries. Now, to get the total sales in UK in Q1, we select the cell I4 and type the formula =SUMIFS(C4:C23,B4:B23,H4). We will then copy paste the formula below to get the result for each country.

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INDEX & MATCH Function –

MATCH function is used to search for an item and return the relative position of that item in a horizontal or vertical list.

Syntax: MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_array, [match_type])

The first argument is the value you want to look up, second is the range of cells being searched and the last argument, which is optimal, tells the MATCH function what sort of lookup to do.

The three acceptable values for match type are 1, 0 and -1. The default value for this argument is 1.

  • If the input is 1. MATCH finds the largest value that is less than or equal to the lookup_value. The values in the lookup_array argument must be placed in ascending order.
  • If the input is 0. MATCH finds the first value that is exactly equal to the lookup_value. The values in the lookup_array argument can be in any order.
  • If the input is -1. MATCH finds the smallest value that is greater than or equal to the lookup_value. The values in the lookup_array argument must be placed in descending order.

For example, if the range A1:A5 contains the values Evelyn Greer, Randy Mueller, Maverick Cooper, Eesha Bevan and Nancie Velez, then the formula =MATCH(“Maverick Cooper”,A1:A5,0) returns the number 3, because Maverick Cooper is the third item in the range.

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INDEX function is used to return the value in the cell based on the row number and column number provided. It can do two-way lookup: where we are retrieving an item from a table at the intersection of a row header and column header.

Syntax: =INDEX (array, row_num, [col_num])

The first argument is the range/array containing the values you want to look up, second is the row number; the row number from which the value is to be fetched (if omitted, Column_num is required) and third is the column number from which the value is to be fetched.

For Example: =INDEX(A1:B6,3,2)

This function will look in the range A1 to B6, and It will return whatever value is housed in Row 3 and Column 2. The answer here will be “India” in cell B3.

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As you have seen, Index and Match on their own are effective and powerful formulas but together they are absolutely incredible. Let’s look at it.

Remember that you must tell INDEX Function which row and column number to go to. In the examples above, we hard coded it to a specific number. But instead, we can drop this MATCH function into that space in our formula and make the formula dynamic.

Let’s dive into an example.

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Here we have two dropdowns in cell H9 and H11 containing names and quarters. What we want is that, once we select a name in cell H9 and a quarter in cell H11, the corresponding sales for the specified person and quarter appears in cell H14. We will be using INDEX & MATCH to accomplish this.
The formula will be: =INDEX($A$3:$F$23,MATCH(H9,$A$3:$A$23,0),MATCH(H11,$A$3:$F$3,0))

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This function will take A3:F23 as the range and the first match will use the name mentioned in cell H9 (here, Eesha Bevan) and obtain the position of it in the Name column (A3:A23). This becomes the row number from which the data needs to be taken. Similarly, the second match will use the quarter mentioned in cell H11 (here, Q2 Total Sales) and obtain the position of it in the Quarter’s row (A3:F3). This becomes the column number from which the data needs to be taken. Now, based on the row and column number provided by the Match functions, index function will now provide the required value, i.e. 18,250.

This formula is now dynamic, i.e. if you change the name or quarter in cells H9 or H11 the formula will still work and provide the correct value.

VLOOKUP Function –

This function is not as flexible or powerful as the combination of Index and Match that we talked about just now, however, the reason this is number 2 on the list is simply because it’s quick, flexible, easy to implement and doesn’t put a whole lot of strain on your CPU while calculating.

Vlookup is a vertical lookup function that tries to match a value in the first column of a lookup table and then return an item from a subsequent column.

Syntax: VLOOKUP ( lookup_value , table_array , col_index_num , [range_lookup] )

  • Lookup_value:  Is the value to be found in the first column of the table, and can be a value, a reference, or a text string.
  • Table_array: This is the lookup table and the first column in this range must contain the lookup_value.
  • Col_index_num: This is the column number in table_array from which the matching value should be returned.
  • Range_lookup: is a logical value that tells you the type of lookup you want to do. To find the closest match in the first column (sorted in ascending order) use TRUE; to find an exact match use FALSE (if omitted, TRUE is used as default).

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In the example above, the first table contains name, country and quarterly sales and the second table contains the country name and nationality.

Now, we have an empty column (Column G) in the first table and we want to use Vlookup to extract the nationality of a person based on the country name mentioned in Column B.

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The function will be: =VLOOKUP(B4,$K$3:$L$7,2,0). This function will lookup the value in cell B4 (i.e. UK) in the first column of the range K3:L7 and will return the corresponding value from the second column of the range i.e. British.

IF Function –
So, why is this formula so important? Simply because this function gives you the flexibility to control your outcomes. When you can understand and model your outcomes, you can create logic and thus create a business model.

IF function is a logical test that evaluates a condition and returns a value if the condition is met, and another value if it is not met.

Syntax: =IF(logical_test,[value_if_true],[value_if_false])

  • Logical test – It is condition that needs to be evaluated. The logical operators that can be used are = (equal to), > (greater than), >= (greater than or equal to), < (less than), <= (less than or equal to) and <> (not equal to).
  • Value_if_true – Is the value that is returned if Logical_test is TRUE. If omitted, TRUE is returned.
  • Value_if_false – Is the value that is returned if Logical_test is FALSE. If omitted, FALSE is returned.

You can also use OR and AND functions along with IF to test multiple conditions. Example: =IF(AND(logical_test1, logical_test2),[value_if_true],[value_if_false]).

IF functions can also be nested, the FALSE value being replaced by another IF function to make a further test. Example:  =IF(logical_test,[value_if_true,IF(logical_test,[value_if_true],[value_if_false])).

Let’s go through the IF function with an example to discuss it in detail.

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In the screenshot above, we have a table that contains the name, country and quarterly sales achieved by different persons. Now, we want to see which persons have been promoted based on the criteria that the total sales achieved by that person is greater than £250,000. In the column for Promotions (Column G), we want the formula to test whether the total sales are greater than £250,000, if it is true then we want the text “Promoted” to be displayed, else a blank.

The formula to be used will be: =IF(C4+D4+E4+F4>250000,”Promoted”,””)

Excel Formulas

So, this completes our Top 10 Excel formulas. As we have already mentioned there are 400+ Excel formulas available and these 10 best Excel formulas will cover about 70% to 75% of your needs, but if you want to go a little bit more we have a book about the 27 best Excel formulas that will cover pretty much all of your formula requirements. The best thing about this is – it contains infographics and is completely free!

Excel Formulas Not Working: Troubleshooting Formulas

Continuing our series on Excel Formulas, this part is all about troubleshooting Excel Formulas. Let’s look at the major issues.

How To Refresh Excel Formulas

If Your Excel Formulas are Not Calculating, then start off by refreshing them. Do either of the following methods to refresh formulas:

  • Press F2 and then Enter to refresh the formula of a particular cell.
  • Press Shift + F9 to recalculate all formulas in the active sheet or you can go to the Formula Tab > Under Calculation Group > Select “Calculate Sheet”.

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  • Press F9 to recalculate all formulas in the workbook or you can go to the Formula Tab > Under Calculation Group > Select “Calculate Now”.

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  • Press Ctrl + Alt + F9 to recalculate formulas in open worksheets of all open workbooks.
  • Press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + F9 to recalculate formulas in all sheets in all open workbooks.

How To Show Formulas In Excel

Usually when you type a formula in Excel and press Enter, Excel displays a calculated value in the cell. If you wish to see the formula that you have typed in the cell, you can do either of the following methods:

  • Go to Formula Tab > Under Formula Auditingsection > Click on “Show Formulas”.

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  • Press Ctrl + ` to show formulas in the cell.

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How To Audit Your Formula

Formula Auditing is used in Excel to display the relationship between formulas and cells. There are different ways in which you can do that. Let’s cover each one in detail:

  • Trace Precedents

Trace Precedents shows all the cells that affect the formula in the selected cell. When you click this button, Excel draws arrows to the cells that are referred to in the formula inside the selected cell.

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In the example below, we have a cost table that contains totals and grand total. We will now use trace precedents to check how the cells are linked to each other.
Click on the cell containing grand total (Cell C15) > Go to Formula Tab > Click on “Trace Precedents”.

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To see the next level of precedents, click the Trace Precedents command again.

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To remove arrows, simply go to Formula Tab > Click on “Remove Arrows”.

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  • Trace Dependents

Trace Dependents shows all the cells that are affected by the formula in the selected cell. When you click this button, Excel draws arrows from the selected cell to the cells that use, or depend on, the results of the formula in the selected cell.

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In the example below, we have a cost table that contains totals and grand total. We will now use trace dependents to check how the cells are linked to each other.
Click on the cell containing Property Cost (Cell C3) > Go to Formula Tab > Click on “Trace Dependents”.

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To see the next level of dependents, click the Trace Dependents command again

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  • Evaluate Formula

This function is used to evaluate each part of the formula in the current cell. The Evaluate Formula feature can be quite useful in formulas that nest many functions within them and helps in debugging an error.

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To evaluate the calculation in cell C15 (Grand Total), Click on the cell > Go to Formula Tab > Click on “Evaluate Formula”.

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A dialog box will appear that will enable you to evaluate parts of the formula.

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This will help you to debug an error as it provides you with the value calculated at each step of evaluation done by Excel.

  • Error Checking

This function is helpful as it is used to understand the nature of an error in a cell and to enable you to trace its precedents.

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To check for the errors shown in the screenshot below, click on cell C18 > Click on Formula Tab > Under Formula Auditing group > Click on “Error Checking”.

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Once you click on Error Checking button, a dialog box will appear. It will describe the reason for the error and will guide you on what to do next. You can either trace the error or ignore the error or go to the formula bar and edit it. You can choose either of these options by clicking on the button shown in the Error Checking Dialog box.

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These top formulas and functions of Excel will surely help and guide you in every step of your Excel Journey.

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