Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Creating and Editing Formulas
Functions are predeined formulas that perform calculations by using specific values,
called arguments . The syntax of a particular function defines which arguments are
required and which are optional. Arguments are enclosed in parentheses after the
function name and can consist of constants, references, or other functions. Multiple
arguments are separated by commas. A function used as an argument in another
function is referred to as a nested function . A small number of functions use no
arguments. NOW(), TODAY(), and PI(), for example, return the current time, today’s date,
and the value of pi, respectively.
Operators define the types of calculations performed in a formula: arithmetic,
comparisons, text concatenation, and reference. Excel has strict rules on the order in
which calculations are performed; you can control the order of calculation by using
parentheses.
We define each of these categories in more detail, with examples, in the following section.
Creating and Editing Formulas
The number of things you can do with Excel formulas and functions is literally limitless,
especially when you learn to combine functions. We don’t, alas, have limitless pages in this
section, so we’ll be sure we cover the fundamentals thoroughly: how to add a formula to
your worksheet, using built-in tools to find the correct syntax for any function and enter
its arguments correctly. After we cover that ground, we’ll dive into the built-in functions by
category, providing examples that we think you’re likely to find useful.
Although the examples we show in this section use capital letters, you don’t need to wear
out the Shift key when you use Excel. You can enter functions, references, and other parts
of a formula in lowercase; Excel takes care of converting those elements to the proper case
when you enter the formula.
The simplest formulas of all are those that use only constants and simple math operators
without references to other cells or functions. The following formula, for example, is
perfectly valid:
=2+2
If you’re working in Excel, you can use any available cell as a quick-and-dirty calculator—
presumably to figure something slightly more complex than 2+2. Just start with an equal
sign and use any of the supported arithmetic operators as listed in Table 11-2.
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