Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Using a Function in a Formula
Functions
Although this sounds technical, even ordinary folks can use COMBIN() to get some
interesting information. You can use the COMBIN() function, for example, to count
the number of possible combinations there are in certain games of chance.
The following formula uses COMBIN() to calculate how many different five-card
combinations there are in a standard deck of 52 playing cards:
=COMBIN(52,5)
Functions are always written in all-capitals. (More in a moment on what those
numbers inside the parentheses are doing.) However, you don’t need to worry about the
capitalization of function names because Excel automatically capitalizes the
function names that you type in.
Up to speed
Learning New Functions
This topic will introduce you to a “greatest hits” tour of new
functions. Sometimes you’ll start off by looking at a sample
formula that uses the function, but for more complex
functions, start by considering the function description .
description doesn’t include the initial equal sign (=) that
you need in all formulas.
Sometimes a function takes an optional argument . The
argument isn’t required, but it may be important depending
on the behavior you want. Optional arguments are always
shown in square brackets. (Excel uses the same convention
in its help and formula tooltips.)
The function description assigns a name to each argument.
You can learn about the type of data the function requires
before you start wading into an example with real
numbers. For example, here’s the function description for the
COMBIN() function:
COMBIN(number_in_set, number_chosen)
You can tell the difference between a sample formula
and the function description by the fact that the function
You’ll see plenty of function descriptions in this topic. You
can look up function descriptions in Excel. Figure 17-9
(page 484) shows you where to look.
Using a Function in a Formula
Functions alone don’t actually do anything in Excel. Functions need to be part of
a formula to produce a result. For example, COMBIN() is a function name. But it
actually does something—that is, give you a result—only when you’ve inserted it into
a formula, like so: =COMBIN(52,5) .
Whether you’re using the simplest or the most complicated function, the syntax —or,
rules for including a function within a formula—is always similar. To use a function,
start by entering the function name. Excel helps you out by showing a pop-up list
with possible candidates as you type, as shown in Figure 17-3. This handy feature is
called Formula AutoComplete.
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