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.