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Entering Formulas in Excel

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Entering Formulas in Excel.

Excel allows you to use a special symbol—the equal sign—to indicate that you expect what you type next to be translated into a formula. Consider the following examples:

27 + 14
B2 + B3
= 27 + 14
= B2 + B3

At first glance, you might not see much difference between the first two examples and the last two. There is a big difference to Excel, however. The last two include equal signs, that special symbol for formulas. This means that Excel trys to perform the operation indicated in the formula—in this case, an addition operation. In the first two examples (without the equal signs), Excel translates the information as text.

There is one other way that you can enter formulas into Excel: through the use of an implied equal sign. You do this by prefacing the formula with a plus sign or a minus sign, as shown here:

-27 + 14
+B2 + B3

This method of entering formulas is archaic, at best, and supported in Excel only for compatibility with older spreadsheet programs. Once the formula is entered, Excel maintains the plus or minus sign, but automatically adds an equal sign to the start of the formula.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2091) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Entering Formulas in Excel.

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Comments for this tip:

AttiM    03 Dec 2012, 05:19
Thanks, Barry!
I really didn't know about this tip, but it's cool! :)

(Why? I can use this tip not for references to other cells, but only for numbers. If I have to put a summed value into a cell, but I don't need the elements in the future, only the result - I will use it).

Thanks again!
Barry Fitzpatrick    02 Dec 2012, 09:15
To just put the result in press F9 just before pressing "Enter".

I would question why you would to do this. Once you've done this the original dependent cells will have no affect on the value in the cell concerned.
AttiM    02 Dec 2012, 04:44
Hi, is there any method to enter a formula and Excel puts only the result in the cell? If I remember good, there was exist this option in the past in early version of Excel for Apple Macintosh.
If I type + sign (or something like this) before the formula (ie. +3*2), Excel puts 6 into the cell.

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