Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.
With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company.
Learn more about Allen...
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: Dealing with Long Formulas.
Anyone who has been using Excel for any length of time knows that some formulas can get quite long. Excel handles them—as long as they are constructed correctly—but they can be a bear for humans to understand. Even after you develop your own formulas, you may have trouble understanding them weeks or months later.
One way to make formulas a bit easier to understand is to use Alt+Enter in the middle of the formula to "format" how it appears on the screen. Consider, for instance, the following long formula:
=+IF($A2=0,0,IF($B2<4264,0,IF(AND($B2>=4264,$B2<=4895), (-22.31*$C2/365),IF(AND($B2>=4895,$B2<=32760),($B2*0.093- 476.89)*$C2/365,IF($B2>32760,($B2*0.128-1623.49)*$C2/365)))))
This formula could also be written in the following manner, with Alt+Enter being pressed at the end of each line in the formula:
=+IF($A1=0,0, IF($B1<4264,0, IF(AND($B1>=4264,$B1<=4895),(-22.31*$C1/365), IF(AND($B1>=4895,$B1<=32760),($B1*0.093-476.89)*$C1/365, IF($B1>32760,($B1*0.128-1623.49)*$C1/365)))))
Now, the broken-up formula appears on five lines, even though it all appears in a single cell. The broken-up formula works just as if it were all on one line.
In addition, if you copy the complete broken-up formula from the Formula bar and paste it into a worksheet, each line in the formula is pasted into a different cell, making it easy to test each part. This is much quicker than copying and pasting parts of the original formula.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3043) 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: Dealing with Long Formulas.
Solve Real Business Problems Master business modeling and analysis techniques with Excel and transform data into bottom-line results. This hands-on, scenario-focused guide shows you how to use the latest Excel tools to integrate data from multiple tables. Check out Microsoft Excel 2013 Data Analysis and Business Modeling today!