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Formulas Don't Calculate as Formulas

When you enter information into a cell, Excel needs to determine how to treat that information. Should it be considered a date? A number? As a formula? Perhaps it is text? Excel interprets your cell entry according to a fairly well-defined set of rules. The "fallback" determination for a cell is to treat an entry as text.

You may notice something odd when entering information in a cell, however—Excel may always treat what you enter as text. For instance, you may enter a formula such as =B3 into a cell, with the expectation that the formula will be understood by Excel and the contents of cell B3 will be shown as a result of the formula. Excel, however, may simply display "=B3" in the cell, instead of the expected result.

If this happens to you, then Excel is not interpreting your cell entry as a formula, but as text. It is bypassing the normal parsing that goes on and instead jumping directly to the "fallback" determination of the cell containing text.

This problem happens most often when the cell into which you are entering information was previously formatted as text. In other words, someone used the Format Cells dialog box and explicitly formatted the cell as Text.

An easy way to correct this situation is to perform the following steps:

  1. Select the cell that contains the formula that is being interpreted as text.
  2. Choose Clear from the Edit menu, then choose Formats. This removes any formatting applied to the cell.
  3. Press F2. This puts the cell into edit mode.
  4. Immediately press Enter. This causes Excel to re-evaluate what is in the cell.

Your formula should now be treated as a formula instead of as text.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3087) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Sarah    28 Mar 2016, 17:39
the formula shows, I've formatted for numbers but it doesn't calculate. I also can't link it to a cell in another worksheet. It is bizarre.
Julie    07 Feb 2016, 17:10
I'm try to compare 1 column values to other columns if a value is present. EXAMPLE on the L column L6:L330 has a value say x in all 330 rows and column 0 is 1 of 5 columns say O6:O330 only has 6 x's in all 330 rows WHAT does the formula look like to accomplish the count of the 6 x's in column O compared to column L ?
Sivadas Manghat    27 Jan 2016, 00:34
Thanks. It is working
LC    05 Nov 2015, 13:34
THANKS A LOT!
Mike    02 Oct 2015, 03:37
Is it possible to do this for a huge block of cells without having to press F2 + Enter for every cell individually?
PJE    02 Jul 2015, 14:56
That works, thank you.
Tolu    05 Jun 2015, 11:45
Thanks alot. I have learnt something new
Jake    21 Nov 2014, 01:13
Thank you. This is common when working with SAP related excels.
How can I do this for the whole table?
 
 

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