Understanding Functions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 18, 2015)

1

You already know that Excel allows you to create formulas in the cells that make up your worksheets. To make your formulas even more powerful, Excel provides well over 200 functions you can use. These functions facilitate everything from simple summation to complex financial and mathematical models. The basic functions can loosely be divided into categories such as database, date and time, financial, information, logical, lookup and reference, math and trig, statistical, and text. When you use add-ins with Excel, the number of available functions can increase even more.

As an example of how functions are used, suppose you need a formula that returns the sum of the cells in C7 through C19. Rather than put together a formula that uses the plus sign for each of the cells in the range, you can use the following formula:

=SUM(C7:C19)

The name of the function used here is SUM, and it uses the arguments indicated between the parentheses. In this case, the cell range C7 through C19 serve as the argument for the function. (The colon between the cell references indicates a range. It tells Excel that it should include everything between the two cells.)

While SUM is a rather simple function, Excel includes many others that provide a multitude of capabilities. For instance, suppose you want to determine how much money you would have in the bank after 20 years if you participated in a semi-monthly payroll deduction program. If the program paid a fixed interest rate of 5.75% and you had $125 deducted every pay period, you could use the following formula:

=FV(5.75%/24,20*24,–125)

The result of the function in this formula is $112,374.89. If you wanted to play "what-if" scenarios, you could set up the formula to use cell references. Because the formula relies on the values in the cells referenced, any changes to the basic values in those cells results in an automatically recomputed future value.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1953) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Setting Column Width in a Macro

Does your macro need to change the width of some columns in a worksheet? Here's how to do it.

Discover More

Retrieving Drive Statistics

Need to gather some information about the drives on a system? It can be pretty easy to do using a macro, as shown in this ...

Discover More

Reordering Last Name and First Name

If you've got a list of names in a column, you may want to change the order of each name. For instance, the name have the ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Functions Within Functions

Functions are the heart of Excel's power. The program allows you to compound that power by handily putting one function ...

Discover More

Calculating Fractions of Years

When working with dates and the relationship between dates, Excel provides a variety of worksheet functions that may prove ...

Discover More

Numbers in Base 12

Different professions use numbers in entirely unique ways. You may need to come up with a number that represents the number ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven less than 7?

2015-04-18 13:41:10

Joe

Thanks


This Site

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.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.