Understanding Functions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 18, 2018)

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.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

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

Ensuring Proper Page Numbers for a Table of Authorities

Automatically create a Table of Authorities entry in your document, and Word might place the necessary field at the wrong ...

Discover More

Setting Limit Depth Spacing in the Equation Editor

The Equation Editor is a handy tool, particularly for those who must include mathematical equations in their documents. ...

Discover More

Moving a File from One Folder to Another

Folders are a great organizational tool in Drive. One skill you'll need is to move files from one folder to another. ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Counting Unique Values with Functions

Using Excel to maintain lists of information is not unusual. When working with the list you may need to determine how ...

Discover More

Returning a Blank Value

Is it possible for a formula to return a blank value? It depends on how you define your terms. This tip examines all the ...

Discover More

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
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 six minus 6?

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.