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: Starting Out Formulas.

Starting Out Formulas

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 8, 2015)

2

When you are entering information in a cell, Excel recognizes the information as a formula if you start it with the equal sign. If you are entering lots of numeric information, you may find it a bother to continually move your hand away from the numeric keypad to enter the requisite equal sign for each cell.

One way to handle this is to begin each cell with a plus sign instead of the equal sign. When you press Enter at the end of the formula you are entering, Excel automatically converts the leading plus sign to an equal sign.

There is a caveat to this "plus sign behavior." If you type either of the following, the plus sign does not go away:

+A1+A2
+SUM(A1:A2)

Excel converts to these:

=+A1+A2
=+SUM(A1:A2)

However, if the first operand is a numeric constant, then a conversion takes place:

+25+A2

Excel converts to this:

=25+A2

It is interesting that if you place a plus sign in front of a date, it defeats Excel's automatic date parsing and causes it to be parsed as a formula:

+11-21-15

Excel converts to this, replacing the plus sign with an equal sign and displaying a result of -25:

=11-21-13

You get a similar parsing result if you use a different delimiter, as in +11/21/15.

The bottom line is that for those who use the numeric keypad to enter formulas that consist of numbers, this can be a real plus (no pun intended) since you don't have to move your hand to enter a leading plus sign, as you would for a leading equal sign.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2351) 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: Starting Out Formulas.

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

Checking for Valid Hyperlinks

If you have a document containing a lot of hyperlinks, it would be cool if there was a way to check all those hyperlinks ...

Discover More

Embedding Your Phone Number in a Workbook

Want to provide a bit of contact information in a workbook? A great place to do it (out of sight, but not inaccessible) ...

Discover More

Temporarily Changing the Printer in a Macro

You can use a macro to print to any printer you have defined in Windows. It is good practice, if you are changing which ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Finding the Address of the Lowest Value in a Range

Uncovering the lowest value in a range is relatively easy; you can just use the MIN worksheet function. Discovering the ...

Discover More

Determining "Highest Since" or "Lowest Since"

When compiling statistics on a collection of data points, you may want to know whether a particular value is the "highest ...

Discover More

Incrementing Numeric Portions of Serial Numbers

If you use serial numbers that include both letters and numbers, you might wonder how you can increment the numeric ...

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 two less than 4?

2015-08-15 16:21:53

C. Hartmann

I was not aware of this. I like. Reminds me of what I've heard about Lotus123 being able to enter formulas without first entering the equal sign.


2015-08-09 11:29:21

V. Suresh

Great help for those who use the numeric key pad as in a calculator for quickly checking.


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.