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.

Dealing with Long Formulas

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 29, 2018)

5

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.

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

Preventing the Left Margin of a Footer from Moving

When you print a document, does the position of the page footer seem to move left and right? This could have to do with ...

Discover More

Getting a Warning for Markup

Many people, when collaborating on a document with others, use the Track Changes feature to show the effects of their ...

Discover More

Spelling Errors Resulting from Erroneous Spaces

Spelling errors can result from improperly ordering letters in a word, or from adding spaces where they shouldn't be. ...

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)

Forcing Editing to Be Done in a Cell

Excel allows you to edit your cell contents in two places. What if you want to limit where editing occurs, so it can only ...

Discover More

Referencing the Last Cell in a Column

When developing formulas, you may need to reference the very last value in a particular column. This can seem perplexing, ...

Discover More

Limiting Choices in a Cell

Want to limit what a person can enter into a particular cell? You can use Excel's data validation feature to help enforce ...

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 more than 0?

2021-08-04 23:01:14

Gareth Hayter

FormulaSpy (from FormulaDesk) is another Excel add-in that also helps with these scenarios https://www.formuladesk.com/formulaspy/


2021-03-04 19:49:04

Simon B

This is another online tool for formatting Excel formulas:

https://www.formulaboost.com/parse

What's good about this one is that the formatted formulas are still valid and can be pasted back into Excel.


2020-06-25 12:09:47

Christie Bellah

This is perfect, thank you! For one column on the report I'm doing today I need so many IFs that I'd started to wonder if I should create some extra columns to break it up some - just to make the formulas more readable. I like your solution a lot better.


2020-05-13 06:15:28

Mat

Or maybe something like this:
excelformulabeautifier.com


2020-02-06 09:24:35

André Fernandes

Great!


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.