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)

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

Quickly Moving Your Table

For those who love to use the mouse during editing, you can use the little critter to help move your tables to exactly ...

Discover More

Tracing Precedent Cells

Cells that affect another cell are called precedent cells. If you need to know which cells affect a particular cell, ...

Discover More

Replacing Graphics with Graphics

You can use the Find and Replace feature of Word to replace inline graphics with other graphics. This tip explains how ...

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)

Changing Multiple Cells at Once

Excel includes several different methods of editing information in your cells. If you want to edit multiple cells all at ...

Discover More

Increasing Undo Levels

Each time you take some action in Excel, the action is saved in an "undo stack" so that the action can be undone, if ...

Discover More

Understanding Names

Excel provides the ability to define names that refer to cells or ranges of cells. These can then be used in your ...

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 three less than 5?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.