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: Adding an Equal Sign Tool.

Adding an Equal Sign Tool

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 7, 2015)

Natasha noted that she used to have a equal sign next to the Formula bar that I could click instead of having to enter the equal sign. Clicking the equal sign would also add an equal sign in front of whatever was already in the cell, without deleting the cell contents. When Natasha's office upgraded to Excel 2002, the equal sign disappeared. She wondered how she could get the equal sign back.

The change you noted was done on purpose by Microsoft. They, without any fanfare, dropped the equal sign from the left of the Formula bar with the introduction of Excel 2002. Instead, Microsoft changed the tool to the Insert Function tool, which you can click on to select how you want to put together a formula using functions. This is obviously not the same as the old equal sign tool, however.

You can, if you desire, add an equal sign tool to a toolbar. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Customize from the Tools menu. Excel displays the Customize dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Commands tab is displayed.
  3. In the Categories list, choose Insert. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Commands tab of the Customize dialog box.

  5. Scroll through the Commands list to find the equal sign tool (oddly enough, it has an equal sign on it).
  6. Use the mouse to drag the equal sign tool to wherever you want it on the toolbar.
  7. Click OK to close the Customize dialog box.

The equal sign tool can be used to enter an equal sign at the beginning of the Formula bar. It doesn't completely function like the old tool, as it won't add an equal sign to the beginning of the existing cell contents, and you can't place the tool right next to the Formula bar.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3146) 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: Adding an Equal Sign Tool.

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. ...

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