Starting a Formula

May 17, 2013


adding cells in Excel   Excel on Mac   Excel Resources   Excel Shortcuts for Mac   Excel Skin   Formula   starting a formula   SUM formula  

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How to Start a Formula

My first summer internship in college is when I realized I no longer have the leisure to scroll over every icon in my toolbar to find what I am looking for.  Deadlines were serious, and my lack of Excel skills started to show.  I remember the most common mistake I had in my first few weeks involved formulas.  I was under the impression that anything I typed into my cell, Excel would do.  No one ever told me how to actually tell Excel, “Here’s a formula.”

For those of you who are reading just to find out how to start a formula, I wont make you wait.  All you have to do is press the “=” key, and you can begin.  

Here are the steps to applying the =SUM formula:

Step 1: Select the cell you wish to have a formula in.  

Step 2: Press the “=” key.

Step 3: In this example I am going to use the simple =SUM formula.  =SUM, as you may have guessed, gives you the sum of the cells you select.  We already have our = sign in the cell so to add our formula we must type in SUM.

By typing the first letter of the formula, S in this case, Microsoft Excel brings up a list of formulas and functions that start with S.  My most recently used formula starting with S is coincidentally the SUM formula (I use it a lot), which is reflected on the upper portion of the list under “Most Recently Used”.  

Step 4:

Click on SUM and a formula builder will appear in your cell:

Excel is telling us, “I know you want to SUM some numbers, now direct me to them.  

Step 5: With your mouse, click on the cells that hold the data you want to sum.

I have selected 5 numbers (1,2,3,4,5) for my =SUM formula.

Step 6: Press “Enter”

And there you have it.  The sum of the 5 numbers I chose appear in the cell we started our =SUM formula in. 

By pressing the “=” key in a cell you can start any formula.  It can be as simple as =(select a cell) + (select a cell) to add two cells together, or a more complicated VLOOKUP formula.  Whatever your formula is, it’s starting with the “=” sign.   

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