Getting Started With Excel

 Self-Paced Overview

Working with Formulas

The power of a spreadsheet application is demonstrated most clearly by formulas. Formulas can be simple, like dividing the values in two cells, or they can be very complex. The scope of this overview will focus on a more simple example of working with formulas.

Microsoft Excel

Entering and Editing Formulas

A formula can always be identified because it starts with an equal sign (=). To enter a formula, click on the cell that is to contain the formula and start the formula by pressing the equal sign (=). This tells Excel to handle the contents as a formula instead of a label or simple text. In cell E2 (1.724137931) in the illustration above, we entered the formula =C2/D2. After pressing [ENTER], Excel automatically advanced to cell E3. Cell E2 displayed the results of the formula or 1.724137931. The formula =C2/D2 is still the content of the cell, only Excel has displayed the result of the formula.

In our illustration above, to determine Total Assets Turnover for each year, we would continue entering formulas into each cell in column E referencing the cells for Sales divided by Total Assets for each year.

As stated, when a cell contains a formula, the value produced by that formula is displayed, as in cell E2 in the illustration above. The formula itself, however, is displayed in the formula bar above the worksheet. Once the formula is entered in the cell, it will be displayed only if the cell is being edited. Again, to edit a cell, click on the cell making it the active cell and either click on the formula bar above the worksheet, or press the [F2] function key at the top of the keyboard.

Copying Formulas Between Cells

Since our example is relatively short, it is not much of a problem to type each individual formula. However, if our example required 500 formulas instead of five, it would be very cumbersome to enter each formula. Once we have entered a formula into cell E2 we can copy that formula to cells E3 through E6. When we do this, Excel automatically adjusts the formula's references so that each formula refers to the cells in each respective row, meaning the formula in row 3 becomes C3/D3, the formula in row 4 becomes C4/D4, and so on. To do this you would:

Microsoft Excel
  • Click on cell E2 to make it the active cell. Again, notice the formula =C2/D2 in the formula bar.
  • On the Home tab of the Ribbon at the top of the Excel screen, identify the Clipboard group, and click Copy. You will notice a marquee around cell E2.
  • Click on cell E3, however, when you click on the cell, hold down the mouse button and drag through cells E4, E5, and E6. You will notice each of the cells (E3...E6) become highlighted. Don't get confused that cell E3 is not "grayed out." Notice there is a heavy border around all cells.
  • With cells E3 through E6 highlighted and the marquee around cell E2, click Paste on the Clipboard group of the Ribbon at the top of the screen.

Cells E3 through E6 will fill with the results of the new formula that was just copied. Scroll through the cells and notice that the formula in each cell reflects the appropriate cell references. (You can cancel the copy marquee by pressing the [ESC] key on the keyboard.) is maintained by Dr. Sharon Garrison
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