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How to Run a Microsoft Excel Worksheet Function from a Formula

How to Run a Microsoft Excel Worksheet Function from a Formula

Microsoft Excel Tutorial

Microsoft Excel worksheet functions are computer programs that you run from a worksheet formula that add capabilities that normal formulas cannot perform.

What is a Worksheet Function

Microsoft Excel worksheet functions are computer programs that you run from a formula on your worksheet. They perform many tasks that ordinary formulas like =A1+A2 just cannot do like:

  • Table look ups
  • Merging information
  • Summing 10,000 cell values at once
  • Using a certain formula based on logic
  • Figuring out where information is located on your worksheet

the list is really endless.

A Quick Way to Run a Function's Help

The complete list of Microsoft Excel functions and their help on how to run them can be quickly found by clicking the little fx button at the top of the Excel screen next to the formula bar (white box). Before clicking this button, make sure you are clicked on an empty cell so you do not overwrite anything when this screen is activated. When the Insert Function screen appears look through the drop downs, select a function name then click the Help on this Function blue hyperlink in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. This is a very quick way to access a function's help screen. The help screen will describe how to type the function in a formula, called its syntax and will also describe the uses of the function. A picture of these screens is illustrated below. Once the help screen is displayed, you can click the Cancel button on the Insert Function screen that was pulled up with the fx button to cancel the operation but the help screen will remain. As a note, it is highly recommended that you do not use the Insert Function tool to build the function syntax in your formula but rather learn how to type it yourself.

How to Run Help for a Worksheet Functions

How to Run a Function

To run a function from a formula, type an equal sign, the function name and its argument list, for example =SUM(A1:A10,B1:B10). To be absolutely correct this is called a Call statement in programming and it is what you are typing except nobody will actually say that. The argument list is what information the function needs in order to operate. The argument list is contained between the two ( )'s and they are separated by commas. Function arguments come in many flavors but the basics are these:

  • Numbers: 100
  • Text: "Text"
  • Cell References: A1
  • Range References: A1:A10
  • Booleans: TRUE or FALSE
  • Other Functions (called nesting)
  • Other Formulas (A1+A2)

What you do is you replace the argument names from help with these values. For example to run the VLOOKUP function, the syntax for it from help is VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, col_index_num, [range_lookup])  and a possible formula would look like: =VLOOKUP("John Smith", A1:G200, 2, FALSE) where you have a mixture of text, numbers, Booleans and range references replacing the argument syntax from help. After typing the formula and Enter is pressed, the function will run behind the scenes and generate an answer returning it to the worksheet formula. One important thing, the argument list in a function is typed in a specific order, violate that order and the function will not operate correctly. One other thing, the tool we used to look up function help is called the Insert Function tool and is used to help build the call statement in a formula. Do not use it in that capacity, learn how to type and run a function from a cell manually. You will stumble at first just like everybody else has but it takes very little time to get the hang of. It is the only way later on to build the complex formulas that you have seen in worksheet formulas.

Quick Worksheet Function Example

On a worksheet type the values 1-10 in cells A1 through A10. Next in cell A11, type =SUM(A1:A10) and then press Enter. You have just run your first worksheet function and a popular one at that called the SUM function which performs addition. One last thing, right from the beginning all of Excel's functions run in the same manner as we just performed. So do not buy into the concept that their are functions for beginners and so on. If you want to run a function, just learn how to type it and do not worry about people trying categorize what you should learn.

For more help on the common functions that people use, please visit our Excel help page.

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