Creating Formulas

When using formulas in Excel you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Use Excel formulas to also make cell references in Excel.

Creating a simple formula

Let's start with a simple formula that contains one mathematical operation. All formulas begin with the equals sign (=), whether the formula consists of adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. Here's an example of a simple formula: =B2-B3.

Formula Palette

To create a simple formula using the point-and-click method:

  1. Enter the numbers you want to calculate.
  2. Click the cell where you want the result to appear.
  3. Type the equals sign (=).
  4. Click the first cell to be included in the formula.
  5. Type a mathematical operator (such as the addition symbol +). The operator displays in the cell and in the Formula bar.
  6. Click the next cell in the formula.
  7. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the entire formula is entered.
  8. Press Enter or click the Enter button on the Formula bar. This step ends the formula.

Important pointIf you move to another cell, Excel will include that cell in the formula.

Click the equals sign button on the Formula bar rather than the equals sign on the keyboard to open the Formula Palette, which lets you see the progress of a formula as you enter it.

Excel will not always tell you if your formula contains an error, so it's up to you to check all of your formulas. To learn how to do this, read the Double-Check Your Formulas lesson from our Excel Formulas tutorial.