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## What Is The Difference Between An Excel Formula And An Excel Function?

A question I get asked a lot when it comes to Excel is what is the difference between a Function and a Formula? In this article I will discuss the differences and work through some examples.

A formula in Excel can be described as an expression written by a user of a spreadsheet that requires a calculation for a specific result. These formulas can be as simple or complex as users want. A formula can contain values, cell references, specified names and even Functions – but more on that later.

Let’s start from the beginning. A Formula must begin with the equal sign =. If you do not type this indicator then, Excel will treat your cell input as text and no calculation will be performed on your cell entries.

So after the equals sign, the formula then contains the cell reference or address of the values that will be manipulated or calculated using the various operands in between.

These operands are the standard mathematical operators you will be familiar with: – Addition, Multiplication, Division, Subtraction and Expression.

An example is a simple formula

=A1+B1 which is written in cell A2

This will add the contents of cell A1 and B1 and display the result in cell A2.

So in short an Excel Formula is typed directly into the Formula bar, they don’t have built in wizards, they can’t be nested and they are usually simple calculations.

An Excel Function, on the other hand, is a predefined set of instructions built into Excel that will perform some sort of operation to retrieve and retrieve values. Another way to explain it is that a function is a formula that is already written for you in Excel. For example SUM, NUMBER, IF, AVERAGE etc.

The great thing about Functions is that they can be nested inside each other, used to simplify complex formulas, and have a wizard built in to guide the user through different parts of the function.

All these pre-programmed functions are grouped together in the Formulas Table. just use the Formulas tab to access them or you can click on the insert fx function button to bring up the function dialog box.

There are three ways to start using a function, just start typing the action you want to perform, for example SUM, AVERAGE etc. or you can choose the calculation category for example Date & Time, Finance or TEXT and finally you can include all look for things. available options.

So if we take the same example above, there will be a function that will produce the same result as writing the formula

=SUM(A1:B1) this will sum the contents of A1 and B1 and display the contents of the cell in A2.

So can you combine the two?. Well yes you can, and often users do to be able to simplify more complex calculations. Let’s look at an example or two.

1. =A2+B2

2. =SUM(D2:D4)/10

3. =IF(A1=<5,"Less Than","Not Less Than")

All of the above are formulas, but there are some other functions like example 2 and example 3 as well as operators like plus and minus to provide a result.

That’s it, it’s really that simple.

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