Formulas in Microsoft Excel require three things in order to work. All formulas require an equal sign, cell references and a math operative. Every formula must have all three parts. The equal sign is a warning to the computer that the next entry in the cell will require math. Cell references are, literally, what cells you are doing the math to. Math operatives are the signs for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The “+” is for addition, “-“ is for subtraction, a “/” is for division, and an “*” is for multiplication.
The primary complaint with this kind of formula is that it requires a lot of typing. There is something inefficient about this style of doing formulas.
A function is a formula that requires less typing. A function will also need an equal sign, cell references and a math operator. This time the math operator is called a function name. Each function has its own name. You must have the right name for the function you would like to perform. For example, the function name for addition is “SUM.” A sample function appears below.
Notice that the math operative has been replaced by the single word “SUM” only typed once. The cell references are represented as a range instead of single cells. =SUM(C5:C8) The colon represents the range.
The Paste Function
There is really no way to memorize every function name that there is to do. In fact, Excel is capable of over 300 functions. So that you don’t need to memorize, there is a feature called the Paste Function. There is a button on the ribbon this is the symbol for the Greek E, Sigma. Next to it is a drop down arrow for a list. At the end of the menu is list an option for “more functions;” that choice will launch the function palette. Like every other palette, it will have a list of options for you. It will have a list of every function that you can create.
You will notice that the panel is cut in half. On the top of the box is an option to search for a function. Below that is the drop down list of categories that you can choose from. On the bottom are the function names. Notice, too, that even if the function names do not seem intuitive, the palette will tell you what the selected function does in bold at the bottom of the dialog box.
Once you have decided upon a function, the paste function feature will talk you through it. Select the one you would like to use and then click the button that says “OK.” Follow the prompts through the rest of the wizard to complete the math.