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The most useful Excel formulas

The most useful Excel formulas to master

There is no doubt that formulas are a huge reason why people utilise Microsoft Excel. The ability to create simple or complex calculations, allows you to save time and effort and makes Excel worth its weight in gold. 

A common question I hear when planning any Microsoft Excel course is “Which are the most useful Excel formulas we should learn?“.

Here is a list of the most useful basic Excel formulas that you should have under your belt when working with Microsoft Excel.

Excel Formulas

SUM and SUMIF

Most people know about the amazing AutoSum button, but in case you don’t you need to learn how to create a SUM formula.

SUM will allow you to add together a range of values. Check out our article via our blog site on how to use the SUM formula. Introduction to Functions in Excel.

SUMIF is a slight variation and allows you to add together a range of values based on specific criteria. Very useful in instances such as “I want to total together only John’s sales” from a list of 50 different staff members. You can use “John” as the criteria so Excel only adds together those sales figures. Very handy!

Using the SUM function in Excel

COUNT and COUNTIF

Want to know how many records you have in your data set? The COUNT numbers function can be used to count the number of cells which contain a number based value. This will only work where one of the columns within your data contains a number value such as currency, a date, phone number etc.

You can check out our article via our blog site on how to create a COUNT formula. Introduction to Functions in Excel.

The COUNTIF function is again a slight variation where you can count values based on specific criteria. For example “How many leads do we have in VIC only?” Check out our article via our blog site on how to create a COUNTIF formula in Excel.

MIN and MAX

The Min and Max Functions in Excel

I always think these two sound like a kids cartoon title. But the MIN (minimum) and MAX (maximum) functions allow you to identify the lowest and highest values within a range of cells. Very useful for identifying the highest or lowest currency value, dates etc.

Again, you can check out our article via our blog site on how to use the MIN and MAX functions. Introduction to Functions in Excel.

IF statements

IF statements can sometimes strike a fear response with people. If you have ever seen an IF statement used in Excel it can sometimes make you wonder what on earth is going on. With so many brackets and commas and cell references all over the place they can seem daunting to use.

IF statements however are amazing for answers any question which has a YES or NO answer. You can even use the IF statement to have Excel perform a calculation based off the answer.

Using an IF statement in Excel

Question with a Yes or No answer:

Did each staff member reach their sales target? Yes or no

Have Excel perform a calculation in response to either a Yes or No result:

If a staff member did reach the sales target, calculate their sales commission.

You can also create very complex IF statements.

If a student has a grade of between 81 and 100 give them an A grade. If their grade is between 61 and 80 give them a B grade. If their grade is between 41 and 60 give them a C grade etc.

So although an IF statement can seem daunting, they truly are a very useful tool to have available when working with large volumes of data.

VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP

The VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP functions allow you to look up a value from within a table of data and have Excel return the corresponding answer. I always say that this is one function where Excel can do the work for you. No longer will you need to go and lookup an answer or value needed in Excel – have Excel do that for you.

The VLOOKUP function is used when your data table is set up vertically with the lookup values vertically down a column and answers adjacent.

The HLOOKUP function is used when your data table is set up horizontally with the lookup values horizontally across a row and answers beneath it.

Check out this article on our blog site which shows how to create a Vlookup function in Excel.

IFERROR

When creating a worksheet which is pre-populated with functions that you will use into the future, you can often see errors appearing because you have cells without data. These cells will inevitably be populated as time passes and therefore your formulas will work and any errors will be replace. However in the mean time, any temporary errors can be daunting or off-putting. I’ve had many people simply feel uneasy having any “errors” showing in their calculations even if it just because there is not yet data to populate those cells.

IFERROR provides a perfect tool to hide those errors until such time that you enter the relevant data and voila! Your calculations begin to function as expected.

You can read up on the IFERROR function here.

TODAY and NOW

Last but not least we have a few very useful date functions.

The TODAY function allows you to quickly add today’s date into your worksheet. This is a dynamic function which means that each time you open the worksheet, the date and time in the cell is automatically updated. 

Read more about the TODAY function here.

Take this an extra step further and use the NOW function to add the date and time stamp into any cell. 

That's a wrap!

That finishes up my list of the most useful Excel formulas you should learn to use. 

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