Use Excel as your calculator

Applies to: Excel for Office 365, Excel for the web, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2007.

Above all, use Microsoft Excel to handle the maths instead of a calculator!

You can type basic formulas to add, divide, multiply, and subtract two or greater numeric values. Or apply the AutoSum feature to swiftly total a range of values without physically adding them in a formula. After you set a formula, you can duplicate it into surrounding cells. This saves time with constantly creating the same formula.

Subtract in Excel

Multiply in Excel

Divide in Excel

Learn more about simple formulas

All formula contents start with an equal sign (=). Most importantly, just type the equal sign for basic formulas then your sought numeric values. Use these to calculate and your desired maths operators to use. These include the plus sign (+) to add, the minus sign () to subtract, the asterisk (*) to multiply, and the forward slash (/) to divide. Then, press ENTER, and Excel automatically calculates and presents the formula result.

For example, when you write =12.99+16.99 in cell C5 and press ENTER, Excel calculates the result and shows 29.98 in that cell.

Example of a simple formula

The formula that you type in a cell stays in view in the formula bar, and it’s visible to you anytime that cell is chosen.

Important: Although there is a SUM function, there is no SUBTRACT function. Instead, use the minus (-) operator in a formula; for example, =8-3+2-4+12. Or, you can utilise a minus sign to transform a number to its negative value in the SUM function; for example, the formula =SUM(12,5,-3,8,-4) uses the SUM function to add 12, 5, subtract 3, add 8, and subtract 4, in that sequence.

Use AutoSum

The simplest way to insert a SUM formula to your worksheet is to use AutoSum. Pick an empty cell immediately above or below the range that you want to sum, and on the Home or Formula tabs of the ribbon, select AutoSum > Sum. AutoSum will intuitively detect the range to be summed and construct the formula for you. This even works horizontally if you choose a cell adjacent (to the left or right of the range) that you must sum.

Note: AutoSum is incompatible with non-contiguous ranges.

You can use the AutoSum Wizard to automatically build a Sum formula.  Select a range above/beneath or left/right of the range to be summed and goto the Formula tab on the Ribbon, then select AutoSum & SUM.

AutoSum vertically

Cell B6 shows the AutoSum Sum formula: =SUM(B2:B5)

In the figure above, the AutoSum feature clearly registers cells B2:B5 as the range to sum instinctively. Simply press ENTER to confirm it. However, if you must add/exclude further cells, you can hold the Shift Key + the arrow key of your preference until your choice matches your objective. Then, press Enter to finish the task.

Intellisense function guide: the SUM(number1,[number2], …) floating tag under the function is its Intellisense guide. If you pick the SUM or function name, it will convert from a blue hyperlink to the Help topic for that function. If you select the standalone function elements, their corresponding aspects in the formula will be highlighted. In this case, only B2:B5 would be highlighted. Since there is simply one number reference in this formula. The Intellisense tag will display for any function.

AutoSum horizontally

Cell D2 shows the AutoSum Sum formula: =SUM(B2:C2)

Learn more in the article on the SUM function.

Avoid rewriting the same formula

Once you type a formula, you can relay it to other cells without rewriting the same formula. You can either copy the formula, or use the fill handle Fill handle to apply the formula to nearby cells.

For example, when you duplicate the formula in cell B6 to C6, the cell’s formula intuitively changes to update to column C’s cell references.

When you copy a formula, cell references update automatically

After you copy the formula, check that you have the right cell references. Cell references can vary if they contain relative references. For more information, see Copy and paste a formula to another cell or worksheet.

What can I use in a formula to mimic calculator keys?

Calculator keyExcel methodDescription, exampleResult
+ (Plus key)+ (plus)Employ in a formula to add numbers. Example: =4+6+212
– (Minus key)– (minus)Utilise in a formula to subtract numbers or to represent a negative number.Example: =18-12Example: =24*-5 (24 times negative 5)
x (Multiply key)* (asterisk; also called “star”)Apply in a formula to multiply numbers. Example: =8*324
÷ (Divide key)/ (forward slash)For any formula to divide one number by another. Example: =45/59
% (Percent key)% (percent)Add in a formula with * to multiply by a percent. Example: =15%*203
√ (square root)SQRT (function)Insert the SQRT function in a formula to find the square root of a number. Example: =SQRT(64)8
1/x (reciprocal)=1/nImplement =1/n in a formula, where n is the number you want to divide 1 by.Example: =1/80.125

Need more help?

You can always ask an expert in the Excel Tech Community, get support in the Answers community, or suggest a new feature or improvement on Excel User Voice.

See Also

Calculation operators and order of operations in Excel

Overview of formulas in Excel

How to avoid broken formulas

Find and correct errors in formulas

Keyboard shortcuts and function keys in Excel

Excel functions (alphabetical)

Excel functions (by category)


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: