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

A question I get asked A LOT in Excel is what is the difference between a function and a formula? In this article, I will discuss the differences and provide some examples.

A formula in Excel can be described as a statement written by a spreadsheet user that requires a calculation to generate a specific result. These formulas can be as simple or complex as users want. A formula can contain values, cell references, defined names, and even functions – but more on that later.

Let’s start from the beginning. The formula must start with the equal sign =. If you do not enter this character, Excel will treat your cell input as text and no calculations will be performed on your cell entries.

So after the equals sign, the formula contains the cell reference or address of the values to be modified or calculated using the various intermediate operands.

These operands are the standard math operators you’re familiar with: addition, multiplication, division, subtraction, and exponents.

An example of a simple formula is

=A1+B1, which is inserted into cell A2

It adds the contents of cells A1 and B1 and displays the result in cell A2.

In summary, an Excel formula is entered directly into the formula bar, has no built-in wizards, cannot be nested, and is usually a simple calculation.

On the other hand, an Excel function is a set of pre-defined instructions built into Excel that perform certain types of operations to provide and output a value. Another way to explain a function is with a formula that is already pre-written for you in Excel. For example, SUM, COUNT, IF, AVERAGE and so on,

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

All these pre-programmed functions are gathered in the Formulas tab. Simply use the Formulas tab to access them, or you can click the Add function fx button to open the function dialog box.

There are three ways to start using the function, just start typing the action you want to perform, such as AMOUNT, AVERAGE, etc. or you can select a category for the calculation, such as date and time, financial or TEXT and finally you can scroll through all the available options.

So if we take the example above, a function that would generate the same result as writing a formula

=SUM(A1:B1) it sums the contents of A1 and B1 and displays the contents of the cell in A2.

So can you combine the two?. Yes, you can, and users often do so in order to simplify more complex calculations. Let’s look at one or two examples.

1. =A2+B2

2. =SUM(D2:D4)/10

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

All of the above are formulas, but some include other functions, such as Example 2 and Example 3, and operators such as plus and minus to provide output.

That’s it, it really is that simple.

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