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Office Productivity / Microsoft

Essential Excel Formulas and Functions

Overcome your Excel formula phobias with this clear and easy to follow guide



 Formulas and functions are at the core Microsoft Excel 2013 and learning to use them effectively is an essential step in becoming proficient in Excel. This course provides clear and easy-to-follow instructions on how to build formulas for analysis, projection and data cleansing.

  • The course starts by discussing all of the different components that can be used to create a formula. You will be given clear demonstrations of the use of relative, mixed and absolute references, the use of dollar signs and how to name cell ranges to add clarity to your formulas.
  • Naturally, Excel functions are discussed in depth and many examples of using functions to analyze your data, beginning with every day functions like SUM, AVERAGE, MIN and MAX.
  • We then examine the use of text functions to clean up data prior to creating reports; functions like TRIM, UPPER, LOWER, PROPER, LEFT, RIGHT, MID and CONCATENATE.
  • Next, we turn our attention to conditional functions like IF, IFERROR, AND and OR. These functions allow you to make the value displayed in a cell dependent on the results of logical tests.
  • We then see how conditional functions can be combined with mathematical functions; using COUNTIF and SUMIF to produce calculations which only include those cells which match certain criteria.
  • And, naturally, no discussion of Excel functions would be complete without lookup functions. We discuss the use of VLOOKUP and, also, how the INDEX and MATCH functions can be used to lookup up data whose format makes the use of VLOOKUP impossible.

When you have completed this course, you will feel more confident about creating your own Excel formulas and taking advantage of Excel's wide variety of powerful functions. 

Full details


  • Getting Started
    Welcome to Essential Excel Formulas and Functions
    Download the course files here
    The attached ZIP file contains all of the Excel worksheets which are used in the tutorials. To follow along and practice for yourself, simply open the file being used by the tutor in each video.
  • 1. Excel Formula Essentials
    1. Anatomy of an Excel Formula
    Formulas are one of the key components of an Excel worksheet; this is, after all what makes Excel so useful; the fact that it can perform calculations on the data that you enter in your worksheets. In this video, we examine the key elements that can be included in a formula by entering the formulas required to create an invoice template.
    2. Understanding Relative References
    In the last video, we saw how you can create a formula once and then copy it into other cells; and have Excel automatically modify the formula, based on the new location. In this video, we'll get some more practice on doing that and discuss, in a bit more depth, exactly how Excel arrives at the correct conclusions.
    3. Using Absolute References
    In this video, we'll look at an occasion where it is not useful to have Excel modify cell references when a formula is copied; and how you can tell Excel which cell references should not be changed when you copy a formula.
    4. Mixed References
    Having examined relative and absolute references, in this video, we'll look at a third type of reference called mixed references. With mixed references, when you copy the formula, you want only one component to change; either the column letter or the row number, but not both.
    5. Operator Precedence
    As well as using parentheses to enclose function arguments, Excel uses parentheses in another context; and this usage coincides exactly with the use of parentheses in mathematics: to indicate the order of precedence when carrying out calculations.
    6. Using Named Ranges
    Almost all Excel formulas contain cell references; and, if you are building a worksheet that contains a lot of formulas, it can become quite difficult to make sense of the worksheet formulas. One way to introduce a bit of clarity into your formulas is to use named ranges.
  • 2. Text functions
    1. Flash Fill Revision
    Very often, if all you want to do is to clean up data, or to modify the way that has been entered, you can simply use Flash Fill as an alternative to using formulas.
    2. Using The TRIM Function
    The TRIM function is a very simple but useful function which removes unwanted space from cell entries; and it is typically used when you are cleaning up text before producing a report.
    3. Changing The Case Of Text
    Excel has three functions for changing the case of your text, two of which you should be able to guess with no problem: LOWER and UPPER, which of course correspond to upper and lower case. The third one is PROPER; this is what is sometimes called title case, whereby the first letter of each word is capitalized.
    4. The LEFT And RIGHT Functions
    The LEFT and RIGHT functions are used, in Excel, to extract information, starting from the left or starting from the right.
    5. The MID Function
    The MID function is used to extract characters from a string of text, starting from any position. In this example, we have a customer code and we want to extract the two-letter country code in the middle of the string.
    6. The CONCATENATE Function
    Excel's CONCATENATE function allows you assemble different textual components into one cell by stringing them together. In this example, we are starting with three separate columns containing "Title", "First Name" and "Last Name"; and we are looking to assemble them into a single cell; and this is exactly what CONCATENATE does.
  • 3. Conditional functions
    1. Using the IF Function
    The IF function in Excel is used to make the value in a cell dependent on the result of a logical test; a logical test being one which can only produce the values true or false.
    2. Using the IFERROR Function
    The IF function is very versatile in Excel; by contrast, IFERROR has a very limited usage: its role is to suppress error values and replace them with something more user-friendly.
    3. Using Nested IF Statements
    In the first video of this section, we had a look at a basic IF statement; sometimes, however, you want to cater for more than two eventualities; and, in this scenario, one approach is to use what is called a nested IF statement. This is where you use more than one IF statement; and Excel requires you to put one IF statement inside another, as its argument.
    4. Using the OR Function
    Excel's OR function is used to create a composite logical test; one in which you have a series of possibilities, only one of which needs to be true in order for the overall test to be true.
    5. Using the AND Function
    The AND function in Excel is used to create a composite logical test in which several possibilities all have to be true in order for the overall test to be true.
  • 4. Conditional number crunching functions
    1. Using the COUNTIF Function
    Excel's COUNTIF function is used to count the cells within a given range in which a certain condition is satisfied. It also has a "partner in crime", COUNTIFS, which does exactly the same thing, but allows you to specify two or more criteria.
    2. Using the SUMIF Function
    The SUMIF function is obviously a combination of the SUM and IF functions; it allows you to calculate a conditional total.
  • 5. Lookup functions
    1. Using VLOOKUP Exact Match
    Excel VLOOKUP function is used to retrieve a value from what is called a lookup table. In this example we use VLOOKUP to retrieve the business sector description which matches a given sector code.
    2. Using VLOOKUP Approximate Match
    As well as retrieving information by making a specific match to a given value, the VLOOKUP function can be used to retrieve information by making an approximate match.
    3. Using INDEX and MATCH
    Using the INDEX and MATCH functions in combination provides a great deal of flexibility when retrieving information from an ordinary worksheet, as opposed to a specially constructed lookup table.


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