Excel is a spreadsheet application that allows you to add, subtract, multiply and divide figures within other cells. The minus function is used to subtract cells. It also can be used within a cell to subtract several numbers. Excel is a powerful tool available through the Microsoft Office Suite of applications. Excel is mainly used for recording inventory, tracking finances and creating lists of personal or business contacts. When using the subtraction function, it helps to understand the basic syntax of mathematical expressions.
Open a new Excel spreadsheet and enter two different numbers in two separate cells. For instance, place the number 5 in the A1 cell and the number 3 in the B1 cell. These two numbers will be used for this example.
Enter the equal sign ("=") in the C1 cell in the Excel spreadsheet. The equal sign denotes that a formula is in the cell. Instead of displaying the literal string in the cell, the string is evaluated and the mathematical result is displayed.
Enter "a1-b1" into the C1 cell after the equal sign. This is the minus function that subtracts two cells. Once you are finished, press the "Enter" key. Excel displays the result of the minus function, which is 2.
Change the value in the B1 cell to 4 and press the "Enter" key. Notice that the result in the C1 cell changes to reflect the new value of 1.
Delete the value in the C1 cell. Now enter "=5-4" into the cell. Notice that Excel will also subtract numbers entered directly into the cell. The result displayed is 1.