Uses of Microsoft Excel Formulas

By Sarah Rigg

Microsoft Excel is a program for manipulating text and numbers in spreadsheet form. Instead of doing arithmetic with a calculator or changing text cell by cell, a user can type formulas into the spreadsheet just once to perform calculations, conversions or checks on large amounts of text and numerical data. Learn more about the uses of Excel formulas.


Excel is a Microsoft software program that helps users to create spreadsheets of information. Spreadsheets are tools that allow businesses and individuals to track and manipulate information. An Excel formula is a short combination of symbols and cell names that instructs the spreadsheet to perform calculations and conversions on data entered into the spreadsheet.


Mathematical Excel formulas add, subtract, multiply and perform other calculations, such as obtaining averages. Date and time formulas can calculate the differences between dates or insert the current time and date into a cell on the spreadsheet. Other formulas can convert text to numbers and vice versa, change the case of text in selected cells or check to see if a number is greater or less than a specified value. For a more complete list of Excel formulas, see "Additional Resources," below.


Spreadsheet formulas are used by individuals to perform calculations on home budgets and by teachers to compute grades. Scientists may use formulas to calculate average temperatures, average ages or sizes of specimens, or to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius or pounds to kilos. Companies use Excel formulas to track inventory, call volumes, sales performance and many other kinds of financial data. Financial analysts may use formulas to calculate compound interest.


The benefits of using formulas are reduction in errors and savings in time and effort. Instead of doing manual calculations and possibly entering wrong numbers, a formula will do the calculations for you. Formulas save time and effort because a brief series of symbols has to be entered only once and can perform calculations on enormous amounts of data.


Once you've created a spreadsheet and have inserted the necessary formulas, Excel's other features allow you to manipulate and display that information in additional ways. For instance, through the graph feature, you can turn the data and formulas into bar graphs, line graphs and pie charts. You can insert illustrations and hyperlinks into the spreadsheet as well. Additionally, through features such as the "share workbook" and "track changes" commands, you can collaborate on projects with another, and track new data and changes to the spreadsheet over the course of the project.