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Using the Formula Bar in Excel

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  • 0:00 The Formula Bar
  • 0:30 For Words
  • 1:12 For Numbers
  • 1:52 For Formulas
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Watch this video lesson to see how you can use the formula bar to check the contents of a cell in your spreadsheet or manipulate data. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

The Formula Bar

The program Excel is made by Microsoft. It is a spreadsheet program made up of tables of rows and columns. Clicking on any cell in this table will show its contents in the formula bar. The formula bar is the toolbar at the top of the spreadsheet that lets you enter or view information in a cell.

formula bar

Right now, we are on cell E10, and there is currently nothing in this cell. Let's see what we can input into this formula bar now.

For Words

Imagine that you are planning a candy party. You want to create a spreadsheet that tells you how much candy each person is bringing. You want to be able to keep track of who brings how much as well as the total candy being brought. In the column for the guest name, you want to input first and last names into each cell. To do this, you click on the cell where you want to put the name, and you start writing. What you write will show up in your formula bar like this:

formula bar

Alternately, you can click on the cell and then the formula bar to write your name directly in the formula bar. You can see here that in cell A2, you have written Amelia Hart. When working with words, the formula bar will show the same thing as the cell.

For Numbers

Next, you want to write numbers to show how much candy each guest brought. You do the same thing to input your data as you did for writing in your names. You click on the cell where you want to input the number and write the number. Again, you will see information pop up in the formula bar. You can also write the number directly in the formula bar. Either way, you will see, just like with words, the same thing in your formula bar as you do in your cell. If you write 10, you will see 10 in both places.

formula bar

Here, you see that you have written 10 in cell B2. This is the cell directly to the right of the cell with Amelia Hart's name. This tells you that Amelia Hart is bringing 10 candies.

For Formulas

The beauty of Excel is actually this formula bar. You can input not just words and numbers, but you can also input formulas to help you make calculations. After completing your list of guest names and how much candy each is bringing, you can use the formula bar to write a formula to help you calculate the total candies being brought.

You click on the cell where you want your total to show, and then click back on the formula bar. Do you see the little fx shown on the formula bar? You can actually click on this. It brings up a small window that helps you write a formula. If you already know the formula, then you can write it in directly.

All formulas in Excel begin with an equal sign. To calculate the total candies bought, the formula you use is the SUM formula. To use this formula, you write the word SUM after the equal sign and then you use parentheses to include the cells that you want to add up. Cells are referred to by their row and column location. So the very first cell at the very top left is cell A1 because it is in column A and row 1. The cell to the right of this cell is B1 because it is in column B and row 1. For your spreadsheet, you have data in 10 cells starting from cell B2 and ending in cell B11. To sum up the numbers in these cells, you write:

=SUM(B2:B11)

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