An Excel function is a built-in shortcut, used within an Excel formula, that performs a set of predetermined calculations using inputs that you provide, and returns an output. Functions are typed using an exact syntax (order of symbols). These can sometimes be hard to remember, but luckily Excel has several tools to help you find the right function and its documentation.
Finding the Right Function to Use
There are several options you can use to find the correct function:
Option 1: Use the Formula Tab
Highlight the appropriate cell and click on the Formula Tab to see a list of function categories. You can click on the each category to display a list of the functions within each. Click on More Functions to see even more categories.
Hovering over each item in the list will display a short description of what it does. When you find the correct one, click on it to insert it into your cell.
Option 2: Use the Insert Function dialog box
Highlight the appropriate cell and click on the fx button next to the formula box (also the first option on the Formula Tab):
This opens the Insert Function dialog box from which gives you several options to find the right function.
Type a short explanation in the search box. Stick to keywords like “average” or “compound interest.” Excel will search through its documentation and display a list of relevant options.
Alternatively, you can click on the Category dropdown list and select a category. Excel will display all functions in that category.
Scroll through the list to find the one you like. A description of each one is given in the area below the list, and will help you decide.
When you find the right one, click on OK to inserted it into the highlighted cell.
Option 3: Start typing a function name in the cell
This is by far the easiest option, provided that you have an idea of the name of the function. Simply select the cell and typing an equal sign, indicating to Excel that you wish to enter a formula. Then start typing the function name. Excel will display a list of functions that starts with the letters you entered. Select each one in the list to show a small description of what it does. When you find the one you want, double click it to insert it into the cell.