Inputting Excel Functions

The most obvious way of inputting Excel Functions is simply to type the function, with its arguments enclosed in brackets. However, if you are a beginner, or are writing a complex formula, you may find this difficult or confusing. Therefore, Microsoft has included a number of built-in Excel tools, that help you to input functions and formulas more easily.

Using the Function Inputting Tool

The Excel function inputting tool automatically starts up when you insert a function via the function menu. This can be done by either:

Excel Insert Function Button


When you select a function using one of the methods above, Excel automatically pops up a 'Function Arguments' dialog box to assist you in inputting your selected function. This dialog box (shown below) tells you what the function does, and what arguments the function takes.

Excel Function Input Tool

The above image on the right shows the dialog box for the Excel If function. In this example, the cursor is currently positioned in the entry field for the first function argument, Logical_test, and so the text in the middle of the window tells you what information is required for this argument.

As you move the cursor to the other entry fields, the text in the middle of the window tells you what data/information should be input for the selected argument.

If, as a part of your argument, you wish to specify a range in the current Excel spreadsheet, or in another open spreadsheet, this can be done by simply using the mouse to select the required range. Any cells or ranges that you select with the mouse are automatically inserted into the current argument field.

Click here to go to a video tutorial of the Excel Function Inputting Tool

Typing Functions Directly Into a Cell

As you become more used to inputting Excel functions and formulas, you might find it quicker to insert functions by typing them directly into a cell or into the formula bar.

In this case, Excel still provides you with useful prompts, as shown in the example below. In this example, the user has started to type the Excel If function directly into the formula bar. It can be seen that, once the user has typed in the function name and the opening bracket, Excel pops up a mini prompt, which shows the format of the function, and indicates which arguments should be inserted.

Excel Formula Bar Function Input

You can also use the mouse to select ranges that you want to form a part of any Excel function or formula. To do this, ensure your cursor is in the position (within the formula) where a cell reference or range of cells is required and then simply use the mouse to select the required range. Excel will then automatically insert a reference to the selected range into your function, as shown in the image below.

Excel Range Select During Function Inputting

The above range selection method can be used to select cells in any Worksheet of any Workbook that is open in your current Excel browser. This is particularly useful if you are selecting a range in a separate workbook, as the address needs to specify the workbook name, the worksheet name, and the reference to the cell range, which can be cumbersome to type, and prone to typing errors.