By Ken Bluttman, Peter G. Aitken

The first step to using a function in Excel 2007 is finding the one you need! Even when you know the one you need, you may not remember all the arguments it takes. To find a function, open the Insert Function dialog box (in the Function Library group of the Formulas tab) and try one of these:

  • Search: Type one or more keywords or a phrase into the Search for a Function box. Then click the Go button.

    • If a match is made, the Or Select a Category drop-down list displays Recommended, and the Select a Function box displays a list of the functions that match your search.

    • If no match is made, the Or Select a Category drop-down list displays Most Recently Used Functions, and the most recently used functions appears in the Select a Function dialog box.

  • Browse: Click the Or Select a Category arrow and, from the drop-down list, select All, or select an actual function category. When an actual category is selected, the Select a Function box updates to just the relevant functions. You can look through the list to find the function you want. Alternatively, if you know the category, you can select it on the Formulas tab of the Ribbon.

The following table lists the categories in the Or Select a Category drop-down list. Finding the function you need is different from knowing which function you need. Excel is great at giving you the functions, but you do need to know what to ask for.

Function Categories in the Insert Function Dialog Box
Category Type of Functions
Most Recently Used The last several functions you used.
All The entire function list, sorted alphabetically.
Financial Functions for managing loans, analyzing investments, and so
Date & Time Functions for calculating days of the week, elapsed time, and
so on.
Math & Trig A considerable number of mathematical functions.
Statistical Functions for using descriptive and inferential
Lookup & Reference Functions for obtaining facts about and data on
Database Functions for selecting data in structured rows and
Text Functions for manipulating and searching text values.
Logical Boolean functions (AND, OR, and so forth) that return values of
Information Functions for getting facts about worksheet cells and the data
Engineering Engineering and some conversion functions. These functions are
also provided in the Analysis ToolPak.
Cube Functions used with online analytical processing (OLAP)
User Defined Any available custom functions created in VBA code or from
add-ins; this category might not be listed if you don’t have any
user-defined functions.

Both the Insert Function and Function Arguments dialog boxes have a link to the Help system. At any time, you can click the Help on This Function link at the bottom of the dialog box and get help on the function you’re using. The Help system has many examples; often, reviewing how a function works leads you to other, similar functions that may be better suited to your situation.