How to Find the Correct Excel Function - dummies

By Ken Bluttman

The first step in using a function in Excel is finding the one you need! Even when you do know the one you need, you may not remember all the arguments it takes. You can find a function in the Insert Function dialog box in two ways:

  • Search: Type one or more keywords or a phrase in the Search for a Function box; then click the Go button.

    • If a match is made, the Or Select a Category drop-down menu 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 menu displays Most Recently Used functions, and the most recently used functions appear in the Select a Function dialog box. The Search for a Function box displays a message to rephrase the text entered for the search.

  • Browse: Click the Or Select a Category down arrow, and from the drop-down menu, select All or an actual function category. When an actual category is selected, the Select a Function box updates to show 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 Ribbon.

The following table lists the categories in the Or Select a Category drop-down menu. 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 on).
Information Functions for getting facts about worksheet cells and the data
Web A few functions that are useful when sharing data with web
Engineering Engineering and some conversion functions. These functions are
also provided in the Analysis ToolPak.
Cube Functions used with online analytical processing (OLAP)
Compatibility Some functions were updated as of Excel 2010 and Excel 2013.
The functions in this category are the older versions that remain
compatible with Excel 2007 and earlier versions.
User Defined Any available custom functions created in VBA code or from
add-ins. This category may not be listed.