Why to Use Excel Functions - dummies

Why to Use Excel Functions

One of the key benefits of using Excel functions is that they help simplify your formulas. For example, if you wanted to get the average of the values in cell A1, A2, and A3, you could enter this formula:

=(A1+A2+A3)/3

This particular formula isn’t too bad, but what if you had to get the average of 100 values? How cumbersome would that formula be to create and manage?

Luckily, Excel has an AVERAGE function. With the AVERAGE function, you can simply enter this formula:

=AVERAGE(A1:A3)

If you had to get the average of 100 values, you could simply expand the range:

=AVERAGE(A1:A100)

Another key benefit of using functions is that they help you accomplish tasks that would be impossible with standard formulas. For instance, imagine that you wanted a couple of formulas that would automatically return the largest and smallest numbers in a range of cells. Sure, if your range was small enough, you could eyeball the largest and smallest numbers. But that’s hardly automated.

There is no nonfunction-driven formula you could possibly enter that would automatically return the largest or smallest number in a range.

Excel’s MAX and MIN functions, however, make short work of this task. The MAX function returns the largest number, whereas the MIN function returns the smallest.

=MAX(A1:A100)
=MIN(A1:A100)

Functions can also help save time by helping you automate tasks that would take you hours to accomplish manually. For example, say that you needed to extract the first 10 characters of a customer number. How long do you think it would take you to go through a table of 1,000 records and get a list of customer numbers that contains only the first 10 characters?

The LEFT function can help here by pulling out the left 10 characters:

=LEFT(A1,10)

You can simply enter this formula for the first row of your table and then copy it down to as many rows you need.