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Excel 2003: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Formula Shortcuts

So far, you've learned how to build a formula by entering it manually. That's a solid way to start out because it forces you to understand the basics of formula writing. But writing formulas by hand can be a drag; plus, it's easy to type in the wrong cell address. For example, if you type A2 instead of A3 you can end up with incorrect data, and you won't necessarily notice your mistake.

As you become more comfortable with formulas, you'll find that Excel gives you a few tools—like point-and-click formula creation and the Insert Function button—to speed up your formula writing and reduce your mistakes. You'll learn about these features in the following sections.

Point-and-Click Formula Creation

Instead of entering a formula by typing it out letter-by-letter, Excel lets you create formulas by clicking the cells you want to use. For example, consider this simple formula that totals the numbers in two cells:

=A1+A2

To build this formula by clicking, just follow these steps:

  1. Move to the cell where you want to enter the formula.

    This cell is where the result of your formula's calculation will appear. While you can pick any cell on the worksheet, A3 works nicely because it's directly below the two cells you're adding.

  2. Press the equal sign (=) key.

    The equal sign tells Excel you're going to enter a formula.

  3. Move to the first cell you want to use in your formula (in this case, A1).

    You can move to this first cell by pressing the up arrow key twice, or by clicking it with the ...

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