Add formulas & functions

Want to get more out of Google Docs for work or school? Sign up for a Google Workspace trial at no charge.
You can use functions and formulas to automate calculations in Google Sheets.

Tip: If you’re already familiar with functions and formulas and just need to know which ones are available, go to Google Sheets function reference.

Learn what a function is

A formula is anything that’s entered into a cell that begins with the equals character (=). For example: 


Formulas often include functions, but they're not required. The following example shows a formula that uses the IF and SUM functions to determine whether expenses are over or under budget:

         =IF(SUM(A2:A)>C2,"Over Budget","Under Budget")

In the example below, expenses are over budget because $350 is more than $300. 

" "

In the example above:

  • A2:A includes all values in column A from row 2 to the bottom of the column.
  • The formula assumes expenses are in column A and the budget is in cell C2.
  • As you enter a value, a popup displays the projected output.
  • The output changes when you change any value in cell C2 or column A.

Get started with functions

  • Functions usually perform calculations on values. 
  • Values can also be called arguments or inputs. 
  • The function can have zero, one, or multiple inputs.
    • The inputs themselves may be values you type in, cells, or ranges of cells
    • Some functions have optional inputs that have default values when no values are provided.

How to use functions with:

Zero inputs

The function NOW takes zero inputs. It doesn’t need any information to tell the current day and time.

To try the function, type =NOW() into any spreadsheet cell, then press Enter.

" "

One input

The function ABS takes one input, which must be either a single value or a single cell. For example:

=ABS(-5) or =ABS(B2)

" "

Multiple inputs

The functions SUM and CONCAT take multiple inputs, which can be any combination of values or cell references. For example, =SUM(B1, 17, D1:D3) calculates the sum of the value in cell B1, the number 17, and the values in cells D1, D2, and D3.

" "

Optional inputs

  • The function ROUND takes either one or two inputs and rounds the first input. 
  • You can specify the decimal place to round in the second input. 
  • If the second input isn’t specified, the function rounds to the nearest whole number. This optional input is indicated with square brackets:

     ROUND(value, [places])

For example:

     =ROUND(123.456, 2):  This function rounds the number to 2 decimal places.

     =ROUND(123.456):      This function rounds to the nearest whole number.

" "

Learn what input a function needs

To find what input a function needs:

  • Use the Google Sheets functions list. The list includes the names and descriptions of every input. For example:

    VLOOKUP(search_key, range index, [is_sorted])
  • Use function suggestions. Type the function name to get the list of functions, then select the function you want to learn about.
    • You can click the arrow to check the input names or view all info about the function.
    • Each input is highlighted in green as you enter values into the function.

" "

About the output

An output is the result of a function. For many functions, such as NOW, ABS, SUM, and ROUND, the result is a single value.

However, the output of some functions appears in multiple cells. For example, the result of the UNIQUE function is a list of the multiple, unique values from the input.

In this example, the input is a range of 7 cells and the output is 4 cells:

" "

Related resources

Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?
Visit the Learning Center

Using Google products, like Google Docs, at work or school? Try powerful tips, tutorials, and templates. Learn to work on Office files without installing Office, create dynamic project plans and team calendars, auto-organize your inbox, and more.

Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu
Search Help Center