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Add formulas and functions to a spreadsheet

You can perform many different types of calculations by using functions to create formulas in Google Sheets. Here's a list of all the functions available.

Use a formula

  1. Open a spreadsheet.
  2. Type an equal sign (=) in a cell and type in the function you want to use.
  3. A function help box will be visible throughout the editing process to provide you with a definition of the function and its syntax, as well as an example for reference. If you need more information, click the “Learn more” link at the bottom of the help box to open a full article.

Additional features for creating formulas

Simple ways to select and edit ranges

Range-selection mode

  • When editing a formula, the range-selection signal (a grey bracket) will appear next to your cursor where you’re likely to need a range in the formula. When you see the signal, you can move the keyboard arrows around your sheet to select a range.
  • Toggle this mode on and off using the keyboard shortcuts F2 or Ctrl + e. If range-selection mode is turned off, use the arrow keys to move your cursor inside the input box instead of selecting a range.
  • You can also click within the sheet to select a range when editing a formula.

Range replacement

  • When you have the text of a range highlighted in your formula, use F2 or Ctrl + e to enter range-selection mode and easily make adjustments to the range.
  • If you press Shift + F2 or Shift + Ctrl + e while editing the text of a range, you can easily make adjustments to all occurrences of that range in the formula.

Note: You can also select ranges for your formula that are non-adjacent. To select multiple cells, click and hold Ctrl on your keyboard (Cmd on a Mac) as you select the cells you want to include in the formula.

Nested functions

A function used in the same cell with another function is called a nested function. When functions are combined, Google Sheets will calculate the innermost function first. The nested function is contained in parentheses and is used as one of the components of the surrounding function.

For example, let's say you want to calculate the absolute value of a sum of several numbers in the cell range A1:A7. To calculate the sum of these numbers, you would enter '=SUM(A1:A7)' into a cell.

To calculate the absolute value of this sum, you need to nest the sum formula within absolute value formula. To calculate both formulas in a single cell, enter '=ABS(SUM(A1:A7))' into the cell. Note that the =SUM() function is performed first and is used as a component in the =ABS() function.

Formula highlighting

When you reference other cells in a formula, those cells will be highlighted those cells in contrasting colors to help you more easily build a formula. When you click on a cell that contains a completed formula, you'll also see these cells highlighted.

Change the formula bar size

To make the formula bar bigger or smaller, click the bottom of it, then drag it up or down.

Note: You can also use keyboard shortcuts to change the size. Click the formula bar, then click:

  • PC: Ctrl + Up and Ctrl + Down 
  • Mac: Ctrl + Option + Up and Ctrl + Option + Down


Mary is a Docs & Drive expert and author of this help page. Leave her feedback below about the page.

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