7 Excel Functions That Will Make Your Life Easier

Most of us use Excel at work. It’s a powerful application that lets you track and manage all kinds of data. One of the main things we do in Excel is perform calculations using formulas – but sometimes formulas aren’t the most efficient way to figure things out. In a lot of cases, Excel functions are the better option.

Related: 7 Powerful Tips to Help You Master Excel Formulas

Let’s look at an example.

In the spreadsheet (below), we want to calculate a total for all product categories in Q1. We could use a formula but it wouldn’t be very efficient. It would make a lot more sense to use a function.

Formula Example

What are Excel Functions?

Excel functions are built-in calculations. They take input supplied by the user, perform a calculation, and return a result. All functions look very similar. They all start with an equals sign (=), followed by the function name, an opening bracket, one or more arguments, and a closing bracket.

Function Syntax

Now that we know what Excel functions are, let’s look at the 7 functions that will make your life easier!

#1 – The SUM Function

The SUM function is used to add up a series of numbers. Excel users do this all the time. It’s so common, that Microsoft has added a button specifically for this function on the Ribbon.

Let’s revisit our example. Instead of typing a long, cumbersome formula to calculate a total for all product categories in Q1, we’ll use the SUM function.

SUM Function

To calculate a total using the SUM function, I would click in cell B8 and type =sum(B3:B7) then press ENTER. Alternatively, I could click in cell B8 and press the AutoSum button in the Home > Editing group on the Ribbon.

#2 – The AVERAGE Function

The AVERAGE function calculates the average value for a range of cells. In the spreadsheet (below), let’s figure out what the average total sales are for this company by quarter.

AVERAGE Function

To calculate the average, I would click in cell B10, type =average(B8:E8), and press ENTER.

#3 – The COUNT Function

The COUNT function determines how many cells in a range contain numbers. Let’s figure out how many product categories are represented by numbers in Q1. In order to obtain an accurate result, I’ll omit row 8 from the range of cells specified in the COUNT function.

COUNT Function

To determine how many product categories there are, I would click in cell B11, type =count(B3:B7) and press ENTER.

#4 – The MIN Function

The MIN function is used to determine the lowest value in a range. Let’s identify the lowest quarterly sales amount across all product categories and include all four fiscal quarters.

MIN Function

To determine the lowest value, I would click in cell E10, type =min(B3:E7), and press ENTER.

#5 – The MAX Function

The MAX function is used to determine the highest value in a range. In this example, I’ll figure out the highest quarterly sales amount across all categories and quarters.

MAX Function

To determine the highest value, I would click in cell E11, type =max(B3:E7), and press ENTER.

#6 – The TODAY Function

The TODAY function adds the current date to a selected cell. This function doesn’t require an argument.

TODAY Function

To add the current date to your spreadsheet, select a cell, type =today(), and press ENTER.

#7 – The CONCATENATE Function

The CONCATENATE function joins, or combines, the contents of two cells. In the example (below), I have listed the names of several actors from the 1970’s… (Google them if you want to – they’re all real people!)

I have listed the actors’ last names in column A and their first names in column B. I’ll combine first and last name in column C, using CONCATENATE.

CONCATENATE Function

To combine each actors’ first and last name, I would click in cell C6, type =concatenate(B6,” “,A6), and press ENTER. The completed function could then be copied to adjacent cells using the fill handle or copy and paste.

What do you think of my list of functions? How many of these do you use? Have I left out any important functions? Answer in the comments below!