The most obvious way of inputting Excel functions is simply to type the function, with its arguments enclosed in brackets. However, if you are writing a complex formula, you may find this difficult or confusing. Therefore, Microsoft has included a number of built-in Excel tools, which will help you to input functions and formulas more easily.

Using the Function Inputting Tool

The Excel function inputting tool automatically starts up when you insert a function via the function menu. This can be done by either:

  • excel-enter-formulas01Selectingthe Insert Function button, denoted by the ƒχ symbol, from the left side of the formula bar (see right);


  • Selecting a function from one of the lists in the Formulas menu tab. In Excel 2003, selecting a function was done from the menu option Insert → Function.

When you select a function using one of the methods above, Excel automatically pops up a window to assist you in inputting your selected function. This window, shown below, tells you what the function does, and what arguments the function takes.

The image on the right shows the inputting tool for the COUPDAYSNC function. In this example, the cursor is currently positioned in the entry field for the first function argument, Settlement, and so the text in the middle of the window tells you what information is required for this argument.

As you move the cursor to the other entry fields, the text in the middle of the window tells you what data/information should be input for the corresponding arguments.

If, as a part of your argument, you wish to specify a range in the current spreadsheet, or in another open spreadsheet, this can be done by simply using the mouse to select the required range. As you do this, a Function Arguments window will pop up, and the addresses of any cells or ranges that you then select with the mouse are automatically inserted into this window. As you select your required range, these addresses are automatically inserted into the current argument field.

Typing Functions Directly Into a Cell

You might find it quicker to insert functions by typing them directly into a cell or into the formula bar.

In this case, Excel still provides you with useful prompts, as shown in the example below. In this example, the user has started to type the IF function directly into the formula bar. Once the user has typed in the function name and the opening bracket, Excel pops up a prompt, which shows the format of the function, and indicates which arguments should be inserted.


You can also use the mouse to select ranges that you want to form a part of any Excel function or formula. While inputting into a cell or formula bar, ensure your cursor is in the part of the formula where a cell reference or range of cells is required, then simply use the mouse to select the required range. Excel will then automatically insert a reference to the cell’s address, into your function. (See image above)