Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Evaluating Formulas.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 22, 2014)
Often it is frustrating to figure out exactly how Excel arrives at a particular result—particularly if the formula returning the result is quite complex. Fortunately, Excel provides a tool you can use to help figure out what is going on when Excel evaluates a formula.
To use this tool, first select the cell that contains the formula you want evaluated. Then, display the Formulas tab of the ribbon. In the Formula Auditing group click the Evaluate Formula tool. Excel displays the Evaluate Formula dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. The Evaluate Formula dialog box.
At this point, Excel shows the full formula from the cell, and part of it is underlined. This underlined area represents the part of the formula that Excel will next evaluate. This allows you to see what intermediate steps Excel follows in arriving at a result. Every time you click the Evaluate button, Excel replaces the underlined portion of the formula with a result.
Nothing you do with the formula evaluator actually affects the formula in your worksheet; it remains unchanged. Instead, Excel simply shows you what happens as it works through each part of the formula to arrive at a result. When you are done using the formula evaluator, click the Close button.
It should be noted that the formula evaluator is for evaluating just what it says: formulas. It is not for evaluating other items, such as data points on charts or aggregated data in PivotTables.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6236) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Evaluating Formulas.
Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!
When working with text phrases stored in cells, it might be helpful to be able to extract words from the phrase. In this ...Discover More
Want to figure out how far it is between two points on the globe? If you know the points by latitude and longitude, you ...Discover More
US ZIP Codes can be of two varieties: five-digits or nine-digits. Here's how to convert longer ZIP Codes to the shorter ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.