Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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: Starting Out Formulas.

Starting Out Formulas

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 10, 2019)

5

When you are entering information in a cell, Excel recognizes the information as a formula if you start it with the equal sign. If you are entering lots of numeric information, you may find it a bother to continually move your hand away from the numeric keypad to enter the requisite equal sign for each cell.

One way to handle this is to begin each cell with a plus sign instead of the equal sign. When you press Enter at the end of the formula you are entering, Excel automatically converts the leading plus sign to an equal sign.

For those who use the numeric keypad to enter their formulas, this can be a real plus (no pun intended) since you don't have to move your hand to enter a leading plus sign, as you would for a leading equal sign.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9929) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Starting Out Formulas.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is five minus 3?

2019-08-12 12:59:54

Preston

Thanks for the background! It makes sense that 10-key entry is a good reason to allow formulas to begin with "+" signs. I did not know that! :)


2019-08-11 20:43:04

John Mann

The @ sign was used to indicate a function in Lotus 1-2-3, all versions from DOS to the most recent Windows version (9.8), e.g. @SUM(A1:A5). The slash key was used to access the menus on the DOS versions of 1-2-3,and was retained in the Windows versions as an option, which could be disabled, to access the "Classic Menus" (it's there in my copy which is the last version released).


2019-08-11 10:52:50

Peter Atherton

The @ key is still replaced by =..
The slash key is upedictable and ometimes call up the old menu system.


2019-08-10 23:12:12

Alex B

I have stopped using starting with a plus sign, although I also seem to recollect it replacing the plus sign with an equal sign, it now just adds the equal sign to the front while retaining the plus, which just adds clutter.
ie +A1 becomes =+A1


2019-08-10 16:23:50

John Mann

This also works if you start with a minus sign. Starting with a multiplication sign (*) resulted in the entry being treated as a string. When starting with a division key (/) the results were unpredictable but interesting - sometimes jumping to A1 (i was using column A for testing), and on one occassion bringing up the "Save As" dialogue box!.


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