Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007 and 2010. 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: Dealing with Long Formulas.

Dealing with Long Formulas

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 31, 2015)

12

Anyone who has been using Excel for any length of time knows that some formulas can get quite long. Excel handles them—as long as they are constructed correctly—but they can be a bear for humans to understand. Even after you develop your own formulas, you may have trouble understanding them weeks or months later.

One way to make formulas a bit easier to understand is to use Alt+Enter in the middle of the formula to "format" how it appears on the screen. Consider, for instance, the following long formula:

=+IF($A2=0,0,IF($B2<4264,0,IF(AND($B2>=4264,$B2<=4895),
(-22.31*$C2/365),IF(AND($B2>=4895,$B2<=32760),($B2*0.093-
476.89)*$C2/365,IF($B2>32760,($B2*0.128-1623.49)*$C2/365)))))

This formula could also be written in the following manner, with Alt+Enter being pressed at the end of each line in the formula:

=+IF($A1=0,0,
IF($B1<4264,0,
IF(AND($B1>=4264,$B1<=4895),(-22.31*$C1/365),
IF(AND($B1>=4895,$B1<=32760),($B1*0.093-476.89)*$C1/365,
IF($B1>32760,($B1*0.128-1623.49)*$C1/365)))))

Now, the broken-up formula appears on five lines, even though it all appears in a single cell. The broken-up formula works just as if it were all on one line.

In addition, if you copy the complete broken-up formula from the Formula bar and paste it into a worksheet, each line in the formula is pasted into a different cell, making it easy to test each part. This is much quicker than copying and pasting parts of the original formula.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11251) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Dealing with Long 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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Comments

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What is seven minus 2?

2015-04-01 11:20:53

HECTOR ENRIQUE POLLA

You can also paint part of a formula, as an if, and pres F9, excel return de value of this part of de formula in the formula bar. Then press scape, and excel returns the formula, if you don´t, you get the result en the formula.


2015-04-01 10:49:13

Gary Lundblad

That is great Chuck!

Thank you!

Gary


2015-03-31 12:33:07

Dave O

This is a great tip! Simple but great. I can see that it will save time on long formulas...starting today.


2015-03-31 11:45:56

Chuck Trese

Gary,
These two (numeric) formulas give identical results:
=SUM(B12:B15)
=SUM(B12:B15) +N("explanation text here")

Also, these two (text) formulas give identical results:
=B3&B4&B5&B6
=B3&B4&B5&B6 &T(N("explanation text here"))


2015-03-31 11:38:26

Chuck Trese

+N("explanation text") works for formulas that return numbers.

For formulas that return text, you can use &T(N("explanation text"))


2015-03-31 11:10:30

Gary Lundblad

John, are you saying that you can add explanatory text in a formula without screwing up the formula? If so, can you include an example of a formula with added explanatory text?

Thank you!

Gary


2015-03-31 10:10:11

bmultack

I have been using this method for long text entries. I have my own emailer and each paragraph of the body is in one cell. Using the Alt+Enter starts the text on a new line within the cell. Just increase the line height to accommodate the entire entry. It does not start a new line in the email, just how it looks on my screen.


2015-03-31 09:05:38

Jen T

Love this tip! I've never thought to force a line feed in a formula. Great addition by John H, too. I'm using these today.


2015-03-31 08:16:45

Surendera M. Bhanot

John H has shown a great way to to Label a long formula and it an valuable addition to the current tip. Thanks.


2015-03-31 07:30:06

John H

You can also use N("bla bla bla") eg +N("this calcs this bit") which has no effect on the formula except to add some help text


2015-03-31 07:20:59

CStripling

Now this is a great tip. I have been looking for a way to make long formulas more readable and easier to troubleshoot.


2015-03-31 07:12:50

balthamossa2b

My approach to long formulas is to not use them. It's better for readability and troubleshooting to separate a long formula in shorter ones, each in one cell.


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