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: Getting Help when Entering Functions.

Getting Help when Entering Functions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 18, 2019)

5

One of the tools that Excel provides for adding functions to a formula is the Insert Function tool on the Formulas tab of the ribbon. It starts a wizard-like interface that leads you through constructing the function properly. If you are like most frequent users of Excel, this level of help is a little much; all you need is a memory-jog as to what parameters should be used with the function.

One obscure shortcut provided in Excel actually provides just the amount of help you may want. For example, let's say you know you want to use the SUBSTITUTE function, but you cannot remember all the parameters that are used with it. Type an equal sign, followed by SUBSTITUTE and a left parenthesis, like this:

=SUBSTITUTE(

Now, press Shift+Ctrl+A. Excel magically adds all the parameters for the formula, like this:

=SUBSTITUTE(text,old_text,new_text,instance_num)

What's more, the first parameter (text) is highlighted, and you can simply start typing what you want used for that parameter. Replace or delete the other parameters, as desired, and you have your correctly constructed function ready to go.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11472) 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: Getting Help when Entering Functions.

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

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 3 - 1?

2019-12-20 04:28:15

Peter Atherton

Liz
Try again!

(see Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. 


2019-12-19 18:31:17

Peter Atherton

Liz
I made a typo so the image was lost.

{{fig}]


2019-12-19 18:26:38

Peter Atherton

Liz
Substitute is not really used to replace one name with another; you'd be better just typing over the name. It is used to edit a range of cells. Say we want to insert a comma between first and last names instead of just a space.
If cell B10 contains John Smith the the formula =Substitute(B10," ",", ") returns John, Smith & this formula can be copied down.
The picture shows the help section on a couple of formulas. Note if you edit a formula in the formula bar the help appears just below it.

[{fif}]


2019-12-18 10:39:58

Liz

Allen: your tips are very helpful but as an elementary user, I would find it helpful if you put examples into all your answers: above, for example, how, exactly, would John Doe change to Jane Smith - It is not always clear to me. Or substitue "January" for "file name" for example in other examples.


2019-12-18 06:17:55

Martyn Crawford

What a great little tip - thanks Allen!


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