Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 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: Determining a Value of a Cell.

# Determining a Value of a Cell

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 25, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365

You already know that a cell in a worksheet can contain any number of different items: numbers, dates, formulas, and so on. There may be times when you want to determine the underlying value in a cell, without regard to the way the cell is formatted. For this need, Excel provides the N worksheet function. For instance, let's assume that cell F17 contains a date. If you use = N(F17) as your formula, the value returned by the formula is the underlying serial number used for the date.

Besides returning date serial numbers, the N worksheet function returns a number if the referenced value or cell can be resolved to a number, a 1 if the value or cell can be resolved to the logical value True, and a 0 for anything else. The following provides a few examples of how the N worksheet function works:

Value in F17 Returned by = N(F17) 3/17/19 43541 37.14 37.14 TRUE 1 Quarter 1 0 5:40 0.236111

There is another rather unique (and very esoteric) use for the N function—you can use it to add comments to formulas. For instance, consider the following:

```=SUM(A2:A267) + N("sales for northwest region")
```

Because N returns a value of 0 for the text (as indicated in the table above), adding 0 to the result of the SUM doesn't affect the return value at all. It may look a little strange in the Formula bar, but the result is that you are able to handily document what the formula does.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11552) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Determining a Value of a Cell.

##### 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 eight minus 0?

2019-02-01 17:17:36

Preston

The comment trick is new to me--thanks for sharing! Now where to use it first... :)

2019-01-30 09:30:17

Mechie

I came across the +N("some text") usage many years ago as a way to comment directly within the cell / cell's formula. I can't recall what led me to stumble upon it. I use it occasionally. I've never encountered anyone else who even knows of it. Esoteric is right!

2019-01-27 07:29:14

JMJ

Very nifty, the "comment" trick!

2019-01-26 16:21:17

Andrew

That's really cool

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