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.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 26, 2019)
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)|
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.
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