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


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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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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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 two more than 7?

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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