Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Calculating Combinations.

Calculating Combinations

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 30, 2022)

Have you ever wondered how many different four-character combinations you can make when you start with 26 letters and 10 digits? Excel can tell you in a flash, if you use the COMBIN worksheet function. The syntax of the function is as follows:

=COMBIN(universe, sets)

In this syntax, universe represents the number of items from which the combinations can be made, and sets represents the number that must be in each combination. Thus, you could use the following to determine the number of four-character combinations that you can make from the alphabet (26 letters) and the ten digits:

=COMBIN(26+10,4)

Just for those who are curious, the answer returned is 58,905.

In understanding whether the COMBIN function is best for your purposes, it is important to understand that the function returns a value that doesn't consider the ordering of the combinations. Thus, it considers "abcd", "bcda", "cdab", and "dabc" to all be a single combination. If you want them to be considered differently, then you should rely on the PERMUT function, which uses the same syntax as the COMBIN function. Using it with the same arguments discussed earlier indicates that there are 1,413,720 four-character combinations (permutations) possible from 36 possible characters where each character can be used only once.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12202) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Calculating Combinations.

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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