How to find the feature you need in Microsoft Excel

When you write a new formula in Microsoft Excel, half the battle is finding the right function. Happily, Excel allows you to quickly find the function you need for your situation.

Access the Insert Function Tool

Open your table in Excel and select a cell. If you want to paste the function once you find it, you can select the cell to get a head start. You can then open the “Insert function” function in two ways.

  • Click the Insert Function (fx) icon on the left side of the formula bar.

  • Go to the Formulas tab and click “Insert Function” on the left side of the ribbon.

On the Formulas tab, click Insert Function

How to find a function in Excel

When the Insert Function window opens you will see a search option along with a drop down box. This gives you two easy methods to find the function you want.

To use the search, enter a keyword or phrase in the Search for a role field at the top of the window and click Go. To the example, if you are looking for a function that will help you with time and date related calculations, try searching for “time”.

Search for a role

The drop-down list also helps you quickly find a useful feature. Click on it next to the words “Or choose a category” and choose a category. You’ll see general options like Financial, Logical, Text, and more. When you select a category, you will see all the features available in it.

Select a function category

How to use logical functions in Excel: IF, AND, OR, XOR, NOT

Another category to consider is the most recently used category. As the name suggests, here are the features that you have been using lately. This can be useful if, for example, you used a function last week but can’t remember what it was. Check out this category and you may see this feature.

Recently used functions


Regardless of whether you search or select a category, in most cases this will limit the choices for you. So the next step in finding the feature you need is to look at the descriptions. Click on a function in the list and you will see its description and syntax at the bottom of the window.

Function description and syntax

To the example, you may need a quartile function. You can see that Excel offers different possibilities. If you select each one and view their descriptions you should be able to see the right one for you.

Description of the quartile function

If after narrowing down the feature selections and viewing the descriptions you are still unsure whether this is the right feature for you, you can get additional help. Select the feature from the list and click Help About This Feature in the lower left corner of the window.

Click Help on This Feature

This will take you to the Microsoft support website for the feature, additional information, and example Used.

How to get help in Windows 10

Use any feature you can find

When you find the feature you want to use, make sure you’ve selected the cell where you want to paste it. Then either double-click the feature in the list or select it and click OK.

Then the Function Arguments tool opens, where you can set up the formula using the function.

Define and create a formula

Enter the record, number, array or whatever is calling the function above.

Enter    the arguments


Below you see that brief description of the function again, but you also see additional details and the result of the final formula.

Take a look at the function and formula details

Let’s look at a simple one example. Here we have chosen the SUM function. In the Function Arguments window, we entered the cell range in the Number1 field. You can see the values ​​in these cells to the right of the field and you can view the result of the formula in two places in the window.

Sum function arguments

When you have added all the details for the formula, click OK and the formula will appear in your cell with its results.

How to calculate the sum of the cells in Excel

Try auto-completion for formulas

Another way to find a function in Excel is with Formula AutoComplete. This is useful when you know the feature you want but aren’t sure which variation you need.

When you type an equal sign (=) in a cell and type the first few letters of a function, a drop-down list of matches appears. You can click any option in the list to see its description next to it. Then to use the function, double click on it and you will see the arguments you need.


To the example, we know we need a COUNT function, but we are not sure which one. We enter =COUNT and look at a drop-down list of options. The description for COUNTIF lets us know this is the one we need.

Use auto-completion for formulas

We double-click on “COUNTIF” in the list and then see the arguments required for the formula. That way we can just type in what it asks for and complete the formula.

Formula arguments

Working with functions and formulas in Excel can be a little intimidating if you don’t do it often. But with helpful features like these, it can be a lot easier to find and use the feature you need.

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