The 10 best Excel formulas for beginners

If you're new to Excel, figuring out where to start can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many functions and formulas available that learning them all sometimes seems like an impossible task.

To that end, we've compiled a list of the 10 best Excel formulas for a beginner to learn. Our goal here is to provide a succinct list of places for beginners to start to quickly and easily learn this incredibly powerful program.

Without further ado — the top 10 Excel formulas for beginners to learn. Click the name of each function for an in-depth tutorial on how to use it.

  • SUM. Excel's most simple formula, SUM allows you to add up the values of numbers in a row or column. This function is extremely useful for calculating totals across data tables.
  • AVERAGE. A great place to start after you've learned about SUM, AVERAGE takes the average of numbers in a row or column. It's great for simple average calculations, and can also be used to calculate rolling averages to smooth out data
  • IF. This versatile function is the foundation of logical formulas, which execute different commands depending on whether given conditions are met. For example, you could use IF to output one message, like "congratulations!", if sales representatives have met a particular sales quota for the quarter; and an entirely different message, like "better luck next time!", if they have not. Learning IF is key to unlocking some of Excel's most advanced functionality.
  • SUMIF. SUMIF extends the logical formulations within IF even further, allowing you to take the sum of items in a range of values contingent upon a given external criteria. For example, if you have a list of sales by date and customer, you could use SUMIF to sum the revenue from sales to a particular customer while ignoring the rest.
  • COUNTIF. Like SUMIF, COUNTIF extends logical formulations. It allows you to count the number of items in a range of values contingent upon a given criteria. For example, you could count the number of sales made to a particular customer in a given month based on a list of all sales.
  • CONCATENATE. Excel's most basic string function, CONCATENATE allows you to combine two strings of text together. You can use it for a number of different purposes that require combining strings. For example, you could use it to combine a user's first name and last name with a given domain name to create a complete e-mail address.
  • RIGHT and LEFT. These functions are used to chop up strings of text and extract only the important parts that you care about. RIGHT, for example, can extract the state abbreviation from a City, State combination for easy parsing and handling by other functions.
  • SEARCH. Another string function, SEARCH helps you find a given string of text within another, bigger string. Use it to check to see whether a block of text contains a given search criteria. For example, try use it to search for a particular last name within a cell that contains a person's full name.
  • VLOOKUP. One of Excel's most-used functions — particularlly for Excel experts — VLOOKUP helps you extract a value from a foreign table based on a given lookup criteria. As an example, you could use it to dynamically pull out a user's e-mail address from a table of contact information based on their name or phone number.
  • INDEX MATCH. VLOOKUP has a bigger, better, even-more-useful brother: INDEX MATCH this handy formula contains much of the same functionality as VLOOKUP, but it a bit easier to use and more versatile in tricky situations.

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