“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Peter Drucker

Excel, the world’s most popular spreadsheet software, needs no introduction. As part of the Microsoft Office suite, you’ll find a lot of computers in offices already have a copy of it installed.

It’s great for accounting, organising figures and reports, and saving you time. Especially if you know how all the different functions and features work.

With that in mind, here are some of Superprof’s favourite functions and features in Excel.

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Excel’s Main Functions

You can use equations and formulae in Excel through functions. Thanks to Excel’s functions, you can save a lot of time.

Which are the most common functions in Excel?
There are a few functions in Excel that every user should be aware of. (Source: StockSnap)

These functions are useful for accountants, sole traders, business owners, or workers in SMEs tasked with managing the business’ accounts and finances.

For those who don’t know what a formula is, here’s a quick reminder. If you want to add 10 and 10 in an Excel cell, you’ll need to add the following to the cell:

=10+10

Using this formula, Excel will do the calculation. This might seem very simple, but you can use this functionality for some very powerful equations that make references to other cells.

The previous example used static values. For dynamic values, cells will be referenced. For example:

=C4+G9

Static values won’t depend on other cells and won’t be affected by them, but dynamic values are usually far more useful. For accountants, many functions can be used.

You don’t need costly accounting software to do certain calculations. With Excel’s functionality, there’s a lot you can do.

Once you’ve learnt how to use it, there’s no reason that sole traders and small business owners can’t do a lot of their accounting.

Generally, functions fall under one or several categories:

  • Maths
  • Statistics
  • Logic
  • Dates
  • Text
  • Search

Let’s have a look at all the functions you should know how to use to get the most out of Microsoft Excel when doing your taxes, accounts, bookkeeping, etc.

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Simple Accounting Functions

Functions in excel look like this:

=FUNCTION NAME(PARAMETERS)

What are Excel's accounting functions?
Excel has many functions that are particularly useful for those dealing with money and finances. (Source: stevepb)

There are often a few different functions you can use to get the job done and if you know the function you want to use, you can type “=” followed by the name of the function into a cell.

This is how most people use functions in Excel and the program will usually auto-complete so you rarely have to type the full name of the function in.

You can also use the Formula and Functions tabs on the ribbon. From there, you can select the function you want to use. There’s a lot of them so if you have an idea of what you’re looking for, you can also search for it.

You can then insert the function into your spreadsheet, which will come with a description of the function, what it does, and how to use it. It should be clear just how useful these functions can be.

Businesses of any size can use Excel’s powerful functionality to streamline certain processes. This automation can allow you to focus on more important tasks, like making your business a success.

In Excel, mathematical functions are often used for calculations. They can be found in the “Maths and Trigonometry” section of functions.
Here are some of the most common:

  • SUM adds everything together.
  • SUMPRODUCT returns the sum of the products.
  • SUBTOTAL returns a subtotal in a list of databases.
  • ROUND rounds a number to a specified number of digits.
  • ROUNDUP rounds a number up away from zero.
  • PRODUCT multiplies numbers.
  • TRUNC truncates a number to an integer.
  • ABS returns the absolute value of a number.
  • POWER returns the result of a number raised to a power.
  • SQRT returns a positive square root.

Depending on what you’re doing, these functions could be particularly useful.

Let’s look at some other useful functions in Excel.

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Logic in Excel

Logic returns results based on the conditions being met. Logic returns results that are either TRUE or FALSE, allowing you to create conditions that compare values.

What is logic in Excel?
Logic can be used to create conditions to be met. (Source: cpastrick)

There are plenty of logical functions in Excel that you can use. Here are some of the most important.

IF

In this case, the result can only be TRUE or FALSE. The value chosen must match the stipulations in the logic. This function essentially imposes the criteria to be met.

Here’s the Syntax:

  • =IF(condition,[value if true],[value if false])

Don’t worry if this looks confusing, in practice, it’s quite easy.

AND

This returns TRUE if all conditions are met. It allows you to define several conditions to be met.

AND means that if any of the conditions are not met, FALSE will be returned.

OR

Much like AND, OR allows you to stipulate several conditions, but you only need one of them to be TRUE for the result to be TRUE. If none of the conditions is met, FALSE will be returned.

Here’s the syntax:

  • =AND(condition1, condition2, etc.)
  • =OR(condition1, condition2, etc.)

IFERROR

IFERROR returns a value if there’s an error otherwise it will return the result of the formula.

  • =IFERROR(value, value_if_error)

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Search Functions

You can find these functions under lookup and reference functions in Excel.

There are quite a few functions in this list.

Here are a few you should keep in mind.

  • COLUMN returns the column number of a reference.
  • LOOKUP looks up values in a vector or array.
  • VLOOKUP looks in the first column of an array and moves across the row to return the value of a cell.
  • HLOOKUP looks in the top row of an array and returns the value of the indicated cell.
  • TRANSPOSE returns the transpose of an array.

These functions can be really useful to accountants looking for values and once you’ve mastered them, they'll make your life much easier.

Date and Time Functions

In accounting, when something takes place can be important, which is why you should be familiar with the date and time functions.

What are the date and time functions in Excel?
Excel's date and time functions are particularly useful in accounting. (Source: Firmbee)

DATE and TIME can help you quickly find this kind of information.

Here are some examples:

  • YEAR
  • MONTH
  • DAY
  • DATE
  • TODAY
  • NOW
  • WEEKNUM

These are useful for tax returns, balance sheets, and ongoing payments.

You can filter data by the day, month, year, or even the week number. These are known as serial numbers. Excel serialises the dates with January 1, 1900, as number 1. To know the serial number of the date, the software counts the days from this date.

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Text Functions

Text functions can also be very useful for those using Excel for accounting since accounting isn’t all numbers, after all. In a lot of accounting, there’ll be some text, too, which is why these kinds of functions exist.

It’s important to be meticulous when accounting.

To help you, here are some text functions:

  • VALUE converts a text argument to a number.
  • CONCATENATE joins several text items into one text item.
  • UPPER converts text to uppercase.
  • LOWER converts text to lowercase.
  • LEN returns the number of characters in a text string.
  • PROPER capitalises the first letter in each word of a text value.
  • REPLACE replaces characters within the text.
  • SUBSTITUTE substitutes new text for old text in a text string.

Now you should know a bit more about the functions you can use in Excel to help you with your accounting. These functions can streamline processes and save you a lot of time. For banking and accounting, which can involve a lot of repetitive processes, you can easily automate them.

You don’t necessarily need to invest in expensive accounting software to do this if you have a bit of Excel know-how. There are also free trials available for Excel if you want to give it a go before you buy it.

If you're interested in learning more about Excel, accounting, or finance, consider getting in touch with some of the talented and experienced private tutors on the Superprof website.

There are plenty of private tutors all over the country and around the world offering tutoring either face-to-face, online, or in groups. Since each type of tutoring comes with its advantages and disadvantages in terms of learning approach and cost, think carefully about which will be best for you and your goals.

Don't forget that a lot of the tutors on Superprof also offer the first lesson or session for free. You can use these sessions to try out various tutors before deciding on the one that's right for you. Of course, rather than just contacting every single tutor and arranging a free lesson, we recommend thinking about what you're looking for in a tutor and only contacting those that meet your criteria.

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