How to add cells in Excel (including alternate options)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you regularly use Excel to store numerical data, such as expense reports, price lists or budgets, it will likely be necessary to add together or find the sum of several cells. Totalling prices, amounts of money or using more advanced mathematical equations typically starts with the use of basic formulas. Whether you're performing the simple addition of two cells or summing an entire column, there are several ways to add cells together. In this article, we explain how to add cells in Excel with multiple approaches depending on your familiarity with the program.

Why add cells in Excel?

Learning to add cells in Excel is a useful skill that demonstrates knowledge of basic computing software and applies to nearly any role. Businesses utilise spreadsheets for a range of applications. From inventory and product management to client reporting or budgeting, Excel is a universal tool that has a wide variety of uses. It's common when working with Excel to revisit spreadsheets at a later point to add more data and perform new calculations. By building your knowledge of how to create a simple formula in Excel, you open up more opportunities to learn advanced formulas and more in-depth equations.

Related: How to highlight excel skills on your CV

How to add cells in Excel

Adding cells in Excel ranges from single-click options to more powerful formulas and Autosum solutions. Depending on your level of experience with the program or the amount of detail you require, there are various methods available. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to add cells in Excel using different methods:

1. Using a basic formula

The easiest way to add cells together in Excel is to write a basic addition formula. This is a simple approach and quick to achieve, and it's relatively simple if you're looking to add together large amounts of data. This method is ideal when working out the sum of two cells. You can write a basic formula with the following steps:

  1. Select the cell: Click on the cell that you want to display the answer.

  2. Enter the formula: Type an equals sign (=) into the cell, followed by the cell values you want to add up (or simply click on the cells themselves), separated by a plus sign (+).

  3. Review the formula: In practice, this reads as =A10+A11.

  4. Execute the formula: Press 'Enter' and the sum automatically generates.

Related: 15 basic Excel formulas to learn (with examples)

2. With a SUM formula

SUM formulas operate in a similar way to the basic formula but offer more power and flexibility. They allow you to quickly add multiple cells together, which is particularly useful if you have a large unbroken string of data. The following steps allow you to build a SUM formula:

  1. Choose the cell: Click the cell where you want to display the answer to the sum.

  2. Set the function: Start your formula with an equal sign (=) and type SUM to start your function.

  3. Choose the cells for addition: Now you can start adding the cells that you want to use in your formula in brackets and separated by commas.

  4. Review the formula: The formula reads =SUM(A10, A11, A12). Press 'Enter' to get your answer.

If you're adding a long string of unbroken data, you can separate the cells you're adding up with a colon. This is easy as it allows you to enter just the first and last cells. The formula reads as =SUM(A10:A12)

3. Using the AutoSum function

If you don't want to manually enter a Sum function, you can use the AutoSum option within Excel. AutoSum functionally works the same as the manual approach but with fewer steps. While manual sums allow you to specify data ranges, AutoSum is useful if you have a large table such as a product list and are looking to find the sum of the table while keeping the results in the same format. You can utilise the AutoSum function in the following way:

  1. Highlight the correct cell: Click on the first empty cell below the column or beside the row you're looking to sum.

  2. Navigate to the correct tab at the top of the sheet: Click on the 'Formulas' tab at the top of the spreadsheet.

  3. Utilise AutoSum: Click on the 'AutoSum' button within the sub-menu.

  4. Review the populated formula: Excel automatically populates the cell with the formula for the values within the neighbouring table.

  5. Execute the AutoSum: Press 'Enter' and the answer automatically displays within the empty cell.

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4. Using the Subtotal function for filtered cells

The Subtotal function is ideal for users that want to work with visible cells, which is useful if the spreadsheet is utilising filters. If you're looking to work with a specific product group within a wider inventory or the budgets for a specific team, the subtotal function can quickly and efficiently provide a result. The following steps allow you to use the subtotal function:

  1. Segment the data: To use the subtotal function, filter your table of data. Click on any cell in your table and click the 'Data' tab at the top of the spreadsheet.

  2. Navigate to the right sub-menu: Click on the 'Filter' option within the sub-menu.

  3. Filter out the data needed: Click the arrow next to the column you'd like to filter and narrow down the data by unchecking or checking your desired boxes.

  4. Choose data range within the filter: Select the range of numbers you want to work with by clicking the column header or highlighting the specific range.

  5. Execute the AutoSum function: Click the 'AutoSum' button in the sub-menu of the 'Home' tab.

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5. With the Excel status bar

The Excel status bar is a quick overview of common formula answers you may need for a dataset. It's useful if you're doing quick addition and don't require the power of a more detailed Sum formula. The Excel bar is always working in the background and doesn't require switching on. You can add cells in Excel using the status bar by following these steps:

  1. Find the cells to add: Navigate to the cells with the data you want to add up.

  2. Select data: Highlight the range of data by clicking and dragging to select each value.

  3. Find the results of the sum: With the data highlighted, look at the bottom bar below the spreadsheet.

  4. Find answers to other functions: Here you get the average, cell count and sum of the selected range.

Related: 15 helpful Microsoft Excel tips to use in the software

6. By converting your data into an Excel table

If you regularly sum large datasets, it may be easier to convert the spreadsheet into an Excel table. This simplifies the process of totalling columns and rows while providing the opportunity to perform many other actions within the program. You can convert data into an excel table using the following method:

  1. Select data range for the table: Highlight the dataset that you want to include within your Excel table.

  2. Use the keyboard shortcut: Press 'CTRL + T' on your keyboard to automatically format the data as an Excel table.

  3. Navigate to the correct submenu option: At this point, Excel automatically displays the 'Design' tab. In this sub-menu, click the checkbox next to 'Total Row'.

  4. Review answers in the table: A new row populates in the table and displays the total of any numerical values in the dataset. If you click into the cell showing the total value, you can use the dropdown arrow to change the formula you want to apply.

This feature only sums up any visible cells, so if you're summing up an entire dataset, an alternative option may be better.

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Build your Excel skills

If you'd like to learn more about using Excel, there are many different ways to build your knowledge. Online courses offer a broad range of levels and can provide education on everything from basic formulas to advanced equations, pivot tables and automation.

Microsoft has basic tutorials for getting started with the program, including how to set up and maintain a spreadsheet. It can also help to start building hands-on experience with the program, utilising trial-and-error methods to build foundational knowledge, eventually leading to the achievement of more complex results.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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