Excel is great for many things, including producing graphs from data and keeping track of your finances, but one of the most basic functions is to add or subtract numbers in different cells. Here we’ll show you how to sum in Excel and how to subtract in Excel. See also: How to use Excel

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How to SUM in Excel: add the contents of multiple cells

Once you’ve got a few numbers in your spreadsheet, pick an empty cell and then click it to start typing (double-tap the cell if you’re using it on a touchscreen without a keyboard).

Now type =sum( and then use your mouse (or a finger) to select all the cells you wish to add together.

How to SUM in Excel

Excel will fill in the details and leave those cells highlighted so you can see which are included. Simply add a ) to close off the calculation and press Enter to display the result in the cell.

If you need to select cells which aren’t together in a block, hold down the Ctrl key and click on individual cells or click and drag to select another range. Each different selection will be shown as a different colour, and each will be highlighted on your spreadsheet whenever you double-click on the cell that contains the SUM formula.

How to SUM in Excel

If you wanted to enter the cell numbers manually, do it in the format B2:B6 (this includes cells B2, B3, B4, B5 and B6) and if you need separate cells or more than one range, use a comma to separate them: =sum(B2:B6,F3:F5)

An simpler alternative if you need to add the contents only a couple of cells is to type = in the cell where you want the result, then click on the first cell to include in the calculation, type + and then click on the second cell. Hit Enter and Excel will display the result. Note that no brackets are needed, and you can add the contents of as many cells as you like this way.

 How to add cells in Excel

How to subtract in Excel

The way to do subtraction is pretty much the same as for addition: just replace the + with a minus sign.

For the simple calculation, just select a cell and type = then click on the first cell, type a – and then click on the second cell. Press Enter and the result will be displayed.

Unlike the SUM function for adding multiple cells and cell ranges, there is no subtract function in Excel. You can subtract multiple cells by entering a formula such as =B1-B2-B3-B4 if you need to, or you could achieve the same thing by using the formula =B1-SUM(B2:B4)

 How to SUM in Excel

You might have to use your GCSE maths skills if you want to combine addition and subtraction with multiplication and division in the same formula. That’s because Excel treats multiplication and division as more important, so the formula =(A1+A2)*A3 may not have the same answer as =A1+A2*A3, because in the latter example Excel will first multiply cell A2  by A3 and then add the contents of A1. The brackets in the first example tell Excel to first add the contents of A1 and A2, then multiply the result by A3. The same goes for division.