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What is the Formula Bar in Excel & Google Sheets?

This tutorial explains the function of the formula bar in Excel and Google Sheets

 

FormulaBar ShowBar

 

The formula bar in Excel is above the column headers and below the Ribbon. The bar contains the name box to the left, and the formula bar to the right.

Hide and Unhide the Formula Bar

If you cannot see the formula bar, it may be that it has been hidden. There is an option in the Ribbon to show or hide the formula bar.

In the Ribbon, select View > Show > Formula Bar.

 

FormulaBar show hide bar

 

Purpose of the Formula Bar

The formula bar shows the content of the cell that is active or selected in Excel. If the active cell has text or a number in it, then this is shown in the formula bar. You can use the formula bar to edit the content of the cell instead of editing the content directly in the cell.

 

FormulaBar edit direct

 

The content is displayed in ‘raw’ data format in the formula bar. This means that any formatting that has been applied to the cell is not be shown in the formula bar but is displayed in the worksheet. For example, if a number is formatted to show a currency symbol, this symbol is only be shown in the actual worksheet while the formula bar only displays the actual number.

 

FormulaBar raw data

 

If a number has been formatted to have 2 decimal places, but actually has a lot more (like an interest rate for example), the formula bar shows all the decimal places, while the worksheet shows the number formatted to 2 decimal places.

 

FormulaBar percentage format

 

View and Create Formulas

One of the most important purposes of the formula bar is the ability to view and create formulas.

If you click on the cell that contains the formula, the formula shows up in the formula bar, while the result is shown in the active cell in the worksheet itself.

 

FormulaBar viewing formula

 

If you want to create a formula, you can either type it directly into the cell, or you can type it directly into the formula bar.

 

FormulaBar type direct

 

Expand the Formula Bar

If you have a particularly long formula, you can expand the formula bar by dragging the bottom border down in your Excel application.

Place your mouse at the bottom of the formula bar so your mouse pointer changes to a double-headed arrow.

 

FormulaBar double arrow

 

Hold down the mouse button and drag the bar down to the required size until you can see your entire formula in the bar.

 

FormulaBar drag down

 

If a single cell contains muiltiple lines of text, you can drag the formula down to show all the text in the cell.

 

FormulaBar wide formula bar

 

You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + U to expand and contract the formula bar. This adjusts it to a standard size, or put it back to the default size.

 

What is the Formula Bar in Google Sheets?

The formula bar in Google Sheets works in much the same way as it does in Excel.

As with Excel, the formula bar sits in the Google Sheet below the Menu and above the column headers.

 

FormulaBar gs formula bar

 

You can view the raw data in the formula bar and the formatted data in the active cell in the sheet.

 

FormulaBar gs raw

 

You can also view the formula in the formula bar while viewing the result of the formula in the sheet.

 

FormulaBar gs show formula

 

You can edit the text or formula in the formula bar as well as directly in the sheet, and as with Excel, you can expand and contract the formula bar by placing your mouse at the bottom of the formula bar so your mouse pointer changes to a double-headed arrow, and dragging down until the formula bar is the size you require.

 

FormulaBar gs drag