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How to Add on Excel with the Sum Formula, AutoSum or the plus Sign

We show you how to use the SUM formula in Excel, how to use the AutoSum feature and how simple additions with the plus sign work.


Microsoft Excel is the most widely-used spreadsheet program, integral to data management and analysis across various sectors. One of its fundamental operations is addition, a basic yet essential arithmetic function. Properly understanding and utilizing Excel’s addition capabilities can lead to more efficient data processing and accurate results.

In this tutorial, we will examine the different techniques available in Excel for performing addition. These methods range from the straightforward use of the plus sign to the application of functions like SUM and AutoSum. Each technique has its specific applications and advantages, depending on the dataset and the desired outcome.

By familiarizing yourself with these addition methods, you can ensure that your calculations in Excel are both precise and tailored in the best way.

How to Add on Excel Using the Plus Sign

In Excel, the plus sign (+) serves as a direct arithmetic operator. This method is ideal for quick, on-the-spot calculations where users need to add two or more numbers without the need for more complex functions. It’s the most basic form of addition in Excel, suitable for straightforward operations where only a few numbers are involved.

  1. Select the cell where you want to calculate a sum and use + in the formula bar
    To sum 20+5, simply write =20+5 and hit Enter. You can also use other operators like – for substraction, / for division, and * for multiplication and combine them with as many numbers you want to.
    Windows 11 - Excel - Add Numbers Using Plus Sign
  2. This works also by using cell names instead of numbers
    Example: To sum the values of cells B3 and C3, simply use =B3+C3 as a formula and hit Enter.
    Windows 11 - Excel - Add Numbers Using Plus Sign Using Cell References

How to Use the AutoSum Function in Excel

The AutoSum function is a built-in tool designed for automatic summation. Its primary purpose is to provide users with a quick way to sum a series of numbers, especially in columns or rows. By eliminating the need for manual selection and entry of cell ranges, AutoSum streamlines the addition process, making it especially useful for datasets with numerous entries.

  1. Select the result cell, then “Home” – “Editing” and “AutoSum”
    When you click on the AutoSum button, Excel primarily looks for numbers adjacent to the cell where you’re trying to insert the sum. If there are numbers directly above or to the left of the active cell, Excel will assume you want to sum those numbers.
    Windows 11 - Excel - Home - Editing - AutoSum
  2. Check the suggested SUM formula for the addition and hit Enter if it´s good
    If the cell directly above the active cell contains a number (or a series of numbers above it), Excel will default to summing the column. Conversely, if the cell to the immediate left of the active cell has a number, Excel will sum the row.
    If there are blank cells or non-numeric entries in a column or row, AutoSum will typically only include the contiguous range of numbers immediately adjacent to the cell where you’re inserting the sum. For instance, if you’re summing a column and there’s a blank cell, AutoSum will stop at the cell just above the blank and won’t include numbers above that break.
    Windows 11 - Excel - Home - Editing - AutoSum - Enter
  3. Excel will provide the result in the previously selected cell
    Things to consider:

    Manual Selection – While AutoSum tries to guess the range you want to sum, you’re not restricted to its initial selection. After clicking the AutoSum button, you can manually adjust the selected range by clicking and dragging the corners of the highlighted area to include or exclude specific cells.
    Multiple Ranges – If you want to sum multiple non-contiguous ranges, you can use the AutoSum feature and then manually adjust by holding down the Ctrl key (Cmd key on Mac) and selecting additional cell ranges. Excel will then sum all the selected ranges.

    Windows 11 - Excel - Home - Editing - AutoSum - Result

How to Add Numbers Using the SUM Function in Excel

The SUM function is one of Excel’s foundational formulas, designed to add numbers with precision and flexibility. Unlike the basic plus sign or the automated AutoSum, the SUM function allows users to specify a range of cells, individual cell references, or even a combination of both. It’s the go-to method for more complex addition tasks, accommodating a wide variety of data structures and scenarios.

  1. Write the SUM formula in the result cell and hit Enter
    Example: To add all the numbers in the cells C3 until C8, you can write =SUM(C3:C8). The brackets and the “:” define that you want to sum all number in this range.
    Windows 11 - Excel - SUM

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Excel Addition Options

How can I sum only specific cells within a range that meet certain conditions?

To sum cells based on specific criteria within a range, utilize the SUMIF function for a single condition or SUMIFS for multiple conditions. The syntax for SUMIF is =SUMIF(range, criteria, [sum_range]). The range is where Excel looks for the criteria, and sum_range is the actual cells to sum (optional if range is also being summed). For multiple criteria, SUMIFS syntax is =SUMIFS(sum_range, criteria_range1, criteria1, [criteria_range2, criteria2], ...). Each additional criteria_range and criteria pair adds another condition to meet before summing.

Can I use wildcards in SUMIF or SUMIFS functions for partial text matches?

Yes, in the criteria for SUMIF or SUMIFS functions, wildcards can be used for partial matches. The * (asterisk) represents any number of characters, while the ? (question mark) stands for a single character. For instance, =SUMIF(A1:A10, "*text*") sums all cells in the range A1:A10 that contain the substring “text” anywhere within the cell. This is particularly useful for summing cells that follow a pattern or contain varying prefixes/suffixes.

Is it possible to sum across multiple sheets using a single formula without 3D references?

While 3D references provide a streamlined way to sum across multiple sheets, you can also sum across sheets without them by explicitly referencing each sheet in your SUM formula. For example, =SUM(Sheet1!A1, Sheet2!A1) adds the values of cell A1 from Sheet1 and Sheet2. This method requires specifying each cell reference individually, making it less efficient for large numbers of sheets but offering more control over specific cells you wish to include.

How do I sum values in a column until a specific condition is met, like a blank cell or specific text?

To sum values in a column up to a point where a specific condition is met (e.g., encountering a blank cell or specific text), you can combine the SUM function with the INDEX and MATCH functions. The MATCH function locates the position of the specific condition, and INDEX returns the cell reference up to that position. An example formula is =SUM(A1:INDEX(A:A, MATCH("Specific Text", A:A, 0))). This formula sums all values from A1 up to the cell that contains “Specific Text”. Adjust the MATCH function’s third parameter for different match types.

Can I sum cells formatted as text but containing numeric values?

Cells formatted as text but containing numeric values won’t be summed directly by the SUM function. To include these cells in your sum, you need to convert the text to numbers. One way to do this is by using the VALUE function within the SUM formula, for instance, =SUM(VALUE(A1), VALUE(A2)). This formula converts the text in A1 and A2 to numbers and then sums them. Be cautious, as VALUE will return an error if the text cannot be converted to a number.

How can I exclude cells from a sum if they contain errors?

To exclude cells that contain errors from your sum, wrap each cell reference or range with the IFERROR function within the SUM formula. The IFERROR function checks for an error in its first argument and returns a specified value (e.g., 0) if an error is found, otherwise, it returns the value of the argument. For example, =SUM(IFERROR(A1, 0), IFERROR(A2, 0)) sums A1 and A2 but treats any errors as 0, effectively excluding them from the sum.

Is there a way to sum every nth cell in a column or row?

To sum every nth cell in a range, you can use a combination of the SUMPRODUCT and MOD functions. The MOD function returns the remainder of a division operation, which can be used to identify every nth row or column. For example, =SUMPRODUCT(--(MOD(ROW(A1:A10)-ROW(A1), n)=0), A1:A10) sums every nth cell in the range A1:A10, where “n” is the interval between cells you want to sum. The (double unary) converts TRUE/FALSE values to 1/0 for the SUMPRODUCT function to sum.

Can I use the SUM function to add up times or durations in Excel?

The SUM function can be used to add times or durations, but it’s important to format the cells correctly to display the summed result properly. For durations that exceed 24 hours, you should use a custom format like [h]:mm:ss to ensure that Excel displays the total hours correctly beyond the 24-hour mark. For example, if you sum several time values that total more than 24 hours and the cell is formatted with a standard time format, it might not display the result as expected.

How do I sum a dynamic range that changes based on criteria like a date or a dropdown selection?

To sum a dynamic range that adjusts based on specific criteria, such as a date range or a selection from a dropdown, you can use a combination of the SUM, OFFSET, and MATCH functions. The MATCH function locates the position of your criteria in a range, and OFFSET uses this position to define the size of the sum range dynamically. For example, =SUM(OFFSET(start_cell, 0, 0, MATCH(criteria, criteria_range, 0))) creates a sum that adjusts based on the criteria specified, allowing for a flexible sum range that updates as your data changes.

What’s the most efficient way to sum large datasets without affecting Excel’s performance?

For large datasets, leveraging Excel’s Data Model feature can significantly enhance performance. By adding your data to the Data Model, Excel can handle and aggregate large amounts of data more efficiently than standard worksheet functions. This approach is particularly beneficial when working with complex data sets or performing extensive data analysis, as it optimizes data processing and calculation speed.

Can I automatically sum new data entries without updating the SUM formula range manually?

Converting your data range into an Excel Table (by selecting the range and pressing Ctrl+T or going to Insert > Table) allows your SUM formula to automatically include new rows or columns added to the table. Excel Tables dynamically adjust their size, and formulas that reference table columns automatically expand to encompass new data entries, ensuring that your sums always include the latest data without manual updates.

How can I sum values from multiple columns in one row without listing each cell reference?

To sum across multiple columns in a single row without individually listing each cell reference, you can specify a range that spans across the columns you wish to include. For instance, =SUM(A1:C1) sums all values from columns A, B, and C in the first row. This approach simplifies the formula and is especially useful when summing contiguous columns.

Is it possible to use the SUM function with dates, and if so, how are they treated?

While the SUM function can technically add dates since Excel stores dates as serial numbers, summing dates directly usually doesn’t yield meaningful results. Instead, dates are more commonly used within criteria for summing associated values. For instance, using SUMIFS to sum sales within a certain date range leverages the date as a condition rather than summing the dates themselves.

How do I address #DIV/0! errors in my SUM formula due to empty cells or zeros in the denominator?

To handle #DIV/0! errors, especially when they arise from empty cells or zeros in the denominator of a division operation within a SUM formula, use the IFERROR function. This function checks for errors in its first argument and returns a specified value if an error is found, which can be particularly useful for bypassing or replacing errors with a more neutral value like 0 or an alternative result. For example, =IFERROR(SUM(A1/A2), "Alternative Result") will return “Alternative Result” if dividing A1 by A2 results in an error.

Can I sum cells based on the color of the cell or the font color?

Excel’s standard functions don’t allow for summing based on cell or font color. However, you can use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to write a custom function that sums cells by their color. This involves creating a VBA macro that loops through a specified range, checks the color of each cell, and sums the cell values if the color matches the specified criterion. This method requires basic knowledge of VBA programming and access to the Developer tab in Excel to create and run macros.

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Last Updated on April 21, 2024 9:27 am CEST

Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus is the founder of WinBuzzer and has been playing with Windows and technology for more than 25 years. He is holding a Master´s degree in International Economics and previously worked as Lead Windows Expert for Softonic.com.
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