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How to show formulas in Excel

Updated February 21, 2017

The longer and more complex a spreadsheet gets, the harder it can be to troubleshoot. By default, Microsoft Excel only shows you whether a cell contains a formula and what that formula is only when you click it. This makes finding those cells time consuming at best and downright frustrating at worst. Switching Excel to displaying the formulas themselves rather than their result will make troubleshooting easier.

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Launch Microsoft Excel and open the spreadsheet in which you want to show formulas.

Select the "Formulas" tab and click "Show Formulas." Alternatively, press "Ctrl" and the grave accent key. On British English keyboards, this key is located directly below the "Escape" key.

Click the "Show Formulas" button or press the keyboard shortcut again to hide formulas.


When you select a cell that contains a formula while formulas are shown, Excel highlights each reference to another cell with a unique colour. If you print out the spreadsheet while formulas are shown, the printout will also display the formulas rather than their results.

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About the Author

Laurel Storm has been writing since 2001, and helping people with technology for far longer than that. Some of her articles have been published in "Messaggero dei Ragazzi", an Italian magazine for teenagers. She holds a Master of Arts in writing for television and new media from the University of Turin.

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