How to use AutoSum in Excel

This short tutorial explains what AutoSum is and shows the most efficient ways to use AutoSum in Excel. You will see how to automatically sum columns or rows with the Sum shortcut, sum only visible cells, total a selected range vertically and horizontally in one go, and learn the most common reason for Excel AutoSum not working.

Did you know that Excel SUM is the function that people read about most? To make sure, just check out Microsoft's list of 10 most popular Excel functions. No wonder they decided to add a special button to the Excel ribbon that inserts the SUM function automatically. So, if you wanted to know "What is AutoSum in Excel?" you already got the answer :)

In essence, Excel AutoSum automatically enters a formula to sum numbers in your worksheet. For more details, check out the following sections of this tutorial.

Where is the AutoSum button in Excel?

The AutoSum button is available in 2 locations on the Excel ribbon.

  1. Home tab > Editing group > AutoSum:
    The AutoSum button in Excel
  2. Formulas tab > Function Library group > AutoSum:
    Another location of the AutoSum button in Excel

How to AutoSum in Excel

Whenever you need to sum a single range of cells, whether a column, row or several adjacent columns or rows, you can have Excel AutoSum to automatically make an appropriate SUM formula for you.

To use AutoSum in Excel, just follow these 3 easy steps:

  1. Select a cell next to the numbers you want to sum:
    • To sum a column, select the cell immediately below the last value in the column.
    • To sum a row, select the cell to the right of the last number in the row.

    Select a cell next to the numbers you want to sum.

  2. Click the AutoSum button on either the Home or Formulas tab.

    A Sum formula appears in the selected cell, and a range of cells you're adding gets highlighted (B2:B6 in this example):

    Click the AutoSum button on either the Home or Formulas tab.

    In most cases, Excel selects the correct range to total. In a rare case when a wrong range is selected, you can correct it manually by typing the desired range in the formula or by dragging the cursor through the cells you want to sum.

    Tip. To sum multiple columns or rows at a time, select several cells at the bottom or to the right of your table, respectively, and then click the AutoSum button. For more details, please see How to use AutoSum on more than one cell at a time.
  3. Press the Enter key to complete the formula.

Now, you can see the calculated total in the cell, and the SUM formula in the formula bar:
Press the Enter key to complete the Sum formula.

Shortcut for Sum in Excel

If you one of those Excel users that prefer working with the keyboard rather than the mouse, you can use the following Excel AutoSum keyboard shortcut to total cells:
Excel AutoSum keyboard shortcut

Pressing the Equal Sign key while holding the Alt key inserts a Sum formula in a selected cells(s) exactly like pressing the AutoSum button on the ribbon does, and then you hit the Enter key to complete the formula.

How to use AutoSum with other functions

Apart from adding cells, you can use Excel's AutoSum button to insert other functions, such as:

  • AVERAGE - to return the average (arithmetic mean) of numbers.
  • COUNT - to count cells with numbers.
  • MAX - to get the largest value.
  • MIN - to get the smallest value.

All you need to do is select a cell where you want to insert a formula, click the AutoSum drop-down arrow, and choose the desired function from the list.

For example, this is how you can get the largest number in column B:
Using Excel AutoSum to automatically insert formulas other than SUM

If you select More Functions from the AutoSum drop-down list, Microsoft Excel will open the Insert Function dialog box, like it does when you click the Insert Function button on the Formulas tab, or the fx button on the Formula bar.

How to AutoSum only visible (filtered) cells in Excel

You already know how to use AutoSum in Excel to total a column or row. But did you know that you can use it to sum only visible cells in a filtered list?

If your data in organized in an Excel table (which can be easily done by pressing Ctrl + T shortcut), clicking the AutoSum button inserts the SUBTOTAL function that adds only visible cells.

In case you've filtered your data by applying one of the Filtering options, clicking the AutoSum button also inserts a SUBTOTAL formula rather than SUM, as shown in the below screenshot:
Use Excel AutoSum to sum only visible cells.

For more detailed explanation of the SUBTOTAL function arguments, please see How to sum filtered cells in Excel.

Excel AutoSum tips

How that you know how to use AutoSum in Excel to automatically add cells, you may want to learn a couple of time-saving tricks that could make your work even more efficient.

How to use AutoSum on more than one cell at a time

If you want to sum values in several columns or rows, select all the cells where you want to insert the Sum formula, and then click the AutoSum button on the ribbon or press the Excel Sum shortcut.

For example, you can select cells A10, B10 and C10, click AutoSum, and total 3 columns at once. As shown in the below screenshot, the values in each of the 3 columns are summed individually:

Using AutoSum on more than one cell at a time

How to sum selected cells vertically and horizontally

To total only certain cells in a column, select those cells and click the AutoSum button. This will total the selected cells vertically column-by-column, and place the SUM formula(s) below the selection:
Total the selected cells vertically column-by-column.

If you want to sum cells row-by-row, select the cells you want to total and one empty column to the right. Excel will sum the selected cells horizontally and insert the SUM formulas to the empty column included in the selection:
Total the selected cells horizontally row-by-row

To sum cells column-by-column and row-by-row, select the cells you want to add, plus one empty row below and one empty column to the right, and Excel will total the selected cells vertically and horizontally:
Sum the selected cells vertically and horizontally.

How to copy an AutoSum formula to other cells

Once AutoSum has added a SUM (or other) function in the selected cell, the inserted formula behaves like a normal Excel formula. Consequently, you can copy that formula to other cells in the usual way, for example by dragging the fill handle. For more information, please see How to copy a formula in Excel.

Just keep in mind that Excel's AutoSum uses relative cell references (without $) that adjust to the new formula location based on the relative position of rows and columns.

For example, you can have AutoSum to insert the following formula in cell A10 to total the values in column A: =SUM(A1:A9). And when you copy that formula to cell B10, it will turn into =SUM(B1:B9) and total the numbers in column B.

In most cases, it is exactly what you need. But if you want to copy the formula to another cell without changing the cell references, you'd need to fix the references by adding the $ sign. Please see Why use $ in Excel formulas for full details.

Excel AutoSum not working

The most common reason for AutoSum not working in Excel is numbers formatted as text. At first sight, those values may look like normal numbers, but Excel regards them as text strings and does not include in calculations.

The most obvious indicators of numbers formatted as text are their default left alignment and little green triangles in top-left corner of the cells. To fix such text-numbers, select all problematic cells, click the warning sign, and then click Convert to Number.
Select cells with numbers formatted as text, click the warning sign, and then click Convert to Number.

Numbers can become formatted as text because of various reasons, such as importing a dataset from an external source, or enclosing numeric values in double quotes in your Excel formulas. If the latter, neither green triangles nor the warning sign will appear in cells, because Excel assumes you want to output a text string on purpose.

For example, the following IF formula appears to be working fine:

=IF(A1="OK", "1", "0")

But the returned 1's and 0's are text values, not numbers! And therefore, when you try to do AutoSum on cells containing such formulas, you will always get '0' as the result.

As soon as you remove "" surrounding 1 and 0 in the above formula, Excel AutoSum will treat the outputs as numbers and they will be added up correctly.

If text-numbers are not the case, you can learn about other possible reasons in this tutorial: Excel SUM not working - reasons and solutions.

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Well, this is how you do AutoSum in Excel. And if someone ever asks you "What does AutoSum do?", you can refer them to this tutorial :)

Apart from the common SUM function, did you know that Excel has a couple of other functions to conditionally sum cells? If you are curious to learn them, check out the resources at the end of this page. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

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