How to show formulas in Excel

Svetlana Cheusheva by , updated on

In this short tutorial, you will learn an easy way to display formulas in Excel 2016, 2013, 2010 and older versions. Also, you will learn how to print formulas and why sometimes Excel shows a formula, not result, in a cell.

If you are working on a spreadsheet with a lot of formulas in it, it may become challenging to comprehend how all those formulas relate to each other. Showing formulas in Excel instead of their results can help you track the data used in each calculation and quickly check your formulas for errors.

Microsoft Excel provides a really simple and quick way to show formulas in cells, and in a moment, you will make sure of this.

How to show formulas in Excel

Usually, when you enter a formula in a cell and press the Enter key, Excel immediately displays the calculated result. To show all formulas in the cells containing them, use one of the following methods.

1. Show Formulas option on the Excel ribbon

In your Excel worksheet, go to the Formulas tab > Formula Auditing group and click the Show Formulas button.

Microsoft Excel displays formulas in cells instead of their results right away. To get the calculated values back, click the Show Formulas button again to toggle it off.
The Show Formulas option on the Excel ribbon

2. Show formulas in cells instead of their results in Excel options

In Excel 2010 and higher, go to File > Options. In Excel 2007, click Office Button > Excel Options.

Select Advanced on the left pane, scroll down to the Display options for this worksheet section and select the option Show formulas in cells instead of their calculated results.

At first sight, this seems to be a longer way, but you may find it useful when you want to display formulas in a number of Excel sheets, within the currently open workbooks. In this case, you just select the sheet name from the dropdown list and check the Show formulas in cells… option for each sheet.
Show formulas in cells instead of their calculated results

3. Excel shortcut to show formulas

The fastest way to see every formula in your Excel spreadsheet is pressing the following shortcut: Ctrl + `

The grave accent key (`) is the furthest key to the left on the row with the number keys (next to the number 1 key).

The Show Formulas shortcut toggles between displaying cell values and cell formulas. To get the formula results back, simply hit the shortcut again.

Note. Whichever of the above methods you use, Microsoft Excel will show all formulas of the current worksheet. To display formulas in other sheets and workbooks, you will need to repeat the process for each sheet individually.

If you want to view the data used in a formula's calculations, use any of the above methods to show formulas in cells, then select the cell containing the formula in question, and you will see a result similar to this:
Viewing the data used in the formula calculations

Tip. If you click a cell with a formula, but the formula does not show up in the formula bar, then most likely that formula is hidden and the worksheet is protected. Here are the steps to unhide formulas and remove the worksheet protection.

If you want to print formulas in your Excel spreadsheet instead of printing the calculated results of those formulas, just use any of the 3 methods to show formulas in cells, and then print the worksheet as you normally print your Excel files (File > Print). That's it!

Why is Excel showing formula, not result?

Did it ever happen to you that you type a formula in a cell, press the Enter key… and Excel still shows the formula instead of the result? Don't worry, your Excel is all right, and we will have that mishap fixed in a moment.

In general, Microsoft Excel can display formulas instead of calculated values for the following reasons:

  1. You may have inadvertently activated the Show Formulas mode by clicking the corresponding button on the ribbon, or pressing the CTRL+` shortcut. To get the calculated results back, just toggle off the Show Formulas button or press CTRL+` again.
  2. You may have accidentally typed a space or single quote (') before the equal sign in the formula:
    Here's why Excel shows a formula, not result.

    When a space or single quote precedes the equal sign, Excel treats the cell contents as text and does not evaluate any formula within that cell. To fix this, just remove the leading space or single quote.

  3. Before entering a formula in a cell, you may have set the cell's formatting to Text. In this case, Excel also perceives the formula as a usual text string and does not calculate it.
    Excel formulas entered as text display as formulas in cells and are not calculated.

To fix this error, select the cell, go to the Home tab > Number group, and set the cell's formatting to General, and while in the cell, press F2 and ENTER.

This is how you show formulas in Excel. A piece of cake, isn't it? On the other hand, if you plan to share your worksheet with other users, you may want to protect your formulas from overwriting or editing, and even hide them from viewing. And it is exactly what we are going to discuss in the next article. Please stay tuned!

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