15 Excel Functions Accountants Should Know

If you’re an accountant, you know that working with large amounts of data can be a daunting task. But with Excel, that work can get a whole lot easier and more efficient. Understanding Excel’s advanced features and functions can improve productivity, reduce errors, make your work more accurate, and most importantly — save you time. Below, I’ll go over some of the most important Excel functions that accountants should know, and provide examples of how to use them. For this example, I’ll use the following spreadsheet. Feel free to download it and follow along with the calculations.

1. SUM

The SUM function is a basic but essential function in Excel. It allows you to add up a range of values, which is helpful when calculating totals, such as revenue, expenses, and profits. Suppose you have a spreadsheet with sales data. In the above example, the total sales are in column G. If you wanted to sum up the entire column, the formula would be as follows: =SUM(G:G)


The AVERAGE function calculates the average of a range of values. It is useful when analyzing data and preparing financial statements. In the above example, suppose you wanted to calculate what the average sale was. To do this, you can just use the AVERAGE function on column G, similar to the SUM function before. Here’s the formula: =AVERAGE(G:G)

3. IF

The IF function allows you to test a condition and return one value if the condition is true and another value if the condition is false. This can be useful because it can send your formulas to the next level. By knowing to use the IF function, you could also use SUMIF, AVERAGEIF, and many other functions that involve an if statement. In the above example, let’s say you only wanted to know if a value in cell M2 was part of the Motorcycles product line. The formula would be as follows: =IF(M2=”Motorcycles”,1,2). If it is part of Motorcycles, you would have a value of 1, otherwise, it would be 2.


By knowing the SUM and IF functions, you can combine them together with SUMIF, which is an incredibly popular function. It gives you a quick way to tally up the totals that meet a criteria. For example, let’s say you want all sales that relate to the Motorcycles category. The formula for that would be as follows: =SUMIF(M:M,”Motorcycles”,G:G). If the criteria is met in column M, then the formula will sum up the corresponding values in column G. There’s also the super-powered SUMIFS function, which allows you to combine multiple criteria.


The EOMONTH function calculates the last day of the month for a specified number of months in the future or past. It is useful when working with data that is organized by date. For accountants, this can be useful when you’re calculating when something is due. Let’s say in this example, we need to calculate the date orders need to go out on, and that needs to be the end of the next month. Using the ORDERDATE field in column H, here’s how that calculation would look in the first cell, which would then be copied down for the rest: =EOMONTH(H2,1)


The TODAY function is helpful for accountants in calculating deadlines and knowing how many days are remaining or past a certain date. Suppose that you wanted to know how many days have past since the ORDER DUE DATE that was calculated in the previous example. Rather than entering in a static date that every day you would need to change, you can just use the TODAY function. Here’s how a formula calculating the days since the deadline for the first cell would look like, assuming the due date is in column N: =TODAY()-N2. The next day you open up the workbook, the calculations will update to reflect the current date; there’s no need to make any changes. There are many more date calculations you can do in Excel.

7. FV

The FV function calculates the future value of an investment based on a fixed interest rate and a regular payment schedule. You can use it to calculate the future value of an investment or savings account. Let’s say that you wanted to save $10,000 per year and expect to earn a return of 5% per year on that investment. Using the FV calculation, you can do that with the following formula: =FV(0.05,5,-10000). If you don’t enter a negative for the payment amount, the formula will result in a negative value. You can also specify whether payments happen at the beginning of a period (1) or end (0 — this is the default) with the last argument in the function.

8. PV

The PV function lets you do the opposite and work backwards from a future value to the present. Knowing that the calculation in example 7 returns a value of $55,256.31, that can be used in the PV calculation to check our work: =PV(0.05,5,10000,-55256.31). The formula returns a value of 0, which is correct, as there was no starting value in the FV calculation.

9. PMT

The PMT function calculates the periodic payment required to pay off a loan with a fixed interest rate over a specified period. It is helpful when determining the monthly payments required to pay off a loan or mortgage. Let’s take the example of a mortgage payment where you need to pay down $500,000 over the period of 30 years, in monthly payments. At a 5% interest rate, here’s what the payment calculation would be: =PMT(0.05/12,12*30,-500000,0). Here again the ending value needs to be a negative to avoid a negative value in the result. And since the payments are monthly, the periods need to be multiplied by 12 and the interest rate is dividend by 12.


The VLOOKUP function allows you to search for a value in a table and return a corresponding value from another column in the same row. It’s one of the most common Excel functions because of how useful and easy to use it is. It is helpful when working with large data sets and performing data analysis. Let’s suppose in this example that you want to find the sales related to order number 10318. The formula for that calculation might look like this: =VLOOKUP(10318,C:G,5,FALSE). In a VLOOKUP function, you need to specify the column number you want to extract from, which is what the 5 represents. If you’re using Office 365, you can also use the newer, flashier XLOOKUP function. I put VLOOKUP on this list because it’ll work on older versions of Excel — XLOOKUP won’t.


The INDEX function allows you to return a value from a data set by specifying the row and column number. It’s also helpful if you just want to return data from a single row or column. For example, the sales column is in column G. If I know the order number is on row 20 (which relates to order number 10318), this formula would do the same job as the VLOOKUP in the previous example: =INDEX(G:G,20,1).


The MATCH function allows you to find the position of a value within a range of cells. Oftentimes, Excel users deploy a combination of INDEX and MATCH instead of VLOOKUP due to its limitation (e.g. VLOOKUP can’t extract values to the left of the lookup field). In the previous example, you had to specify the row belonging to the order number. But if you didn’t know it, you could use the MATCH function within the INDEX function. The MATCH function would look like this: =MATCH(10318,C:C,0). Placed within an INDEX function, it can replace the argument where in the previous example, we set a value of 20: =INDEX(G:G,MATCH(10318,C:C,0),1). By doing this, you have a more flexible version of the VLOOKUP function. You can also create dynamic formulas using INDEX and MATCH that use lookups for both the column and row.


The COUNTIF function allows you to count the number of cells in a range that meet a specified condition. Let’s count the number of values in the data set that are Motorcycles. To do this, you would enter the following formula: =COUNTIF(M:M,”Motorcycles”).


The COUNTA function is similar to the previous function, except it only counts the number of non-empty cells. With no criteria, it is helpful to just the total number of values within a range. To calculate how many cells are in this data set, you can use the following formula: =COUNTA(C:C). If there are no gaps in data, then the result should be the same regardless of which column is used. And when combined with the UNIQUE function, you can have an easy way to count the number of unique values.


The UNIQUE function returns a list of unique values within a range, and it’s a much easier method than the old-school way of extracting unique values. If you wanted to extract all the unique product lines in column M, you would enter the following formula: =UNIQUE(M:M). If, however, you just wanted to count the number of unique values, you could embed it within the COUNTA function as follows: =COUNTA(UNIQUE(M:M)). You can adjust your range if you don’t want to include the header.

This is just a sample of some of the useful Excel functions that accountants can utilize. If you are familiar with them, you’ll put yourself in a great position to improve the efficiency of your workflow and make your spreadsheets easier to use. Plus, you can confidently say that you are highly competent with Excel, which can make your resume more attractive and make you better suited for accounting jobs that require advanced Excel skills — and there are many of them that do!.

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How to Convert Date Formats in Excel

If you’ve ever downloaded data and received dates in the wrong format, it can be a challenge to fix. If your regional settings are month/day/year but in a spreadsheet they are in day/month/year format, then odds are they will be reading in a text format rather than date. The one exception is when you’re dealing with month and day values that are 12 or less, and thus, they could be both month or day values. In those cases, the values are still reading as dates, but they are still incorrect. Here’s how you can fix all of these issues by using a formula.

Converting text date formats using TEXTSPLIT and INDEX

Suppose you have the following values, which are for March 2023:

Date values that are in the wrong format in an Excel spreadsheet.

These dates are not in the month/day/year format. However, only the value that has a 13 at the start is aligned to the left — indicating that it’s a text value. The others are recognized as dates, even though they are in the wrong format. This is what can make this calculation tricky, to accommodate both situations — but it’s not impossible.

First, let’s deal with the values that are in text. For these ones, their values just need to be parsed out. In the past, you could do this with a complicated series of LEN, MID, LEFT, and RIGHT functions. However, thanks to the relatively new TEXSPLIT function, it’s easier to do that.

Here’s how you would parse out the data if it’s in a text format, such as in the last instance (March 13), which is in cell A14:


This formula will break out the data into an array:

TEXTSPLIT function converting a date value into an array.

This isn’t the final solution, as this would still require another formula to pull these values into a date. And to accomplish that, this is where the INDEX function comes into play. Since there are three values here, using INDEX, you can select which value goes in which argument for the DATE function.

For instance, the following formula would extract the first value before the /, which is the number 13:


For the second number, 3, the column argument needs to change to a 2, to get the second column in the array:


And for the last one, the column would be set to 3:


Together, these values can be put within a DATE function. The arguments in the DATE format are in the following order: year, month, day. That means that last value in the array (position 3) needs to be first, followed by the second position (the month), and the last position (for the day). Here’s how that formula looks:


It’s the same formula repeated but referencing different column positions. And now, the formula gives me the date in the correct month/day/year format:

A date value converted from day/month/year into month/day/year.

However, this formula won’t work on the other values; they will result in errors since those are date values and only display slashes but don’t actually contain them the way a text value does. However, the solution for these formulas is even easier.

How to rearrange date values

Since the below cells read as date values, we can reference their respective month, day, and year values, and simply put them back into the DATE function.

Date values in Excel that are in day/month/year format.

The first value is the day value, followed by the month, and then the year. However, my regional settings are set to month/day/year format. That means if these cells are reading as date values, which they are, then that means the first value is going to be the month. By using the MONTH function, I can get that first value. But the key is, when I’m creating a new formula and using the DATE function, I will need to put that value in the argument that relates to the day. This can be a bit tricky and remember, if your regional settings are different from mine, you will need to alter your formula to ensure the right value is going into the right argument.

Similarly, for the second value (which corresponds to the day in my regional settings), I will use the DAY function to get that value. But I will actually put it in the month argument.

Lastly, the YEAR function will extract the year and go into the same year argument position, since month/day/year and day/month/year have the same position for the year. Here’s how this formula looks in its entirety, grabbing all the different values:


By copying the formulas, the date formats now look correct:

Converting day/month/year dates into month/day/year.

Combining the formulas

There’s just one left piece left in all of this, and that’s combining the two formulas so they can accommodate both situations: when the data is in text format, and when it’s reading as a date. This can be done by using the ISTEXT function, to check if a value is reading as text or not. If it’s a text value, then it will use the TEXTSPLIT function. Otherwise, it will simply reposition the date values. Here’s the formula that will factor in both situations:


Now, this one formula can be used on all of the cells, whether they are in date or text format.

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How to Show Elapsed Time in Excel

Do you need to calculate the time that that has elapsed between two date values in Excel? In this post, I’ll show you how you can show the difference in hours, minutes, and seconds. This can be useful if you need to determine hours on a work shift or just to see how much time is remaining until a deadline.

The following table is what an employee’s shift schedule might look like over the course of a week:

Employee shift schedule in Excel.

You have the time they started work, left work, and the duration of their break. To calculate the time difference and net hours worked, this can be accomplished by the following formula:

Time Work : Time Out – Time In – Break

It’s just a simple subtraction formula. However, the tricky part is that by default, Excel will calculate this difference in days and so the result will be shown as a fraction of a day (since it is less than 24 hours):

Total shift hours in Excel shows as a fraction of a day.

There are a couple of ways to fix this. The first way is to multiply the results by a factor of 24 so that the calculation gets converted into hours:

Total shift hours in Excel when taking fractions of a day and multiplying them by 24.

The caveat here is that now instead of fractions of a day, you now have fractions of an hour. If you prefer to not do any conversions and instead just want to display the value as elapsed time as hours and minutes, that can be done by formatting the cells, which is the alternative method.

To do this, select the cells in the Total Time column and select CTRL+1 to Format Cells. From there, go to the Custom category and enter [h]:mm as follows:

Modifying the number format to show elapsed time in Excel by using the [h]:mm format.

By doing this, the result will be similar to when you multiplied the values by 24:

An important difference you’ll notice is that the Total Time column shows in terms of hours and minutes, whereas the Hours column still shows fractions of an hour. For instance: 9 hours and 30 minutes shows up as 9:30 in Total Time but under the Hours column it is 9.50. One column is showing the actual minutes while the other is showing it in terms of fractions of an hour.

If you wanted to only show the number of minutes elapsed, the time format would simply be [m]. Then, your time would show in terms of minutes.

Showing elapsed time in terms of minutes in Excel by using the [m] format.

And to show the time in seconds, use [s]:

Showing elapsed time in Excel in terms of seconds using the [s] format.

You could, of course, do all of these conversions by multiplying the hours field by 60 to convert it into minutes and then by 60 again to convert into seconds. By just changing the number format, you aren’t doing any changes to the original calculation. Either option can get the desired end results. However, if you want to specifically show hours and minutes and seconds, and not fractions of an hour, you’ll want to use either [h]:mm or perhaps [h]:mm:ss if you have your time broken down to the second.

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How to Calculate Age in Excel

Excel’s date and time functions make it easy to calculate the difference between two dates. And in this post, I’ll show you how you can calculate age in Excel. This can include a person’s age, or the interval between two dates. You can also break this difference into years, months, days, minutes, and seconds.

Use the YEARFRAC function to calculate the time in terms of fractions of years

One of the easiest ways to calculate age is by using the YEARFRAC function. As the name suggests, it will give you the fraction of a year. Suppose you wanted to calculate the difference between the start of the year 2000 and Christmas 2022. This is what your formula would look like:


Note that depending on your regional settings, you may need to enter date values in different formats. Alternatively, you could simply reference cells that contain date values so that you don’t need to do any hardcoding here.

The above formula will return a value of 22.983. Since Christmas falls towards near the end of the year, the number is close to 23. If instead you choose Jan. 31, 2022 as the end date, then the formula would return a value of 22.083.

Use the TODAY function to make your formula dynamic

To calculate age so that it is always going to be up until today’s date, you can use the TODAY function. This avoids you having to enter the current date each time you want an up-to-date calculation. For example, if you wanted to calculate the fractional years between the start of 2000 and today, your formula would look like this:


The TODAY value will automatically update so you don’t need to do anything to trigger that calculation. Just by opening your workbook, Excel will pull in the current date value, and your formulas that contain the TODAY function will adjust accordingly.

Calculating month, day, hour differences

If you want to calculate the difference in months rather than fractions of years, there’s an easy way you can do that as well. Excel has a DATEDIF function that can make that process quick and easy. The logic is the same as with the earlier formula, but the main difference is that you enter “m” for a third argument, indicating month. Here’s the formula, using the same values as earlier:


This formula gives a result of 264, which equates to 22 years. You’ll notice the drawback here is there are no fractions or rounding, just 264 months. If I adjust the end date to the start of February (“2/1/2022”), then it will return a value of 265 months. Until the month is complete, the formula won’t add the extra month, even if you’re selecting a date that’s nearly at the end (e.g. January 31).

One alternative you can make is to calculate the difference in days:


This formula will return a value of 8,066. If you were to divide this by 365, you would get 22.09863. That’s the same answer I would get using the YEARFRAC function if I entered the last (optional) argument in that function to specify that I wanted to use 365 days for my calculation (the default calculation uses 360).

DATEDIF doesn’t have an argument that lets you calculate hours or minutes. However, with the number of days, you can approximate that by multiplying by hours. If you did want to get to that precise level of detail, you would need to create a separate formula for hours and minutes — and you would also need to ensure your date values included that level of detail to avoid approximation.

Using the HOUR, MINUTE, and SECOND functions, you can subtract the starting date from the ending date to arrive at a difference for each of those time calculations.. For these types of details, you should reference the cells as opposed to key in the hour, minute, and second values to ensure everything is entered correctly.

Calculating date differences using the days, month, minutes, seconds, and yearfrac functions.

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Excel’s New Text Functions Make Data Parsing a Breeze

Parsing data in Excel can be complicated, using a combination of functions ranging from LEFT, RIGHT, MID, and FIND. However, with the help of a few new functions that are available in Excel, the process is a whole lot easier for users. In this post, I’ll look at how you could parse out a date that is formatted as text using the new functions and comparing that with how you might have done it using the old functions.

In this example, I’m going to try parse out the numbers I need to convert the following value, which is reading as text:

This date is April 19, 2022. But because my regional settings are set to month/day/year this value doesn’t compute properly since it would be looking for a 19th month.

Pulling the day value (data before the delimiter)

The old method

The first number in the date value above relates to the day of the month. Using the LEFT function in Excel, you could use something like this:


Where X is the cell value. That will pull the first two characters in the string. But in some cases there might only be one day for the date. And for that reason, I’m not going to hardcode the number of characters. The best approach (under the old method) is by using the FIND function to locate where the delimiter (“/”) is. The more versatile formula would look as follows:


The new method

One of Excel’s new text functions is called TEXTBEFORE. And as the name suggests, it will extract all the text that comes before a delimiter. Without needing the FIND function, I can simply do this to extract the day value:


Pulling the year value (data after the delimiter)

The old method

To grab the year in the date I could cheat and use the RIGHT function and just grab the last four numbers. But that wouldn’t be flexible enough in the event that I might have 2 digits instead of 4 as the year. This can get messy as now I have to use multiple FIND functions in order to determine the length. The key is to take the length of the function and subtract from that the position of the second delimiter. Here’s what that looks like:


The nested FIND functions can get a bit complicated. Here you’ll see even more efficiency with Excel’s new functions.

The new method

The TEXTAFTER function can greatly simplify this action because you can specify after which delimiter you want to pull the characters; there is no need to have nested functions with this:


In this formula, the characters after the second “/” will be extracted. Note: both the TEXTBEFORE and TEXTAFTER functions allow you to specify the instance of the delimiter (i.e. it doesn’t always need to be the first one).

Pulling the month value (data between delimiters)

The old method

The most challenging part of this process is undoubtedly to pull the data between delimiters. In this example, I’ll need to use the MID function and use nested FIND functions to determine the space in-between the delimiters. It’s an ugly formula if you don’t rely on hardcoding:


That’s four FIND functions in one formula. You can quickly see how parsing out this information can be a challenge. But with the new Excel functions, it’s much easier to do this.

The new method

There isn’t a new function that specifically pulls the values between delimiters. But by using both the TEXTAFTER and TEXTBEFORE functions, you can do exactly that. Let’s start with just grabbing everything after the first delimiter:


This will give us the following result: 4/2022. Obviously that’s not what I want. But now, I can nest this within the TEXTBEFORE function, and grab the value before that other “/” with the following formula:


We are still dealing with a nested function here, but this is no doubt easier than all those FIND functions under the old method.

Using an array function

Another option that you can use is to extract all the values between the delimiters using the TEXTSPLIT function. Simply enter the following formula:


Then the values will be extracted into three cells, one for the day, month, and year:

The benefit of this approach is you can quickly pull everything from the cell you’re parsing data from.

Regardless of which option you choose, Excel has given its users some new tools that can make the parsing much easier and less complicated than it was before.

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Calculate the First Day and Last Day of the Week

Excel’s WEEKNUM function can return the specific week that a date falls in. But to do the reverse is a bit more challenging. In this post, I’ll show you how you can get the first and last day of a week (as well as anything in-between).

Setting up some variables

You can make this into a large and complex formula, but I’m going to make it a bit more organized by utilizing named ranges. The two names ranges I’m going to set up are for the day of the week (DAYNUMBER) that I want to calculate for, and the first day of the year (FIRSTDAY).

I’m going to use Monday as the day of the week my week starts on. On my regional settings, that is weekday #2. If you’re not sure about yours, you can use the WEEKDAY function on a day that is a Monday (or whichever day you wish to use) to determine the number associated with that.

Calculating the difference between the first day and your desired day of the week

The day the year begins on serves as an important starting point. This year began on a Saturday. If my desired day is Monday, then I need to calculate the difference between those days of the week. The formula for that would be as follows:


This returns a value of -5. If I wanted to know when the first Monday of the year was, I couldn’t just deduct 5 from the first day or I’d end up in the wrong year. What I need to do is to set up an IF function to say that if the difference is negative, I will add 7 to adjust for that fact. And if it isn’t negative, then I can just add to the starting date. Here is my formula thus far:


To get to the right day, I need to add this to my starting date:


Using the above formula, Excel tells me that Jan. 3, 2022, was the first Monday of the year, which is correct. But I need to adjust the formula to ensure the calculation puts me in the correct week.

Adjusting for the week number

The above formula works if I want the first week. If I want it to be more flexible than that, I need to include the week number in my calculation. For that, I’m going to create a named range called WEEK. The key is in adjusting the +7 calculation. In the first argument of my formula, when it was negative, I added 7. If I want the second week, then I need to add it by another factor of 7. Here’s how that part of the formula would look:


I also need to add that part to the second argument, which currently doesn’t adjust for the week number:


The completed formula is as follows:


Now I can adjust the calculation for different days of the week and different week numbers. And so whether you’re looking at the first day of the week or the last day of the week, you can just adjust the day number you’re looking for.

Here’s what the formula would look like without named ranges if the year was the current year and it was pulling the Monday of the 50th week of the year:


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How to Convert Month Number to Month Name in Excel

Do you have a report in Excel that lists the months as the numbers 1 through 12 and you want to convert that into the actual month names? Below, I’ll show you how you convert a month number into a month name in Excel.

Here’s an example of data that shows monthly sales but it only lists the number as opposed to the name:

Sales by month with the month number showing in digits.

If you had the entire date in a cell you could format it so that it showed the month. For instance, what I could do is type in =TEXT(A1,”MMM”) which would convert the value in cell A1 into a three-letter abbreviation for the month. But the numbers 1 through 12 will return values of “Jan” as Excel will think that you are referring to the first month of the year.

However, that changes once you get to the number 32. Since there are only 31 days in January, the number 32 will return a value of “Feb” if you were to continue on with that formula. And so the trick is to multiply these values all by a factor of 28. Since that’s the minimum number of days every month will have, it ensures that jumping by 28 each time will put you into each month of the year. This is what my values will look like:

Month numbers multiplied by 28.

To prove this out, here is which dates those days of the year would correspond to:

Day of the year along with the corresponding date.

In month 12, we barely make it in December using this approach but that’s good enough. And even in a leap year, multiplying by 28 still works. In this example, I include 2024, the next year that February gets an extra day:

Day of the year along with the corresponding date, including a leap year.

So now that we’ve confirmed that those numbers will fall within the correct months, we can use the TEXT formula noted above to convert those numbers into month dates, and this is what we end up with:

Month numbers converted into month names.

You can also multiply by 29 and this logic will still work. But if you use 27 then your months will be wrong by the time you hit September and if you use a multiple of 30, then in non-leap years you will be jumping too quickly and you will have two dates in March.

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Free Excel Date Picker Add-In

Are you looking for an easy way to add a date to your Excel spreadsheet? You can download my free date picker add-in for Excel. It is useful if you have a form and you want people to select dates or if you just want an easy way to enter a date without worrying about whether it is in the right format.

***Please note on an earlier version of this add-in (and as reflected in the video), the calendar was designed to pop up next to the active cell. However, due to many issues related to scrolling and possible zooming, and multiple screens, it is now set to open at the top (and in the middle) of the screen***

How the date picker add-in works

To launch the add-in, click on CTRL+SHIFT+Z, which will trigger the following calendar to pop up:

Date picker add-in for Excel.

By default, it will jump to the current month. Clicking on any of the dates will enter the date value into the active cell. You can use the arrow keys on the left or right side to change the months. If you want to jump by years, double-click on the year and just enter the desired year. The calendar will automatically adjust, which will be quicker than if you were to just continue pressing the arrow buttons.

Right now the add-in is a stand-alone but look for it to be included as part of a larger add-in package. If you have any suggestions for other features to include in an add-in, feel free to contact us.

How to install an add-in

You can download the date picker add-in here. Once you’ve saved it, go into Excel and select File -> Options -> Add-ins and then depending on your version, you may see an option at the bottom to go to manager Excel Add-ins:

Manage Excel add-ins button.

Click on the Go button and then you will have a list of add-ins you can install. If you didn’t save the add-in into the default folder where the rest of the Excel add-ins are, you just click the Browse button to find where you saved the file. Then, make sure the add-in is checked off and click OK and it will be ready to go.

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Calculate Hours and Minutes Between Two Times

Do you want to know how to calculate how many hours and minutes have elapsed between two times? Below, I’ll show you how to do that with Excel formulas. The difference won’t be in just fractions of days or hours but real minutes and hours that make it easy to measure. To make this work, however, the first step is entering in the time correctly.

How to enter time in Excel

Excel has a built-in time function called TIME where you can enter the hour, minute, and second. For example, if you wanted to enter a time of 6:30 AM, you could enter a formula of TIME(6,30,0). Alternatively, you could type in 6:30 AM — the key is leaving the space between the time and the AM/PM indicator.

However, the one clear limitation here is that this won’t help you if you want to calculate the hours and minutes between times that span more than just one day. By using the TIME function, or entering just the hours and minutes, Excel is always going to assume you’re talking about the current day.

The best way to enter in time is to also factor in the date. Depending on your regional settings you might enter this differently, but this is how I’d enter a time of 8:00 PM on Nov. 20 on my computer:

2020-11-20 8:00 PM

I can also use a 24-hour clock and type in the following:

2020-11-20 20:00

Either way, Excel knows what time I’m talking about. If you always want to return the current time, you can use the NOW function.

For the start time, I’ll set it to the start of the year: 2020-01-01 0:00

Calculating the difference

Just using the minus operator, I can get the difference between these two dates as follows:

Calculating the difference between two times.

By default, Excel will return the number of days, including the fractional days as well. To convert days and calculate the hours instead, we will multiply the difference by 24, since that’s how many hours are in a day. That gives us the following:

Time difference in hours.

That’s 7,796 hours between those two dates and times. It’s a nice round number but what if we changed it so that the end date was at 8:30 pm, or 20:30, this is what the updated calculation would look like:

Time difference in hours.

Now I’ve got that residual 0.50 which indicates half an hour. But I want minutes, not fractions of an hour. The easiest way to do this is to create one calculation for hours, and another for minutes. Then, afterwards, you can concatenate them together. To get the total hours, I’ll adjust my formula to include the ROUNDDOWN function so that it does not include the 0.5. It looks something like this:


Where datedifference is that raw calculation between the two dates and times. In my calculation, I’m still multiplying the time difference by 24 to get to hours, and then I round that to 0 spots, which is indicated by the 0 in the second argument. Now it will only show 7,796.00 for hours.

To calculate the number of minutes, I’ll need to multiply the datedifference by 24 and then again by 60, to convert the difference into minutes. This is what my calculations look like thus far:

Time difference in hours and minutes.

My hours are nicely rounded but my minutes include the total minutes, which is not what I want. I only want the minutes that are left over after the hours are factored out. Here I can make use of the MOD function which will tell me the remainder after division. I’ll adjust the minute calculation to calculate the remainder after I’ve divided the total minutes by 60. This will determine what’s left over after pulling out full 60-minute hours, which is that residual 0.50 that I’m after. Here’s what this formula looks like:


That gives me the following result for minutes:

Time difference in hours and minutes.

Now I get a nice and round 30 minutes. There is the potential that I can also get partial minutes if I have seconds in my calculation. This could be the case if I’m using the NOW function. To correct for this, I can again use the ROUNDDOWN function as I did for hours.

However, let’s assume that you also want to track seconds. We can do that as well. I’ll break out another column for seconds. There, I’ll multiply the difference by another factor of 60, to get the following:

Time difference in hours and minutes and seconds.

I added 25 seconds to my end date, which is why you’ll notice there’s a slight change in the difference column from this screenshot and the earlier one. Right now, total seconds tells me there are 28,067,425 seconds between these two times. If I want to get the raw number of seconds, then I’ll again use the MOD function and again use 60 as a divisor, since now I want to factor out the minutes:

Time difference in hours and minutes and seconds.

I now have a clean breakdown between hours, minutes, and seconds between these two times. But if you want to calculate more than just hours between two times, you can also incorporate the number of days as well.

Breakdown of days, hours, minutes, and seconds

If I wanted to take a different approach and break the difference down by days, and then by hours, minutes, and seconds, I’ll first need to break out the days. Since that’s the default calculation for Excel, all I need to do is use the ROUNDDOWN function on the difference. The formula is as follows:


And that gives me this:

Time difference in days.

If I wanted to get the hours that are remaining, what I can do is take the difference, use the MOD function, but this time I’m using a divisor of just 1, since I really only want the decimal place after the full number. Then I’ll multiply that by 24 hours, and again, use the ROUNDDOWN function:


Now my hours total looks like this:

Time difference in days and hours.

I’ve got a nice round 20 hours, which makes sense since 8:00 PM is 20:00 on a 24-hour clock. To calculate the difference in minutes, I can revert back to the earlier calculation where I used the MOD function to determine what’s left over after multiplying the difference by 24 and 60, and then dividing it by 60 minutes:

Time difference in days, hours and minutes.

The seconds calculation will work the same way as well. The only difference in the way to break out hours and days was to adjust the hours calculation to ensure it isn’t taking in the full hour difference, only the residual amount that pertained to the current day.

Now that you’ve got all the chunks broken down between days, hours, minutes, and seconds, you could concatenate that into one large formula, Something like this might work:

=CONCATENATE(daydifference,” Days “,hourdifference,” Hours “,minutedifference,” Minutes “,seconddifference, ” Seconds”)

That produces the following:

Total time difference in days, hours, minutes, and seconds.

For this not to be a messy result, you’ll want to ensure you’re using the ROUNDDOWN function in each of those calculations so that you aren’t keeping any trailing numbers.

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How to Make a Countdown Timer in Excel

A countdown timer can help you track how much time there’s left to do a task or until a deadline comes due. Below, I’ll show you how you can make a countdown timer in Excel that can track days, hours, minutes, and seconds. In order to make it work, we’ll need to use some VBA code, but it won’t be much. And if all else fails, you can just download my free template at the end of the post and repurpose it for your needs.

Let’s get right into it and start with the first step:

Calculating the difference in days,

To calculate the difference between two dates is easy, as all you’re doing is subtracting the current date and time from when you’re counting down to.

The start date is just going to be today, right this very second. And Excel has a convenient function just for that, called NOW. It doesn’t require any arguments and all you need to do is enter the following formula:


Entering the date and time you’re counting down to is a bit trickier. As long as you enter it correctly, then calculating the differences will be a breeze. However, this may involve a little bit of trial and error since it’ll depend on how your regional settings are setup. For the countdown date, I’m going to set it to the end of the year. Let’s say 11:00 PM on New Year’s Eve. Here’s how I input that into my spreadsheet:

2020-12-11 11:00 PM

The key things to remember here are that there should be a space between the time and the AM/PM indicator (if you use it) and there should be two spaces between the date and the time. Then, it’s just a matter of whether you’ve got the right order of date, month, and year. This is where you may need to do some testing on your end to ensure you’ve got the correct order.

Now that the dates are set up, we can calculate the difference in days. To do this, we can just calculate the difference and use the ROUNDDOWN function to ensure we aren’t adding partial days:

There are 222 days left until the end of the year. By using the NOW function, the formula will automatically update and tomorrow the days remaining will change to 221, and so on. If your output’s looking a little different, make sure to check the formatting and that it’s set to days.

Calculating the difference in hours, minutes, and seconds

There’s not a whole lot of complexity when it comes to calculating the difference in hours, minutes, or seconds. We’re still subtracting the current date from the deadline. The only difference is that now we’re just going to change the formatting. If I do a simple subtraction, I end up with a fraction, which isn’t really usable in its current format:

Counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds left.

The trick here is to change the format of this cell so that it shows me hours, minutes, and seconds. And that’s an easy fix. If I just click on cell C10 and click CTRL+1, this will get me to the Format Cells menu. In here, I’ll want to select a Custom format so that the cells just shows hours, minutes ,and seconds:

Applying a custom format.

Here’s what the countdown timer looks like after the format changes:

Countdown timer.

It’s important to include a date in the calculation even though we’re just doing a difference between hours, minutes, and seconds. Otherwise, the formula wouldn’t correctly calculate in all situations, such as when the deadline hour is earlier than our current hour.

Putting it all together

Now that all the calculations are entered in, now it’s just a matter of formatting the data. We can create a countdown clock that separates days remaining, from hours, minutes, and seconds remaining.

One cell can have the difference in days, while another will have the difference in hours, minutes, and seconds. This goes back to just modifying the formatting and applying a custom format. Here’s how mine looks:

Full countdown timer.

Although we’ve gotten to this point, the challenge is that this countdown timer still doesn’t update on its own. Unless you want to click on the delete button all the time, the countdown isn’t going to move unless there’s something to trigger a calculation in Excel. That’s why we’re going to need to add a macro to help us do that, which bring us to the important last step of this process:

Adding a macro to refresh every second

We need a macro to update the file. Whether it’s every second, every five seconds, it’s up to you. While the countdown timer will update when someone enters data or does something in Excel, that’s not much of a countdown. This is where VBA can help us. If you’re not familiar with VBA, don’t worry, you can just follow the steps below and copy the code.

To get into VBA, click on ALT+F11. From the menu. Once you’re there, click on the Insert button on the menu and select Module:

Creating a new module in VBA.

Over to the right, you’ll see some blank space where you can enter in some code. Copy and paste the following there:

Sub RunTimer()

    If Range("C10") <> 0 Then
        Interval = Now + TimeValue("00:00:01")
        Application.OnTime Interval, "RunTimer"

    End If
End Sub

One thing you may to change is the reference I made to cell C10. Change that to where you have your countdown timer. As long as there’s a value in the cell, the macro will continue running. All it does is check if there’s a value there, and if there is, it updates the worksheet every second. And by doing that calculation, your countdown timer will update even if you’re not making any changes to the spreadsheet.

You can also change the interval which currently updates every second, as noted by the 00:00:01. You can change this to five seconds, 10 seconds, however often you want it to update.

But there still needs to be something that triggers the macro to start running. You can assign a button or shortcut key to do that.

However, in this example I’ll activate it when the sheet is selected. Inside VBA, you should see a list of worksheets. Double-click on the one that contains your countdown timer:

Worksheets in VBA.

You’ll again see blank space to the right where you can enter code. And you’ll also see a couple of drop-downs near the top that you’ll want to look for. By default, the first one should say (General). Change this to Worksheet:

Selecting the Worksheet object.

Next, change the other drop-down which will probably say SelectionChange. Change it to Activate. Then you should see something like this:

Selecting the worksheet activate event in VBA.

Copy the following code into there to call the macro we created above:


Now when you switch to another worksheet and come back to the current one you’ll notice your countdown timer is updating on its own. If you want it to stop it, just clear the cell that has the timer. Otherwise, the macro will continue running every second.

The Countdown Timer Template

If you’d rather just use a template, then you can download one that I’ve made here. You don’t have to worry about macros and instead you just need to enter the end time; the time that you’re counting down towards.

I’ve also got a start/stop button that you can toggle to get the countdown timer going and that will pause it:

Countdown timer.

You can move the button as well as the time your counting down to onto another sheet if you don’t want someone altering it. If you have any questions or comments about this template, please send me an email at contact@howtoexcel.net

If you liked this post on how to make a countdown timer in Excel, please give this site a like on Facebook and also be sure to check out some of the many templates that we have available for download. You can also follow us on Twitter and YouTube.