MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas

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Formulas Overview

woman working with spreadsheet on laptop
Westend61/Getty Images

Formulas allow you to perform calculations on data entered into your spreadsheets.

You can use spreadsheet formulas for basic number crunching, such as addition or subtraction, as well as more complex calculations such as payroll deductions or averaging a student's test results. The formulas in column E in the image above calculates a store's first quarter sales by adding the sales for each month.

In addition, if you change the data MS Works will automatically recalculate the answer without you having to re-enter the formula.

The following tutorial covers in detail how to use formulas, including a step by step example of a basic MS Works spreadsheets formula.

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Writing the Formula

MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas
MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas. © Ted French

Writing formulas in a MS Works spreadsheets is a little different than the way it is done in math class.

An MS Works formula starts with the equal sign ( = ) rather than ending with it.

The equal sign always goes in the cell where you want the formula answer to appear.

The equal sign informs MS Works that what follows is part of a formula, and not just a name or a number.

An MS Works formula would like this:

=3 + 2

rather than:

3 + 2 =
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Cell References in Formulas

MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas
MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas. © Ted French

While the formula in the previous step works, it has one drawback. If you want to change the data being calculated you need to edit or rewrite the formula.

A better way would be to write the formula so that you can change the data without having to change the formula itself.

To do this, you would type the data into cells and then, in the formula, tell MS Works which cells in the spreadsheet the data is located in. A cell's location in the spreadsheet is referred to as its cell reference.

To find a cell reference, simply look at the column headings to find which column the cell is in, and across to find which row it is in.​

The cell reference is a combination of the column letter and row number -- such as A1, B3, or Z345. When writing cell references the column letter always comes first.

So, instead of writing this formula in cell C1:

= 3 + 2

write this instead:

= A1+ A2

Note: When you click on a cell containing a formula in MS Works (see the image above), the formula always appears in the formula bar located above the column letters.

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Updating MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas

MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas
MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas. © Ted French

When you use cell references in an MS Works spreadsheet formula, the formula will automatically update whenever the relevant data in the spreadsheet changes.

For example, if you realize that the data in cell A1 should have been an 8 instead of a 3, you only need to change the contents of cell A1.

MS Works updates the answer in cell C1. The formula, itself, doesn't need to change because it was written using cell references.

Changing the data

  1. Click on the cell A1
  2. Type an 8
  3. Press the ENTER key on the keyboard

The answer in cell C1, where the formula is, immediately changes from 5 to 10, but the formula itself is unchanged.

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Mathematical Operators in Formulas

The mathematical operator keys used to create MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas
The mathematical operator keys used to create MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas. © Ted French

Creating formulas in a MS Works Spreadsheets is not difficult. Just combine the cell references of your data with the correct mathematical operator.

The mathematical operators used in MS Works spreadsheets formulas are similar to the ones used in math class.

  • Subtraction - minus sign ( - )
  • Addition - plus sign ( + )
  • Division - forward slash ( / )
  • Multiplication - asterisk (* )
  • Exponentiation - caret (^ )

Order of Operations

If more than one operator is used in a formula, there is a specific order that MS Works will follow to perform these mathematical operations. This order of operations can be changed by adding brackets to the equation. An easy way to remember the order of operations is to use the acronym:


The Order of Operations is:


The Order of Operations Explained

  1. Any operation(s) contained in brackets will be carried out first
  2. Exponents are carried out second.
  3. MS Works considers division or multiplication operations to be of equal importance, and carries out these operations in the order they occur left to right in the equation.
  4. MS Works also considers addition and subtraction to be of equal importance. Which ever one appears first in an equation, either addition or subtraction, is the operation carried out first.
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MS Works Spreadsheets Formula Tutorial: Step 1of 3 - Entering the Data

MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas
MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas. © Ted French

Let's try a step by step example. We will write a simple formula in an MS Works spreadsheet to add the numbers 3 + 2.

Step 1: Entering the data

It's best if you first enter all of your data into the spreadsheet before you begin creating formulas. This way you will know if there are any layout problems, and it is less likely that you will need to correct your formula later.

For help with this tutorial refer to the image above.

  1. Type a 3 in cell A1 and press the ENTER key on the keyboard.
  2. Type a 2 in cell A2 and press the ENTER key on the keyboard.
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Step 2 of 3: Type in the Equal (=) Sign

MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas
MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas. © Ted French

When creating formulas in s MS Works Spreadsheets, you ALWAYS start by typing the equal sign. You type it in the cell where you want the answer to appear.

Step 2 of 3

For help with this example refer to the image above.

  1. Click on cell C1(outlined in black in the image) with your mouse pointer.
  2. Type the equal sign in cell C1.
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Step 3: Adding Cell References Using Pointing

MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas
© Ted French. MS Works Spreadsheet Formulas

After typing the equal sign in step 2, you have two choices for adding cell references to the spreadsheet formula.

  1. You can type them in or,
  2. You can use an MS Works feature called ​​pointing

Pointing allows you to click with your mouse on the cell containing your data to add its cell reference to the formula.

Step 3 of 3

Continuing from step 2 for this example

  1. Click on cell A1 with the mouse pointer
  2. Type a plus ( + ) sign
  3. Click on cell A2 with the mouse pointer
  4. Press the ENTER key on the keyboard
  5. The answer 5 should appear in cell C1.

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Your Citation
French, Ted. "MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas." ThoughtCo, May. 10, 2017, French, Ted. (2017, May 10). MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas. Retrieved from French, Ted. "MS Works Spreadsheets Formulas." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 19, 2018).