Excel NOW Function

Add the Current Date and Time with Excel's NOW Function

Using the NOW Function in Date and Time Calculations in Excel
Using the NOW Function in Date and Time Calculations in Excel. © Ted French

Excel NOW Function

One of Excel's best known date functions is the NOW function and it can be used to quickly add the current date and/or time to a worksheet, as shown in the examples in rows two and three in the image above.

It can also be incorporated into a variety of date and time formulas as shown in rows four to 12 above for such things as:

  • finding dates that are so many days past the current date -row four above;
  • finding the number of days to the end of the current month - row six above;
  • returning the current minute - row eight above.

NOW Function Syntax and Arguments

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, comma separators, and arguments.

The syntax for the NOW function is:

= NOW ( )

Note: The NOW function has no arguments - the data normally entered inside the function's parenthesis. .

Entering the NOW Function

Like most Excel functions, the NOW function can be entered into a worksheet using the function's dialog box, but since it takes no arguments, the function can be enter into the active cell by typing: =Now() and pressing the Enter key on the keyboard. The result will display the current date and time.

To change the information displayed, adjust the cell's formatting to show just the date or the time.

Shortcut Keys to Formatting Date and Time

To quickly format the NOW function output use the following keyboard shortcuts:

Date (day-month-year format)

Ctrl  + Shift + #   (hash tag or number sign key)

Time (hour:minute:second and AM/PM format - such as 10:33:00 AM)

Ctrl  + Shift + @   (at symbol)

Serial Number/Date

The reason the NOW function takes no arguments is because the function obtains its data by reading the computer's system clock.

Windows versions of Excel store the date as a number representing the number of full days since midnight January 1, 1900 plus the number of hours, minutes, and seconds for the current day. This number is called a  serial number or serial date.

Volatile Functions

Since the serial number continual increases with each passing second, entering the current date and/or time with the NOW function means the function's output continually changes.

The NOW function is a member of Excel's group of volatile functions, which recalculate or update every time the worksheet in which they are located recalculates.

For example, worksheets recalculate each time they are opened or when certain events occur, - such as entering or changing data in the worksheet - so the date and/or time will change unless automatic recalculation is turned off.

Forcing Worksheet/Workbook Recalculation

To force the function to update at any time, press the following keys on the keyboard:

  • Shift + F9  - to recalculate the active or current worksheet;
  • F9 - to recalculate all open workbooks.

Keeping Dates and Times Static

Having the date and time continually change is not always desirable - especially if they are used in date calculations or if you want a date or time stamp for a worksheet.

Options for entering the date or time so they will not change include, as mentioned, shutting off automatic recalculation, typing dates/times in manually, or entering them using the following keyboard shortcuts: