How To Use an Array Formula in Excel

Excel array formulas are powerful tools that allow you to perform complex calculations and analyses on ranges of data. They can manipulate data, extract specific information, and make advanced calculations. Here’s a guide to understanding and using array formulas in Excel.

What Is an Array Formula?

An array formula is a single formula that performs multiple calculations on one or more items in an array (a range of cells). Unlike regular Excel formulas, array formulas can return multiple results or a single result based on multiple criteria. They are enclosed in curly braces {} and often require special handling.

Basic Array Formula Syntax

  1. Select the Cell: Start by selecting the cell where you want the array formula’s result to appear.
  2. Begin with an Equal Sign: Like any other formula in Excel, begin an array formula with an equal sign (=).
  3. Enter the Array Formula: Type the array formula, using the appropriate functions and operators. Be sure to enclose the formula in curly braces {} when you’re finished.
  4. Commit with Ctrl+Shift+Enter: This is a critical step. Instead of pressing Enter alone, use Ctrl+Shift+Enter (often abbreviated as CSE) to confirm the formula. If done correctly, Excel will automatically add the curly braces {}.

Examples of Array Formula Usage

Summing Multiple Conditions: Let’s say you have a list of sales transactions with columns for salesperson names and sales amounts. You want to sum the sales for a specific salesperson. You can use an array formula like this:

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{=SUM(IF(A1:A10=”John”, B1:B10))}

Extracting Unique Values: If you have a list of items with duplicates, you can use an array formula to extract unique values:


Matrix Multiplication: Array formulas can perform matrix operations:

{=MMULT(A1:B2, C1:D2)}

This formula multiplies two matrices represented by cell ranges A1:B2 and C1:D2.

Array Formula Tips

  • Array formulas can be resource-intensive, so use them wisely for specific tasks that require them.
  • Not all functions in Excel can be used in array formulas. Only certain functions support array calculations.
  • Array formulas can make your spreadsheet complex and hard to understand, so consider documenting them well.