Creating Permutations in Excel

Creating permutations in Excel involves generating all possible arrangements of a set of items. While Excel doesn’t have a built-in permutation function, you can achieve this by using formulas and techniques.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create permutations in Excel:

Step 1: Understand Permutation Count

Firstly, to understand how many permutations you can have for a set of items, use the FACT function to calculate factorials, as the number of permutations of n items is n! (n factorial).

Step 2: Use Excel for Calculating Permutation Counts

If you have n items and want to choose r of them in order, use the PERMUT function to calculate the number of permutations. The syntax is =PERMUT(n, r).

For example, for 5 items chosen 3 at a time, in cell C1, you could use:


This calculates how many different ways you can arrange 3 items out of 5.

Alternative Method: VBA for Generating Permutations

For generating a list of all permutations, Excel’s built-in functions are limited. However, you can use Excel’s VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) to write a custom procedure for generating permutations.

  • Press ALT + F11 to open the VBA editor.
  • Insert a new module and write a VBA function to generate permutations.
  • The VBA method involves more advanced programming techniques and is suited for users comfortable with coding.

Practical Considerations:

Directly listing permutations in Excel using formulas for more than a few items is impractical due to the exponential growth of permutation counts.

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For small sets, manual permutation is feasible, but for larger sets, consider using VBA or specialized software designed for combinatorial analysis.