The formula bar - also called the *fx bar* due to the *fx* icon located next to it - is the multi-purpose bar located above the column headings in Excel and Google Spreadsheets.

Generally speaking, its uses include displaying, editing, and entering data that is located in worksheet cells or in charts.

### Displaying Data

More specifically, the formula bar will display:

- the text or number data that is located in the current or active cell;

- formulas that are located in the active cell rather than the formula answer;
- the range of cells representing a selected data series in an Excel chart.

Since the formula bar displays formulas located in cells rather than the formula results, it is easy to find which cells contain formulas just by clicking on them.

The formula bar also reveals the full value for numbers that have been formatted to show fewer decimal places in a cell.

### Editing Formulas, Charts, and Data

The formula bar can also be used to edit formulas or other data located in the active cell just by clicking on the data in the formula bar with the mouse pointer.

It can also be used to edit the ranges for individual data series that have been selected in an Excel chart.

It is also possible to enter data into the active cell, again just by clicking with the mouse pointer to enter the insertion point.

### Expanding the Excel Formula Bar

For long data entries or complex formulas, the formula bar in Excel can be expanded and the formula or data wrapped on multiple lines as shown in the image above.

The formula bar cannot be expanded in Google Spreadsheets.

**To expand the formula bar with the mouse:**

- Hover the mouse pointer near the bottom of the formula bar until it changes into a vertical, two-headed arrow - as shown in the image;
- At this point, press and hold down the left mouse button and pull down to expand the formula bar.

**To expand the formula bar with shortcut keys:**

The keyboard shortcut for expanding the formula bar is:

*Ctrl + Shift + U*

These keys can be pressed and released all at the same time or, the *Ctrl *and *Shift *keys can be held down and the letter U key pressed and released on its own.

To restore the default size of the formula bar, press the same keys a second time.

### Wrap Formulas or Data on Multiple Lines in the Formula Bar

Once the Excel formula bar has been expanded, the next step is to wrap long formulas or data onto multiple lines, as seen in the image above,

In the formula bar:

- Click on the cell in the worksheet containing the formula or data;
- Click with the mouse pointer to place the
*insertion point*at the break point in the formula; - Press the
*Alt*+*Enter*keys on the keyboard.

The formula or data from the break point onward will be placed on the next line in the formula bar. Repeat the above steps to add additional breaks.

### Show/Hide the Formula Bar

There are two methods available for hiding/displaying the formula bar in Excel:

**The quick way - shown in the image above:**

- Click on the
*View*tab of the ribbon; - Check/uncheck the
*Formula Bar*option located in the*Show*group of the ribbon.

**The long way:**

- Click on the
*File*tab of the ribbon to open the drop down menu;

- Click on
*Options*in the menu to open the*Excel Options*dialog box; - Click on
*Advanced*in the left pane of the dialog box; - In the
*Display*section of the right pane, check/uncheck the*Formula Bar*option; - Click OK to apply the changes and close the dialog box.

**For Google Spreadsheets:**

- Click on the
*View*menu to open the drop down list of options; - Click on the
*Formula bar*option to check (view) or uncheck (hide) it.

### Prevent Formulas from Displaying in the Excel Formula Bar

Excel's worksheet protection includes an option that prevents formulas in locked cells from being displayed in the formula bar.

Hiding formulas, like locking cells, is a two-step process.

- The cells containing the formulas are hidden;
- Worksheet protection is applied.

Until the second step is carried out, the formulas will remain visible in the formula bar.

**Step 1:**

- Select the range of cells containing the formulas to be hidden;
- On the Home tab of the ribbon, click on the
*Format*option to open the drop down menu; - In the menu, click on
*Format Cells*to open the*Format Cells*dialog box; - In the dialog box, click on the
*Protection*tab; - On this tab, select the
*Hidden*check box; - Click OK to apply the change and close the dialog box.

**Step 2:**

- On the Home tab of the ribbon, click on the
*Format*option to open the drop down menu; - Click on
*Protect Sheet*option at the bottom of the list to open the*Protect Sheet*dialog box; - Check or uncheck the desired options
- Click OK to apply the changes and close the dialog box.

At this point, the selected formulas should be hidden from view in the formula bar.

### ✘, ✔ and fx Icons in Excel

The ✗, ✔ and fx icons located next to the formula bar in Excel can be used for:

- ✘ - canceling edits or partial data entry in the active cell;
- ✔ - completing the entering or editing of data in the active cell - does not move the active cell highlight to another cell;
- fx - providing a shortcut to inserting functions into the active cell by opening the
*Insert function*dialog box when clicked on.

The keyboard equivalent for these icons, respectively, are:

- the
*Esc*key - cancels edits or partial data entry; - the
*Enter*key - completes the entering or editing of data in the active cell - moves the active cell highlight to another cell;

*Shift*+*F3*- opens the*Insert*dialog box;

### Editing in the Formula Bar with Shortcut Keys in Excel

The keyboard shortcut key for editing data or formulas is F2 for both Excel and Google Spreadsheets. By default, this permits editing in the active cell - the *insertion point* is place in the cell when F2 is pressed.

In Excel, it is possible to edit formulas and data in the formula bar rather than the cell. To do so:

- Click on the
*File*tab of the ribbon to open the drop down menu; - Click on
*Options*in the menu to open the*Excel Options*dialog box; - Click on
*Advanced*in the left pane of the dialog box; - In the Editing options section of the right pane, uncheck the
*Allow editing directly in cell*option; - Click OK to apply the change and close the dialog box.

Google Spreadsheets does not permit direct editing in the formula bar using F2.