Use Excel's MAX Function Shortcut to Find the Largest Values

Excel's MAX function shortcut

The primary use for the Excel MAX function is to find the largest value in a set. However, it can be used to find other values as well. Learn more about this function and discover a shortcut for using the MAX function.

These instructions apply to Excel for Microsoft 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2019 for Mac, Excel 2016 for Mac, Excel for Mac 2011, and Excel Online.

Find the Largest Number, Slowest Time, Longest Distance, or Highest Temperature

The MAX function always finds the largest or maximum number in a list of values. However, depending upon the data and how that data is formatted, it can also be used to find:

  • The slowest time.
  • The longest distance.
  • The fastest speed.
  • The latest date.
  • The highest temperature.
  • The greatest amount of money.

And while it is often easy to pick out the largest value in a small sample of integers, the task becomes more difficult for large amounts of data or if that data happens to be:

  • Negative numbers.
  • Times measured in hundredths of a second.
  • Currency exchange rates calculated to the ten-thousandths of a cent.
  • Numbers formatted as fractions.

While the MAX function doesn't change, its versatility in dealing with numbers in various formats is apparent and is one reason why the function is useful.

MAX 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 MAX function is =MAX( Number1, Number2, ... Number255), where:

  • Number1 is required.
  • Number2 (up to Number255) is optional.

The arguments, in parentheses, can be:

If the arguments do not contain numbers, the function returns a value of zero.

If an array, a named range, or a cell reference used in an argument contains empty cells, Boolean values, or text data, those cells are ignored by the function, as shown in the example in row 7 in the image below.

In row 7, the number 10 in cell C7 is formatted as text (note the green triangle in the upper-left corner of the cell indicating that the number is stored as text). As a result, the function ignores it, along with the Boolean value (TRUE) in cell A7 and the empty cell B7.

The function in cell E7 returns zero for an answer since the range A7 to C7 doesn't contain any numbers.

MAX Function Example

Here's how to enter the MAX function into cell E2 in the image example shown below. As shown, a range of cell references is included as the number argument for the function.

One advantage of using cell references or a named range as opposed to directly entering the data is that if the data in the range changes, the results of the function automatically update without having to edit the formula.

Options for entering the formula include:

  • Typing the formula containing the function =Max(A2:C2) into cell E2 and pressing Enter on the keyboard.
  • Entering the arguments using the MAX function's dialog box.
  • Using the MAX function shortcut located on the Home tab of the ribbon.

MAX Function Shortcut

This shortcut to using the Excel MAX function is one of several standard Excel functions that have shortcuts grouped under the AutoSum icon on the Home tab of the ribbon.

To use this shortcut to enter the MAX function:

  1. Select cell E2 to make it the active cell.

    E2 selected in worksheet
  2. Select the Home tab of the ribbon if necessary.

    The Home tab in Excel
  3. In the Editing group, select the Σ AutoSum drop-down arrow to display the list of functions.

    The Autosum menu in Excel
  4. Select Max in the list to enter the MAX function into cell E2.

    The MAX function under the Autosum menu
  5. Highlight cells A2 to C2 in the worksheet to enter this range as the function's argument.

    Excel might make the selection automatically.

  6. Press the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the function.

    MAX formula in E2

The answer -6,587,447 appears in cell E2 since it is the largest negative number in that row.

If you select cell E2, the complete function =MAX(A2:C2) appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.

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