# Getting Access to Spreadsheet Models for Managers

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# This reading is especially relevant for Session 4Reference Operators

Formulas in Excel can include operators that combine arguments to produce intermediate results that are used to evaluate the formula. You really already know about operators, but you may be unfamiliar with the use of this word in this way. Examples of arithmetic operators are +, -, /, and *, which are, respectively, addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. You know how these work — let’s look at some new ones.

Operators do their work on operands. For example, in the expression “1+3”, 1 is the first operand and 3 is the second operand.

Some operators are called “infix” operators. Examples of infix operators are the arithmetic operators you’re familiar with. Another infix operator is the exponent operator used for powers of numbers. For example, the formula 4^2 means the same as 42. These operators are called infix because they sit “in between” their operands.

Some operators are “matchfix” operators. They come in pairs, like the left and right parentheses. For example, 2*(4+1) is an operator expression that evaluates to 10. It contains two arithmetic operators, * and +, and two matchfix operators, “(” and “)” for grouping. Another of Excel’s matchfix operators is the pair of double-quotes ("). In Excel, double-quote pairs are used to encase character strings. For example "qwerty" is a character string constant, wrapped in double-quotes, which are Excel’s string grouping operators.

There are other operators in Excel that you might not have run into before. For example, the ampersand (&) joins, or concatenates, two strings together. "qwerty"&"234" evaluates to "qwerty234".

## Reference operators

The three reference operators are the range operator, the union operator, and the intersection operator. They’re represented respectively by the characters colon (range), comma (union), and space (intersection). All three are infix operators.

The range operator (colon), which is an infix operator, is used to join two cell references to make a range reference. The resulting range is the rectangle formed by the first operand and the second operand. A1:D5 defines the range from A1 to D5. The range reference A1:A1 isn’t illegal — but it’s degenerate. It’s exactly the same as A1. The expression C:C is the (relative) reference to column C.

There are two other reference operators. They’re also used to combine references in ways that produce new references.

The first is the intersection operator (space), which is an infix operator. When it’s inserted between two references, it returns the intersection of those two references. The references can be single cells, ranges, or complex combinations of references constructed with any of the reference operators. They can also be the results of any macro or worksheet function that returns a reference, such as offset or index. The intersection of two ranges is the set of cells that lie in both ranges. It can be either a single cell or a (possibly discontiguous) collection of cells. If two references don’t intersect at all, Excel returns a #NULL! error value. In Figure 1, the cell C4 is the intersection of B2:C4 and C4:D7.

The last reference operator is union, represented by a comma. Like intersection and range, it too is an infix operator and returns a reference. Just as intersection creates and returns the intersection of two references, union creates and returns the union of two references. The union of two references is the collection of cells that lie in either one (or both) of the references. For example, (B2:C4,C4:D7) is a reference to all the cells in either of the two rectangular ranges shaded in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The intersection and union of two ranges
Because the union operator is represented by a comma, which is also used to separate arguments of functions, you usually have to surround the expression with parentheses to prevent ambiguous interpretation of the expression by Excel. But you can use as many commas as you like within one set of parentheses.

As an exercise, see if you agree that C2:C7=(B2:C4,C4:D7) C:C.

## A list of Excel’s operators

Believe it or not, Excel has 16 infix operators, 5 matchfix operators, 3 prefix operators and a postfix operator.

### Infix operators

 + addition - subtraction * multiplication / division ^ exponentiation > is greater than < is less than = is equal to >= is greater than or equal to <= is less than or equal to <> is not equal to & concatenation of strings Space reference intersection Comma (,) reference union Colon (:) range reference defined by two cell references ! separate worksheet name from reference

### Matchfix operators

 Left Side Right Side Operation " " string constant { } array constant ( ) arithmetic grouping or function arguments or reference grouping ' ' grouping worksheet name [ ] grouping workbook name, or relative reference in R1C1 style

### Postfix operators

 % percentage

### Prefix operators

 - negative + plus \$ Next component of an A1 reference is absolute

Last Modified: Wednesday, 27-Apr-2016 04:15:26 EDT

Avoid Unnecessary Spaces in Formulas

The space character, in many cases, doesn’t change the value of a formula. For instance, these two formulas return the same value:

• =A1 + 2
• =A1+2

Some people think that well-placed spaces make formulas easier to read. Although that might be true, the practice is both inconvenient and extremely dangerous. More

Keyboard Power Tips

Excel’s online help, and many of the how-to books you can buy, provide long lists of keystroke shortcuts for carrying out specific operations, such as inserting rows, selecting regions, or deleting columns. And they are useful.

But the true power of the keyboard comes not from using these particular commands. Rather, it comes from learning combinations that are useful for particular situations that you encounter frequently.

For instance, there’s no command for deleting the rows that contain the selected cells, but there is a combination:

• Shift+Space selects the rows that contain the selection.
• Ctrl+- deletes the now-selected rows.

And so, Shift+Space Ctrl+- deletes the rows containing the selection.

Learning a vast array of keystroke commands is probably less useful than learning the keystroke combinations that do exactly what you need to do most often.