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Performing Maths in Microsoft Word (In an Excel Blog)



Ok, Ok, Chandoo.org is clearly a Microsoft Excel centric Blog.

But a week ago Pradeep asked the question in a post, “How do I add up a Table of Numbers in Word?

There are 3 easy answers, which will all be addressed in this post:

  1. Transfer the Data to/from Excel
  2. Embed a Table in Word from Excel
  3. Do the Maths in Word


Transfer Data To/From Excel

The easiest and sometimes quickest way to do maths on a table of numbers is to:

  • Copy the Table from Word and paste the Table into an Excel Workbook
  • Perform the Maths in Excel
  • Copy and paste the results back

Here is a typical Table within Word

Select the Table in Word and press either Ctrl+C or use the Copy icon.

Open Excel or switch to Excel using Alt+Tab

Select a cell and press Paste Ctrl+V or use the Paste  Icon

Excel shows the Table as above.

Next add formulas to perform the calculations you need

In this case in C9: =SUM(C4:C8)

Copy the formula in C9 across to D9

In E4: =D4/C4

Copy the formula in E4 down to E9

Format the new results as appropriate

Next select either the full table or a section, ie: The Numbers and Copy using either Ctrl+C or use the Copy icon.

Switch to Word using Alt+Tab

Select the same area in the Word Table as what you copied in Excel

and press Paste Ctrl+V or use the Paste  Icon

When to use this technique

This technique is useful for doing one of reports where the data is provided to you as is.

It is also good when you need to perform complex formulas.

However when you control the data source there is an easier way and this is discussed next.


Embed the Table in Word from Excel

In cases where you manage the data source, you can link the table in Word directly to the data source in Excel.

By doing this the Word Table is updated as soon as changes are made in the Excel Table.

In Excel find your source data:

Select the range you want to embed into the word Document

Copy this range using either Ctrl+C or use the Copy icon.

Open Word or Switch to Word using Alt+Tab

Locate and click in the area in the Word Document where you want to place the report

Goto the Home Tab and press Paste Ctrl+V or use the Paste  Icon

Select the Paste and Keep Source Formatting option

Note 1: As you move across the 6 paste options word will show you what the Pasted range will look like using each format

Note 2: Notice in the example above the pasted range also includes the grey grid lines. If you don’t want these you need to disable them in Excel before you copy the range


Now that we have our Word Document with the new Range pasted in, you notice that there is a mistake in the data

Return to Excel by Using Alt+Tab

Change the Date to the 18 Aug 2018 and change the Revenue on Tuesday to 3000

Return to Excel by Using Alt+Tab

Notice that the Date, Tuesday Revenue and Unit Revenue have all changed to reflect the changes in the excel Document.

You can reformat the Table in Word and only the numbers and text will change in response to changes in the Excel Document

The Excel and Word Files must be open for the link to be updated dynamically.

If the Excel file is closed the Word file will not update.

When to use this technique

This is a great technique when you have a large data source with mutiple tables used in Word, Like a Monthly Report.

But there is an alternative…


Perform the Maths in Word

Microsoft Word has limited arithmetic abilities built in.

These abilities only apply to data stored in Tables, not to data stored in tabular format within normal text

Open a word file and enter a Table of Data like below

This is the same table we have seen before.

It requires a Total Line as well as Unit Revenue calculations

Click into the Sales Quantity Weekly Totals cell.

Now goto the Layout Tab and select the Formula icon.

In the Formula: dialog Word will have inserted a Formula =SUM(ABOVE)

This is what we want to do, so leave it

Select an appropriate Number format from the Number format drop down. These number formats are in the same style as Excel Custom Number Formats.

Click OK

Word puts the total 750 in this case in the Total cell

Change a Number above and watch as the Total changes

Repeat the previous step in the revenue Weekly Total cell


The Unit Revenue will be the Revenue for each day divided by the Sales Quantity that day.

That is, for Monday, we want to divide the Sales Revenue of $2,000 by the Sales Quantity 100 to return a Unit Revenue of 200

Luckily Word has the facility to treat Cells in a Table in a similar fashion to Excel !

We can use either R1C1 or A1 formula formats.

In R1C1 each column and row is simply numbered as shown below

In A1 each column is Labelled alphabetically as in the default view in Excel and row is numbered as shown below

And Word is actually more advanced than Excel as you can use either format at the same time without having to change the format in settings.

In our example we want to divide the Cell in Row 2 Column 3 (R2C3) by the value in Row 2 Column 2 (R2C2)

Click in the Cell under the Unit Revenue column header in Row 2

Goto the Layout Tab and select the Formula icon

By default Word will display a =SUM(LEFT) formula

Overwrite this with your own formula =R2C3/R2C2

Select an appropriate Number format and press OK


You can use the A1 formula style by simply using it

Click in the Cell under the Unit Revenue column header in Row 2

Goto the Layout Tab and select the Formula icon

By default Word will display a =SUM(LEFT) formula

Overwrite this with your own formula =C2/B2

Select an appropriate Number format and press OK

Repeat this for the other cells in the Unit Revenue column.

Voila !

You now have a Table in Word, the Total and Unit Rates are Formulas.

But wait there is a mistake, The Revenue on Tuesday should be $5,000

Select the cell and change the value to 5,000

Depending on which version of Word you have the Table will either Update Automatically or you can force it to recalculate

If you Change the Value and the Table updates itself, Enjoy it

If your Table hasn’t updated itself you have a few options

Select the cells by Left Click and Drag ie: From 5,000 Down to the base of the table and across to the Right

Now Right click the selection and select Update or press F9

You can also click on an individual cell within the Table and Right Click and Update

Or you can press Ctrl+A outside the Table and Right Click and Update or Press F9

What Other Functions are Available?

We saw in the example above that we can use basic operands of +, , * and /

We used the function Sum()

But there are about a dozen other functions available to us to construct formula to process our data

To see and use these Goto the Layout Tab and select the Paste function dropdown on the Formula Dialog.

Scroll down to see other functions

You can build up a function as you do in Excel using parenthesis and these functions.

In the example above we used the special Above range to specify that we wanted to Sum the values Above the active cell.

You can also use the LEFT, RIGHT, ABOVE, BELOW positional arguments

If you have defined Bookmarks within the Word document you can also use these to return values


Where NPV is a Bookmark to the value of the NPV elsewhere in your Document.


Further Help

Word has a good discussion on the techniques available in the online help

Microsoft Word – Formula in a cell help


Final Comments

How have you performed maths on data in Word?

Let us know in the comments below:




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