How do I total a column in Excel?

Link to YouTube video

So this is it, you’ve come to the stage where you’re no longer just using Excel to enter data, but just beginning to start tapping into the incredible power of the program.  And the good news is, it’s very easy!

To total (add up) a column in Excel you will need to use a formula called SUM; there are two ways of doing this, the easy way and the extremely easy way.  We’ll begin with the extremely easy way and then build up to the easy way gradually so you get the idea of the basic principle behind Excel formulas.  By the way, this will also work the exact same way in Google Sheets.

So let’s begin with our very simple example, we have a column of numbers, they are all in column A, and the range from row 1 to 6:

 

Getting the sum total of the column is as easy as clicking and dragging across all the cells you wish to add, and then clicking the “Autosum” button which looks like this: ∑ and is located on the right of the Home ribbon tab:

 

And hey presto, the total has been automatically entered into cell A7 (directly beneath your last number).  You will notice that if you change any of the numbers within your list, the total will change automatically.

 

You may also wish to format this cell to indicate that it is the total.  For example I often make the cell bold, add a top and bottom border, and type the word “Total” next to it.  See our other tutorial blog on the basics of formatting cells for more help with this:

 

Now we’ve covered the extremely easy way, we’re ready to really up the ante, and go for the easy way; strap in because you’re about to embark on an incredible adventure in Excel (or Google Sheets – the method is the same in both).

So let’s start with the same list again (you can delete what’s in cell A7 if you’ve tried the above example).  This time we begin by clicking in the cell directly below your list (cell A7 in this case) and typing in:

=SUM(A1:A6)

Then press enter.  This is telling Excel a few things:

  • Firstly the equals symbol at the start of the line indicates that this is a formula, and that Excel should perform a calculation on whatever you type in.
  • The “SUM” is the name of the function, this is one of hundreds of formulas available in Excel, and it is saying to return the sum total of whatever is within the brackets.
  • The A1:A6 means that the SUM formula should be adding up everything from cell A1 to A6 (where your data is)

If we double click cell A7 you will notice that Excel draws a handy box around the cells it will be performing the calculation on; you can move this box if the area your data is in moves or grows:

 

We hope you’ve found this useful – if you’re after a more practical demonstration then take a look at our YouTube video on the same subject:

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