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Figuring out how to write the perfect Excel formula to achieve the desired result can be a challenge, especially when you have a lot of data on a spreadsheet and need an intricate formula beyond calculating a sum -- or you're Excel formula challenged. Now that's all changed, and ChatGPT has become the poster child for the saying 'work smarter, not harder.'
What you need: Using ChatGPT to write an Excel formula requires access to Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, as you can use these formulas for both applications. You will also need an OpenAI account to access ChatGPT.
Remember that, as informed as these AI chatbots are, they're still not as well versed in nuances as a human and can make errors or misinterpret prompts.
1. Open ChatGPT and your spreadsheet
Open your Excel file or Sheets spreadsheet and go to chat.openai.com to access ChatGPT. If you're not logged in, this is the time to do so with your OpenAI account -- you can also create an account at this point. After logging in, you'll be taken to a conversation with ChatGPT.
The spreadsheet below is the example we will use: a made-up inventory of devices for January 2023. It has 45 products in column A, each with an SKU number (column B), amount in inventory (column C), quantity purchased in January (column D), price for each unit (column E), and the subtotal (column F, with the formula already).
We're going to use ChatGPT to create a few simple examples of formulas, including calculating sales tax (column G), seller's commission (column H, not pictured), total (column I, not shown), and the leftover quantity in inventory for the next month (column J, not displayed).
2. Be very clear with ChatGPT
It's time to lay out what you want with ChatGPT and ask it for the formula you want. To do this, you must explicitly explain to the AI chatbot what you want the formula to do.
You must be very clear -- mind-numbingly so -- as any errors ChatGPT makes due to a misunderstanding can lead to inaccurate values in your table. So, channel your inner eleventh-grader asking your computer-lab teacher how to create a specific formula.
Suppose we want ChatGPT to create the rest of the formulas. In that case, we have to explain things very plainly and specifically, so we'll ask the AI chatbot to "write an Excel formula to calculate the sales tax of the monetary value in column F, at a 6% rate".
3. Copy and paste the formula to Excel
Copy the formula from ChatGPT and paste it into the Excel cell you want to populate with the results, making any necessary edits. To the best of your ability, confirm the results are correct before populating the rest of your cells.
In the example below, I corrected the formula to reflect the correct cell, F3, that needs to be included in the calculation of the sales tax.
4. Finish adding the rest of your formulas
I'll finish adding the formulas I need to my spreadsheet, beginning with the commission calculation, by asking ChatGPT to "Create a formula to calculate 10% commission on the monetary total in cell F3".
5. Complete the table
Once I add my commission formula, I can move on to the next two columns to calculate the total and the leftover inventory to complete the table.
6. Populate the rest of your spreadsheet
It's time to populate the rest of your spreadsheet with your shiny new formulas. To do this, place your cursor on the lower-right corner of the cell with the formula, and click and drag your cursor over the rest of the cells you want the formula in.
The same formatting will be followed, including the subsequent progression of the formulas.
Is there a way to use AI for formulas within Excel?
Ideally, you could generate formulas within Microsoft Excel as easily as with ChatGPT by having an AI tool already built into the program. That's not the case at this time, but Microsoft is rolling out a set of AI tools for many of its products, including the Microsoft 365 suite of programs named Copilot.
Though Microsoft Copilot isn't widely available yet, one can hope the new features include a GPT-4-integrated Microsoft Excel.
Why is the formula from ChatGPT not working?
ChatGPT might have misunderstood your prompt if it gives you a formula that isn't working in Excel or Sheets. Go through the formula to see where the error could be on ChatGPT's end and see how you can reword your prompt to get the correct answer. In the example below, my prompt was "Create a formula for the total cost that adds the values in columns F, G, and H."
Since I didn't specify I needed the formula to add the values in cells F3, G3, and H3, the formula adds the values in the entire column range, which is not what we need.
I then corrected my prompt to request ChatGPT to "Create a formula for the total cost that adds the values in cells F3, G3, and H3".
Can ChatGPT write intricate Excel formulas?
ChatGPT is the perfect resource to write formulas for Excel or Google Sheets, whether simple or intricate. We used simple formulas for this example to walk you through the process, but you can ask the AI chatbot to write more complicated formulas and test their limits.