How to Insert Notes in Formulas using a Function

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated July 30, 2016

Applies to: Microsoft® Excel® 2010, 2013 and 2016 (Windows)

In addition to adding comments in Excel, there is a relatively obscure function called the N function that you can use to enter notes directly within a formula. The N function converts a value to a number and has been around for a long while so you can use it in older versions of Excel as well.

Recommended articles: Hiding Notes in Excel (Part 1: Comments) and How to Hide Formulas from Clients, Colleagues and Other Users

Syntax

The N function has the following syntax:

=N(argument)

Using the N function to enter notes

You can use the N function to enter notes directly in a formula. Simply enter +N(“whatever note you want”) at the end of the formula. The text of the note must appear in double quotes (“”) and returns a value of 0 so it does not affect the calculation.

For example:

=COUNTA(A1:A900)+N(“This sample data set extracted from United Global data 2014”)

Returned values

The N function returns values as follows:

  • If the value is or refers to a number, the N function returns the number so in the formula =N(A1) where A1 contains 400, the returned value would be 400.
  • If the value is or refers to a date, the function returns the serial number of the date so in the formula =N(A1) where A1 contains 1/1/2014, the returned value would be 41640 or the number of days from the first date in the system.
  • If the value is or refers to TRUE, the N function returns 1.
  • If the value is or refers to FALSE, the N function returns 0.
  • If the value is or refers to an error value the N function returns the error value.
  • If the value is or refers to anything else (like a note in quotes) the N function returns 0.

Finding formulas with notes

You can find formulas with notes entered using the N function with the Find command:

  1. Click on the Home tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click on the Find and Select button in the Editing group.
  3. Click on Find. Alternatively, you can press Control + F. The Find dialog appears.
  4. In the Find dialog, enter N( or N(*) in the Find what area.
  5. Choose to search within the sheet or workbook and to look in formulas.
  6. Click on Find. Continue clicking on Find for each instance of a note using the N function. You can also click on Find All for a listing of all instances.

Find dialog in Excel to find notes in a formula.

You don’t normally use the N function in a formula to convert values to numbers because Excel automatically converts values. The N function is provided for compatibility with other spreadsheet programs but also provides an interesting way to enter notes in Excel.

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