How to Show Formulas in Google Sheets: A Step-by-Step Guide


Welcome to our step-by-step guide on how to show formulas in Google Sheets. For any data analyst or auditor, understanding and displaying formulas is of utmost importance. Showing formulas allows for transparency and allows others to verify the calculations and ensure accuracy. In this guide, we will walk you through the process, making it easy for you to showcase your formulas and enhance your data analysis skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding and displaying formulas in Google Sheets is essential for data analysis and auditing purposes.
  • The formula bar in Google Sheets allows you to access and display formulas for selected cells.
  • The Ctrl + ` shortcut is a quick way to instantly show formulas in your spreadsheet.
  • Google Sheets provides a dedicated "Show Formulas" option in the settings menu.
  • Conditional formatting can be used to visually highlight cells containing formulas.
  • Protecting formulas with cell protection helps prevent accidental modifications.
  • Practice and experiment with different techniques to enhance your proficiency in showing formulas.

Exploring the Formula Bar

The formula bar is an essential tool in Google Sheets that allows users to view, edit, and enter formulas for calculations and data analysis. Located at the top of the spreadsheet interface, the formula bar provides a convenient and accessible way to work with formulas.

Explain the function and location of the formula bar in Google Sheets.

The formula bar serves as a command center for working with formulas in Google Sheets. It displays the contents of the selected cell, including any formulas or data entered. By utilizing the formula bar, users can easily enter and edit formulas, eliminating the need to directly modify cells.

The formula bar is located directly underneath the toolbar. It is a designated area where users can input and modify formulas without directly interacting with the cells in the spreadsheet. This helps maintain data integrity and minimizes the risk of accidental changes to the data.

Discuss how to access and display formulas in the formula bar.

To access and display formulas in the formula bar in Google Sheets, follow these steps:

  • Select the cell or range of cells containing the formula you want to view.
  • Look at the formula bar, which displays the formula for the selected cell(s) if they contain one.
  • If the formula bar is not visible, make sure it is enabled by going to the "View" menu and checking the "Formula bar" option.

Once you have access to the formula bar and it is visible on your screen, you can easily view the formulas associated with specific cells.

Demonstrate the use of the formula bar to show formulas for selected cells.

The formula bar can be utilized to show formulas for selected cells, allowing users to quickly analyze and understand the calculations performed. To do this:

  • Select the cell or range of cells for which you want to view the formulas.
  • Once the cells are selected, the formula(s) associated with those cells will be displayed in the formula bar.
  • You can then examine and analyze the formulas to understand the logic and calculations behind the data in the selected cells.

The formula bar provides a convenient way to check formulas without having to manually select each cell and look at its contents. This helps improve efficiency and accuracy when working with complex calculations or large datasets.

Using the Ctrl + ` Shortcut

In addition to the traditional method of displaying formulas in Google Sheets, there is a handy shortcut that can save you time and effort. By using the Ctrl + ` shortcut, you can instantly reveal all the formulas in your spreadsheet, allowing for easier editing and troubleshooting. In this chapter, we will introduce the Ctrl + ` shortcut, explain how to activate it, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to use it effectively.

Introducing the Ctrl + ` Shortcut

The Ctrl + ` shortcut is a convenient alternative method for displaying formulas in Google Sheets. This shortcut instantly switches between showing the calculated values and revealing the underlying formulas in your spreadsheet.

Activating the Shortcut

Before you can start using the Ctrl + ` shortcut, you need to ensure that it is activated in your Google Sheets settings. To activate the shortcut, follow these simple steps:

  • Click on the "File" menu located at the top left corner of your Google Sheets interface.
  • Select "Settings" from the drop-down menu, and a new window will appear.
  • In the window that appears, click on the "Keyboard shortcuts" tab.
  • Scroll down until you find the "Show formula help" option.
  • Check the box next to "Show formula help" to activate the Ctrl + ` shortcut.
  • Click the "Save" button to save your changes.

Using the Ctrl + ` Shortcut Effectively

Now that you have activated the Ctrl + ` shortcut, let's explore how to use it effectively. Follow these steps:

  1. Open your Google Sheets spreadsheet containing the formulas you want to display.
  2. Position your cursor in any cell of your spreadsheet.
  3. Press and hold the Ctrl key on your keyboard.
  4. While holding the Ctrl key, press the backtick (`) key located below the Esc key.
  5. Release both keys, and all the formulas in your spreadsheet will be instantly revealed.

By using the Ctrl + ` shortcut, you can easily toggle between showing formulas and displaying the calculated values in your Google Sheets. This can be particularly useful when you need to analyze or troubleshoot complex spreadsheets, saving you time and effort.

Now that you know how to activate and use the Ctrl + ` shortcut, you can take advantage of this convenient feature in Google Sheets to streamline your workflow and enhance your productivity.

Utilizing the Show Formulas Option

In Google Sheets, the "Show Formulas" option is a powerful tool that allows users to easily view and display the underlying formulas used in their spreadsheets. This feature can be especially helpful for troubleshooting and verifying formulas, as well as providing greater transparency in spreadsheet calculations. In this step-by-step guide, we will explore how to access and enable the "Show Formulas" feature, as well as demonstrate its use to display formulas for the entire spreadsheet.

Accessing and Enabling the "Show Formulas" Feature

To begin using the "Show Formulas" option, follow these steps:

  1. Open your Google Sheets spreadsheet.
  2. Click on the "File" tab in the menu bar at the top of the page.
  3. From the drop-down menu, select "Settings".
  4. In the settings menu, navigate to the "View" section.
  5. Scroll down until you find the "Show Formulas" option.
  6. To enable the feature, click on the toggle switch next to "Show Formulas". When enabled, the switch will turn blue.

Once you have successfully enabled the "Show Formulas" feature, you can then proceed to view the formulas within your spreadsheet.

Displaying Formulas for the Entire Spreadsheet

Once the "Show Formulas" feature is enabled, you can easily display formulas for the entire spreadsheet by following these steps:

  1. Select all the cells in your spreadsheet by clicking on the top-left corner to highlight the entire sheet.
  2. Right-click on any of the selected cells.
  3. From the context menu that appears, choose "Show formulas".

By selecting the "Show formulas" option, all the formulas in the selected range will be displayed, replacing the calculated values previously visible. This allows you to analyze and evaluate the formulas utilized in your spreadsheet.

It's important to note that enabling the "Show Formulas" option does not modify or change the actual formulas in your spreadsheet. It simply displays them temporarily for your reference, without affecting the calculations or values in your cells.

In conclusion, the "Show Formulas" option in Google Sheets provides users with a valuable tool for easily viewing and displaying formulas in their spreadsheets. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can access and enable this feature, as well as utilize it to display formulas for the entire spreadsheet. This can greatly assist in troubleshooting, verifying formulas, and gaining a deeper understanding of the calculations taking place within your Google Sheets documents.

Employing Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting is a powerful feature in Google Sheets that allows users to apply formatting rules to cells based on specific criteria. This functionality can be successfully used to highlight cells containing formulas, providing an easy way to visually identify and differentiate them from other data. In this chapter, we will explore how to effectively utilize conditional formatting to emphasize formula cells in Google Sheets.

Explaining How Conditional Formatting Can Be Used to Highlight Cells Containing Formulas

Before diving into the step-by-step instructions, it is important to understand the rationale behind using conditional formatting to highlight cells containing formulas in Google Sheets. This approach helps users quickly identify which cells contain formulas, making it easier to distinguish them from other cells within a spreadsheet. By visually differentiating formula cells, users can avoid accidental modifications and ensure the integrity of their data.

Providing Step-by-Step Instructions on Using Conditional Formatting Rules to Emphasize Formula Cells

Follow these steps to employ conditional formatting and highlight formula cells in Google Sheets:

  1. Select the range of cells that you want to apply conditional formatting to. This range may include the entire sheet or a specific set of cells.

  2. Click on the "Format" tab in the toolbar and select "Conditional formatting" from the dropdown menu.

  3. In the "Conditional format rules" sidebar that appears on the right-hand side of the screen, choose the "Format cells if" dropdown and select "Custom formula is" from the list of options.

  4. In the field next to "Custom formula is," enter the formula that will determine if a cell contains a formula. For example, to check if a cell contains a formula, you can use the formula =ISFORMULA(A1).

  5. Select the desired formatting options, such as background color, font style, or text color, to apply to the formula cells.

  6. Click "Done" to apply the conditional formatting rules to the selected range of cells. The formula cells will now be visually emphasized according to the chosen formatting options.

Discussing the Benefits of Using Conditional Formatting to Visually Identify Formulas

By utilizing conditional formatting to visually identify formula cells in Google Sheets, users can experience the following benefits:

  • Ease of identification: With formula cells highlighted, users can instantly spot and differentiate them from other cells, reducing the likelihood of accidental modifications that may affect data integrity.

  • Improved data accuracy: By visually identifying formula cells, users can ensure the correct application of formulas and avoid potential errors, ultimately enhancing the accuracy of their data.

  • Efficient data management: Highlighting formula cells using conditional formatting allows for more efficient data management, as users can quickly navigate and manipulate their spreadsheets, knowing which cells contain formulas.

By following these step-by-step instructions and leveraging the benefits of conditional formatting, users can effectively show formulas in Google Sheets and streamline their data analysis and management processes.

Protecting Formulas with Cell Protection

When working with Google Sheets, it's essential to protect your formulas to prevent accidental modifications. This is particularly crucial when collaborating with others on a spreadsheet, as it ensures the integrity of your data and calculations. In this chapter, we will explore how to effectively protect specific cells containing formulas using cell protection.

Importance of protecting formulas to prevent accidental modifications

Formulas play a vital role in Google Sheets, allowing you to perform calculations and automate processes. Accidental modifications to these formulas can lead to erroneous results and potentially compromise the accuracy of your data. By protecting your formulas, you can avoid these costly mistakes and maintain the reliability of your spreadsheet.

How to protect specific cells containing formulas using cell protection

To protect specific cells that contain formulas, Google Sheets offers a feature called cell protection. By applying cell protection, you can restrict users from making changes to these critical cells while still allowing them to edit other parts of the spreadsheet. Follow these steps to set up cell protection:

  • Select the cells containing formulas: Begin by highlighting the cells that you want to protect. You can do this by clicking and dragging your cursor over the desired cells or holding down the Ctrl key and individually clicking on the cells.
  • Access the cell protection feature: Once the cells are selected, right-click anywhere within the selected area. A context menu will appear, and you should choose "Protect range" from the options listed.
  • Define the protection settings: A sidebar will appear on the right-hand side of the screen, allowing you to customize the protection settings. Here, you can specify who can edit the protected cells, such as yourself, specific individuals, or everyone in your organization. You can also add a description for future reference.
  • Confirm the protection: After configuring the protection settings, click on the "Set Permissions" button to apply the changes. The selected cells containing formulas are now protected, and only those with authorized access can make modifications to them.

Setting up cell protection to safeguard formulas

To safeguard your formulas effectively, it's crucial to establish cell protection for specific cells. To do so:

  • Identify the cells with critical formulas: Before applying cell protection, identify the cells that contain important formulas. These are typically cells where calculations are performed or data dependencies exist.
  • Follow the steps mentioned above: Use the step-by-step instructions provided earlier in this chapter to select and protect the specific cells that contain formulas.
  • Regularly review and update permissions: Over time, the individuals who require access to the protected cells may change. Make it a habit to periodically review and update the permissions to ensure that only authorized users can modify the formulas.

By following these steps, you can effectively protect your formulas and prevent accidental modifications in Google Sheets. This not only ensures the accuracy and integrity of your data but also promotes a collaborative environment where users can confidently work with your spreadsheet.


Being able to show formulas in Google Sheets is a crucial skill for anyone working with data. By displaying formulas, you can easily review and verify the calculations, ensuring accuracy and minimizing errors. Throughout this step-by-step guide, we explored various methods to help you showcase formulas in Google Sheets effectively.


  • Using the keyboard shortcut: Simply press Ctrl + ` to toggle between showing formulas and displaying the results.
  • Using the formula bar: By clicking on the formula bar, you can temporarily view the formula in the selected cell.
  • Using the Show formula option: Access this feature by going to File > Spreadsheet settings > Show formula bar to have formulas visible in a dedicated bar at the top of your sheet.

Remember, practice makes perfect! It's essential to experiment with these techniques and find the ones that work best for your workflow. The more comfortable you become with displaying formulas, the more efficient and confident you'll be in working with complex spreadsheets.

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