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A formula is a spreadsheet function entered in a cell, complete with its arguments. You can enter formulas in several ways.

The quickest way to enter a formula is to start typing, either in the cell itself, or at the input line. If you are typing in the cell, as soon as you type an operator, such as an equal sign or less than sign (<), then the formula tools become active on the Formula bar.

The trouble with both these methods is that typos are easy to make. Also, unless you are entering a formula that you use all the time, you may not remember its structure. For this reason, manual input of a formula is best for basic formulas or ones that you use all the time.

A more reliable method is to use the Function List. Available from the Insert menu, the Function List automatically docks as a pane on the right side of the Calc editing window. If you wish, you can Control+double-click on a blank space at the top of the pane to undock this pane and make it a floating window.

The Function List includes a brief description of each function and its arguments; highlight the function and look at the bottom of the pane to see the description. If necessary, hover the cursor over the division between the list and the description; when the cursor becomes a two-headed arrow, drag it upwards to increase the space for the description. Double-click on a function’s name to add it to the current cell, together with placeholders for each of the function’s arguments.

Using the Function List is almost as fast as manual entry, and has the advantage of not requiring that you memorize a formula that you want to use. In theory, it should also be less error-prone. In practice, though, some users may fumble when replacing the placeholders with values. Another handy feature is the ability to display the last formulas used.

This part describes the use and options of the Data Pilot in detail.