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## Working With Text in Excel

Working with text in Excel is important. Usually Excel worksheets will contain not only numbers, formulas and functions but also text. For example if we enter data about staff or students in a class, we will certainly enter names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. We must be able to manipulate such data. Suppose, we have entered the names as full names in our Excel sheet and we need to separate the full names into first and last names. Or, we have email addresses and we want to compare these addresses with data in our database. Sometimes we may have first and last names in separate Excel worksheet cells and we may need to bring the first name and last name together. How can we manipulate such text in Excel? The following are the actions we should be aware of:

‘=LEFT(text, number of characters from left)’

Example: We want to extract first name from full name like ‘Tom Hawkins’. We will use a formula like ‘=LEFT(B1,3)’ where B1 is the Excel cell that contains the name. Similarly we can extract the last name using ‘=RIGHT(B1,7)’. So far so good. But what if we have a list of the following names, ‘Tom Hawkins’, ‘Hari Malhotra’ and ‘Dick Cheney’.

We have to write the formulas every 3 times to complete the text extraction! Is there an easier way? Yes!

The functions ‘Length’ and ‘Find’ come into play here. The function ‘=length(text)’ finds the number of characters in a name. The function ‘=find(text_in_text’,text)’ finds, for example, the ‘space’ between the first and last name. Then by combining the above four functions ‘left’, right’, ‘find’ and ‘length’ properly, we can easily create formulas that help us extract information without repeating the formulas for each name.

We can write the following formulas to extract first name and last name:

‘= left(text, find(” “,text-1)’

‘= right((text),(lane(text)-find(” “,text)))

The first function extracts the characters in the space between the first and last name from the left. Since ‘space’ is also included we subtract ‘1’ to get the correct result.

The second function is a bit more complicated. Here we want to get the last name and we extract it from the right. So we find the length of the name and finally subtract the integer from the ‘find’ function to get the exact number of letters from the right.

There are other interesting and easy-to-use text functions such as ‘mid’, ‘proper’, ‘exact’, ‘trim’, concatenate and ‘instr’. Of course, if you need to regularly perform such manipulations on your Excel worksheet, you can create an Excel macro to do the above.

Using these strategies and other text functions you can extract interesting information from your Excel worksheet data!

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