Microsoft Excel COUNTA Function Tutorial

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Microsoft Excel COUNTA Function Tutorial

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The COUNTA Function counts the number of occupied worksheet cells within a given worksheet range regardless of information type. It ignores blank cells. It is the corner stone for building dynamic names that adjust to shifting data on the worksheet and building smart formulas that adjust to changing data conditions.

What is the Microsoft Excel COUNTA Function?

The COUNTA function is a computer program that you run from a worksheet cell formula. It counts the number of occupied worksheet cells within a given worksheet area (called a range). You run the COUNTA function by typing its name in a formula then followed by the information it is suppose to count. The COUNTA worksheet function is generally used to determine things like how many of something do I have based on the number of entries. For instance, if you have a worksheet with sales information in it and you wanted to count how many sales you made, you could have the COUNTA function look down a filled in column or row and determine how many cells have values in them. This function, however, does not sum the values of the cells, it only counts that they exist. It counts any type of cell value. The COUNTA function is capable of looking at thousands of cell values together at once. The COUNTA worksheet function is most commonly used to look across a row of numbers or down a column of numbers on the worksheet.

How Do You Type the COUNTA Worksheet Function in a Formula?

Whenever you type a formula in a worksheet cell, this is called syntax or grammar. The general COUNTA function syntax has a format like this when you type it in a worksheet cell:

=COUNTA(value1,[value2], ...)

Where value1, [value2] ..... are called the function argument list. Remember, you are running a computer program at this point so the program needs information to operate and that is why there is an argument list. When you see an argument list and you see square brackets [ ] around the argument name, this means the argument is optional and you do not have to include it when typing unless you need it. So for the syntax above, you need to include one argument for the COUNTA function when typing it in a worksheet cell formula in order for it to calculate correctly. How many arguments can be placed in the list is dependent upon the Excel version you are using. What argument values can be used are discussed below. Remember functions expect certain things in their argument lists, if you do not put the correct information in the list they will generate an error when run.

How Do You Run the COUNTA Function?

Since the COUNTA function is a computer program, it runs when you press Enter to enter the formula that contains it. If any of the arguments are wrong, the function will return an error.

What Do I Type for a COUNTA Function Argument?

When typing the COUNTA function in a worksheet cell formula, you need to replace the value1... argument list with arguments separating each argument with a comma (,). Some typical arguments you can use are:

Argument Type Cell Formula Example Explanation
Cell Reference = COUNTA( A1, B1 ) Count if cells A1 and B1 are occupied
Range Reference = COUNTA( A1:A10 ) Count how many occupied cells are in cells A1 to A10
Column Reference = COUNTA( C:C ) Count how many occupied cells are in column C
Row Reference = COUNTA( 1:1 ) Count how many occupied cells are in row 1
Multiple Columns and Rows  = COUNTA( A1:A10, C1:C10 ) Count how many occupied cells are in A1 to A10 and from C1 to C10
Cell and Range Names  = COUNTA( Sales_2012 )  Count how many occupied cells are in the range named Sales_2012 * 

* It is possible to name a cell or group of cells on a worksheet and use that name in place of a range reference or cell reference. Consult Excel help on how to name a cell.

Additional COUNTA Function Examples

The worksheet seen below contains some typical worksheet formulas that run the COUNTA worksheet function. Pay close attention to the argument list and the syntax used to write the formula.

1 Quantity  = COUNTA( A1:A100 )  Counts how many occupied cells are in cells A1 to A100. If your table starts at row 1 and column A has no blanks, you just figured out the ending row number of the table
2 100     
1     Used to figure out the ending row of the table that starts at A2. String concatenation is used to build the range reference text used by INDIRECT which then flips it to a valid range used by VLOOKUP. Self adjusting formula that grows with your data in that range. 100 was picked as an upper limit because you know your data does not pass that limit. You have to add 1 to the count because your table starts at row 2
2 Item Quantity =VLOOKUP("12-x" , INDIRECT( "A2:B" & COUNTA( A2:A100 ) + 1 ) , 2 , False )
3 11-x 100  
4 12-x 200  
5 13-x 300  
6 14-x 400  

Things to Know About the COUNTA Function

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