While arrays are great for grouping a system of formulas, their real advantage is to enable complex subtotals and lookups that ordinary Excel functions fail to support, through a technique known as the array sum or the conditional sum.
The general syntax is:
{=SUM(
[condition 1]*
[condition 2]*…
[value 1]*…
)
}
Note the brackets enclosing the formula. To enter the formula as an array, press CTRL+ALT+Enter.
Each of the conditions and values is an array of corresponding size (equal size most of the time, but not necessarily). The enclosing SUM() function and the array brackets serve as a SUMPRODUCT(). Note that
=SUMPRODUCT([array 1], [array 2], …)
is equivalent to
{=SUM([array 1]*[array 2]*…)}
The array sum multiplies the value array by one or more condition arrays, which contain 0’s and 1’s (FALSE and TRUE). These condition arrays serve as filters (or masks) to zeroout values not corresponding to the specified conditions. By picking up the remaining values this way, we can take SUMIF(), COUNTIF(), VLOOKUP() and other functions beyond one condition and one dimension.
Below is an example of box office sales records. To make sense of this data, we’d often need to analyze subsets of the records.
With SUMIF() and COUNTIF() functions, we can easily obtain a subtotal for all sales in July. We’ll practice using an array sum instead:
{=SUM(
([month column]=”July”)*
([sales column])
)
}
Note that by omitting the [sales column], we’d be counting the number of records instead of summing their values.
Moving on, let’s get a subtotal for all June sales in Roanoke. SUMIF() and COUNTIF() fail to be useful here.
{=SUM(
([month column]=”June”)*
([city column]=”Roanoke”)*
([sales column])
)
}
Similarly, we can add a third condition (or in fact, as many as necessary):
{=SUM(
([month column]=”August”)*
([city column]=”New York”)*
([movie column]=”Transformers”)*
([sales column])
)
}
In the last example, only one record satisfies all conditions. The result is similar to that of a VLOOKUP(), except of course, we have a lot more freedom by using an array sum. Sometimes, you might find yourself needing to specify more than one condition in a lookup and not wanting to double count any potential duplication of records. What you can do is to use a MAX() function in place of the SUM() to limit the result to one record.
Here is a typical data snapshot summarizing the subtotals in a twodimensional table:
Lastly, let’s see how an array sum can obtain subtotals (or singlevalue lookups) in such a two dimensional array. The trick is to line up the dimensions of the condition and value arrays:
{=SUM(
([3×1 month column]=”July”)*
([1×3 movie row]=”Batman”)*
([3×3 sales table array])
)
}
This article provides an introduction to the more advanced methods of using Excel formulas. Once you get familiar with these methods, you will find a much more satisfying experience analyzing data in Excel.

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