In this simple guide, we are going to run through how to use the NOW function in Excel, along with some examples of the outputs.
We will cover:
- What is the NOW function?
- The formula
- Formatting and considerations of the NOW function
- Example outputs of the formulas
- NOW vs TODAY
What is the NOW function in Excel?
The NOW function in excel, is a relatively simple formula that outputs the current date and time. As it literally outputs the current date and time, if you were to close the document and open it up again 5 minutes later the output would now reflect the current time as opposed to the output when you first created it.
The NOW formula
The formula itself as a base is super simple. It is literally the word NOW, with empty parentheses:
If we were to enter this formula the output would look like the below, based on this guide being writted in the afternoon of October 22nd 2022:
As discussed however, if we were to close the file, and re-open it a little while later without making any changes to the file or formulas, the output has now updated slightly:
As we can see, the formula itself is quite basic. Where it gets more powerful is by using it in combination with other formula functions, such as simple addition or subtraction. Something like the below for example will output same time but for yesterday:
=NOW() – 1
Formatting and considerations of the NOW function
As we are working with date and time, it is important to note the output that is produced.
The output may vary slightly depending on the system you are using – for example the date formatting differences between the US and UK for example with the order of months and days appearing differently, but it will always be based on the current time of the computer you are using. For example in a country where dates are represented as day/month/year a typical output of NOW will be:
Example outputs of the NOW function
Let’s look at a few quick examples of different ways this function can be used
Firstly, as discussed earlier a simple NOW() without any additional input will simply display the current date and time.
To calculate specific dates in the past or future, we can simply use the addition or subtraction followed by that number. For example – 1 is yesterday, + 7 is one week from now.
This formula gets even more powerful when combined with the TIME function, as it allows us to calculate specific times. This could be handy when calculating exact deadlines.
Let’s say we wanted to display the time exactly one hour and thirty minutes from now. We would use the TIME function, with the hour, minutes, and seconds within the parenthesis. For example:
=TIME(1, 30, 0)
Examples of the required outputs, the formula, and the displayed output are as follows:
As we can see, the combinations can be quite powerful when working with a combination of days and times.
NOW vs TODAY
An alternative and slightly more simple approach to the NOW function, is to use TODAY. This function conceptually is exactly the same as NOW, as is simply involves typing the word TODAY followed by empty parentheses:
Example outputs of the two are below. Note that if you have Excel set up so the output cell includes time, it will simply display as midnight.
This sums up out guide on how to use the NOW function in Excel. As we can see, it is a very simple formula that displays the current date and time, but used in the right situation and in combination with additional formulas can prove to be quite powerful and handy.
For more handy guides on working with Excel, be sure to check out our Excel Tips page.