The NOW Function in Excel: What It is and How to Use It

What is the Now Function in Excel?

For those new to all things Microsoft software, the now function in Excel continuously updates the date and time whenever there is a change within your document. You can either format the value by now as a date or opt to apply it as a date and time with a numerical format. The purpose of the function is to set (and keep track of) the date and time.

Notes on Use

While the Now function in Excel does not have parameters, it does require empty parenthesis. The value returned by the Now function automatically updates after each refresh. If you need to, you can use “F9” to force the worksheet to refresh, recalculate, and update the value. For those of you who need a static time (e.g. one that won’t change), you can use the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + Shift” to enter the current time.

The NOW Function in Excel returns the current date and time − formatted as date and time − as shown below in cell B1. If the cell format was General before using the function, Excel will change the cell format to match your regional settings for date and time.

NOW Function in Action

The NOW Function has no arguments, but the empty parentheses () is required, as seen in the formula bar above.

NOW Function in Excel

The NOW Function in Excel is Volatile, meaning every time Excel calculates the worksheet the function result changes. And you can’t always tell when this will happen. To see what I mean, enter a NOW Function in a worksheet cell then play around with the worksheet.

I’m not a big fan of Volatile functions. Used sparingly they can serve a specific purpose, but left unchecked in a workbook with a large amount of data they can drastically slow things down.

The cell formatting in cell B2 is General and you can see the serial number. The integer to the left of the decimal point represents the date, and the numbers to the right of the decimal point represent time.

The B3 cell format is Date and you see only the date portion. The B4 cell format is Time and you see only the time portion. Both cells have the same underlying value, 40409.47966.

Tip for Static Date or Time in Now Function in Excel

You can of course insert a timestamp into the cell. To enter the current date into a worksheet use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+; (semicolon). To enter the current time use Ctrl+Shift+: (colon). Both are static entries that won’t change.

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