ABS: Google Sheets Formulae Explained

Google Sheets, a product of Google's web-based software office suite, offers a wide range of features and functionalities. One of these is the ability to use various formulae to manipulate and analyze data. In this discussion, we will delve into the ABS function, a simple yet powerful tool in Google Sheets.

Understanding the ABS Function

The ABS function in Google Sheets is a mathematical formula used to return the absolute value of a number. The absolute value of a number is its distance from zero, regardless of direction. In other words, whether the number is negative or positive, the ABS function will always return a positive value.

This function is particularly useful when you are dealing with data that includes negative values, but you are only interested in their magnitude and not their sign. For instance, if you are calculating differences between two values and you want to avoid negative results, the ABS function comes in handy.

ABS Function Syntax

The syntax of the ABS function is straightforward and easy to understand. It only requires one argument, which is the number or cell reference you want to find the absolute value of. The syntax is as follows:


Here, 'value' represents the number or cell reference whose absolute value you want to find. The 'value' can be a number, a cell reference, or a result of another function.

Applying the ABS Function in Google Sheets

Now that we have a basic understanding of what the ABS function is and its syntax, let's explore how to apply it in Google Sheets. The application of this function is straightforward, but it's essential to understand its practical use.

Let's consider a scenario where you have a list of numbers, both positive and negative, and you want to convert all the negative numbers to positive. Here's how you can do it:

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open your Google Sheets document.
  2. Select the cell where you want to display the result.
  3. Type the ABS function syntax. For instance, if the number is in cell A2, you would type =ABS(A2).
  4. Press Enter. The absolute value of the number in cell A2 will be displayed in the selected cell.

It's important to note that if the cell reference in the ABS function changes, the result will also change accordingly. This is because the function is dynamic and responds to the data in the referenced cell.

Advanced Usage of the ABS Function

While the ABS function is relatively simple, it can be combined with other Google Sheets functions for more advanced data analysis. This is one of the strengths of Google Sheets - the ability to combine functions to create more complex and powerful formulas.

ABS with SUM Function

One common use case is combining the ABS function with the SUM function. This is particularly useful when you want to find the sum of absolute values in a range of cells. The syntax for this is:


This formula will return the sum of the absolute values of the numbers in the range A2:A10.

ABS with IF Function

You can also combine the ABS function with the IF function to create a condition-based formula. For example, you can create a formula that checks if a number is negative, and if so, converts it to a positive number. If the number is already positive, it remains the same. The syntax for this is:

=IF(A2<0, ABS(A2), A2)

This formula checks if the number in cell A2 is less than zero (negative). If it is, it returns the absolute value of the number, effectively making it positive. If the number is not less than zero (i.e., it's positive), it simply returns the number as it is.


The ABS function in Google Sheets is a simple yet powerful tool that can help you manipulate and analyze your data more effectively. Whether you're dealing with basic data conversion or more complex, condition-based calculations, the ABS function, especially when combined with other functions, can be incredibly useful.

Remember, the key to mastering Google Sheets functions lies in understanding their syntax, how they work, and how they can be combined for more advanced data analysis. So, keep exploring, keep learning, and make the most of these powerful tools at your disposal.

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