BITLSHIFT: Excel Formulae Explained

The BITLSHIFT function in Excel is a powerful tool that allows users to manipulate binary data in unique ways. This function, which stands for "binary left shift," is part of Excel's suite of bitwise operations, which perform actions on binary numbers at the bit level. Understanding how to use the BITLSHIFT function can open up new possibilities for data analysis and manipulation in Excel.

Understanding Binary Numbers

Before diving into the specifics of the BITLSHIFT function, it's important to have a basic understanding of binary numbers. Binary is a number system that uses only two digits: 0 and 1. Each digit in a binary number represents a power of 2, starting from the rightmost digit (also known as the least significant bit) and moving left.

For example, the binary number 101 represents the decimal number 5. This is because the rightmost digit represents 2^0 (or 1), the middle digit represents 2^1 (or 2), and the leftmost digit represents 2^2 (or 4). By adding up the values represented by the 1s in the binary number (4 and 1), we get the decimal number 5.

What is the BITLSHIFT Function?

The BITLSHIFT function in Excel is a bitwise operation that shifts the bits of a binary number to the left by a specified number of places. The syntax for the function is BITLSHIFT(number, shift_amount), where "number" is the decimal number you want to shift and "shift_amount" is the number of places to shift the bits.

When you shift the bits of a binary number to the left, you're effectively multiplying the number by 2 for each place you shift. This is because each place in a binary number represents a power of 2, so moving a bit to the left increases its value by a factor of 2.

How to Use the BITLSHIFT Function

To use the BITLSHIFT function in Excel, you'll need to enter it as part of a formula in a cell. For example, if you wanted to shift the bits of the decimal number 5 to the left by 2 places, you would enter the following formula: =BITLSHIFT(5, 2).

When you press Enter, Excel will calculate the result and display it in the cell. In this case, the result would be 20. This is because shifting the bits of the binary number 101 (which represents the decimal number 5) to the left by 2 places results in the binary number 10100, which represents the decimal number 20.

Practical Applications of the BITLSHIFT Function

The BITLSHIFT function can be used in a variety of ways to manipulate and analyze data in Excel. For example, you can use it to quickly multiply numbers by powers of 2, which can be useful in calculations involving binary data.

Another potential use for the BITLSHIFT function is in the creation of custom functions or formulas. By combining BITLSHIFT with other Excel functions, you can create powerful formulas that perform complex calculations and data manipulations.

Limitations and Considerations

While the BITLSHIFT function is a powerful tool, it's important to be aware of its limitations. The function can only shift bits to the left, not to the right. If you need to shift bits to the right, you'll need to use the BITRSHIFT function instead.

Additionally, the BITLSHIFT function can only handle decimal numbers up to 281474976710655 (or 2^48 - 1). If you try to shift a larger number, Excel will return a #NUM! error.


The BITLSHIFT function in Excel is a versatile tool that can be used to manipulate binary data in a variety of ways. By understanding how this function works and how to use it, you can unlock new possibilities for data analysis and manipulation in Excel.

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