BITOR: Excel Formulae Explained

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool that offers a vast range of functionalities to its users. One of the most potent features of Excel is its formulas. Among these, the BITOR function is a lesser-known but highly useful function that can be used to perform bitwise OR operations. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the details of the BITOR function, its usage, and its applications.

Understanding the BITOR Function

The BITOR function in Excel is a part of the suite of Bitwise functions introduced in Excel 2013. These functions are designed to perform bitwise operations, which are fundamental to computer programming and digital electronics. The BITOR function, in particular, performs the bitwise OR operation on two numbers.

Before we delve into the specifics of the BITOR function, it is essential to understand what a bitwise OR operation is. In computer programming, bitwise operations manipulate data at the bit level. The OR operation, in particular, compares each binary digit of two binary numbers and returns a new binary number. If at least one of the bits is 1, the resulting bit will be 1. Otherwise, it will be 0.

BITOR Function Syntax

The syntax of the BITOR function in Excel is as follows:

=BITOR(number1, number2)

Here, 'number1' and 'number2' are the two numbers on which the bitwise OR operation is to be performed. Both these numbers should be non-negative integers.

Using the BITOR Function

Using the BITOR function in Excel is straightforward. However, it is crucial to ensure that the inputs provided are valid. As mentioned earlier, the BITOR function only works with non-negative integers. If any other type of input is provided, the function will return an error.

To use the BITOR function, simply enter the function into a cell, followed by the two numbers you wish to perform the operation on, separated by a comma. For example, if you wanted to perform a BITOR operation on the numbers 5 and 3, you would enter the following into a cell:


Handling Errors

As with any Excel function, it's possible to encounter errors while using the BITOR function. The most common error is the #NUM! error, which occurs when one or both of the input numbers are negative or non-integers.

To avoid this error, always ensure that the inputs to the BITOR function are non-negative integers. If you're using cell references as inputs, make sure the referenced cells contain the correct data type.

Applications of the BITOR Function

The BITOR function, like other bitwise functions, is primarily used in computer programming and digital electronics. However, it can also be used in other fields where bitwise operations are required.

For example, in network engineering, the BITOR function can be used to calculate subnet masks. In data analysis, it can be used to perform operations on binary data. The BITOR function can also be used in mathematical calculations involving binary numbers.

Combining BITOR with Other Functions

The BITOR function can be combined with other Excel functions to perform more complex operations. For example, the BITAND function, which performs a bitwise AND operation, can be used in conjunction with the BITOR function to perform certain types of digital logic operations.

Similarly, the BITOR function can be combined with the IF function to perform conditional bitwise operations. This can be particularly useful in scenarios where the operation needs to be performed only under certain conditions.


The BITOR function in Excel is a powerful tool that can be used to perform bitwise OR operations. While it may not be as commonly used as some of the other functions in Excel, it offers unique functionality that can be highly useful in certain scenarios.

Understanding how to use the BITOR function effectively can greatly enhance your Excel skills, particularly if you're involved in fields such as computer programming, digital electronics, network engineering, or data analysis.

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