How to Get Excel to Automatically Insert plus/addition sign

Occasional Visitor

I just upgraded to Office 2019 (Win 10) from Office 2008 (mac).

In the old version, when I wanted to add up several cells, I would type the = sign and then click once on each cell I was interested in adding. Excel would assume I was adding and automatically insert the + sign between clicks. I did not have to type the + sign.

If I wanted any other operation, than I would have to manually type the - * / keys.

In the new version, this does not happen -- clicking on the cell just inserts the cell location and I must manually type the + key if I want to add.

Is there a way to get the functionality from the 2008 version in the 2021 version?

6 Replies



There are different options depending on where you want to use it. Here are a few options.


a) Keyboard shortcuts in Excel

Many users find that using an external keyboard with keyboard shortcuts for Excel helps them work more efficiently. For users with mobility or vision disabilities, keyboard shortcuts can be easier than using the touchscreen, and are an essential alternative to using a mouse.




b) Mark numbers with the plus sign. First mark the cell area, click the marked area with the right mouse button and invoke the "Format cells" command.

In the "Numbers" tab, mark the "User-defined" category and enter the following format in the "Type" input field:


+0; -0; 0


After clicking OK, the signs appear in the marked area for both positive and negative numbers.


c) Hold down the Alt key (to the left of the space bar).

Now enter the following number combination on the number pad: 0, 1, 7, 7.

    The plus minus sign ± should now appear in your text document or search field.

If this doesn't work on the first try, it could be because your keypad is not activated. However, this is relatively easy to fix: Simply press the Num key (top left on the numeric keypad), if another LED lights up on your keyboard or laptop, the numeric keypad should be active.

Now try the key combination again.



Thank you for your patience and understanding.


If the template link from Microsoft helped you, Please Mark and Vote if it helps, as it will be beneficial to more Community members reading here.





I read the above answer , and it makes absolutely no sense, What so ever.


Why, was it once automatic to have the + sign added when clicking on multiple cells, and now it is not - (who's brilliant idea was it to screw up such a basic and essential function of Excel?) and how in the H. does one re-implement it - in plane and simple language- not 15 different steps - Really folks, why can't this be simple?


As a simple user like you, I can only recommend giving feedback or suggestions to Excel if suggestions and/or changes are to be made or desired.

Some information about it.

How do I give feedback on Microsoft 365?

UserVoice Pages


Thank you for your understanding and time


Hi @NikolinoDE ,

Like my earlier comment, obscurity seems to be the name of the game here.

I am of course giving feedback and making a suggestion.


Specifically, Please don't make systems so obscure, and not intuitive.  More specifically; What is the simple way to add a plus sign after each reference clicked on like like Excel use to do?  Is it just a preferences change due to a new version of excel, or a feature change?  I may not be an Einstein, but after spending a small bit of time the simple answer to this simple question is not showing up.  I'll keep looking, but such a basic and useful function shouldn't be so hard to find. 


@NikolinoDE , I might add, if you had the time to send what looked like a slight reprimand to my frustrated comments, you could have just answered my question.
Do you understand my question ?
If so, what do you know about the answer?
Does anyone else know the answer to this simple question?
It is driving me a bit nuts, after just searching again all the online forums I could find with no luck.
I am dearly hoping that the setting to return this feature is buried in a settings page somewhere and has not become a "Depreciated" function.
But if anyone knows please say!