ABS: Google Sheets Formulas Explained for Beginners

Are you tired of manually computing your data in Google Sheets? Do numbers and formulas scare you? Fear no more! As a marketing expert, I know how overwhelming it can be to navigate through formulas, especially for beginners. That's why I'm here to help you understand the most commonly used formulas in Google Sheets, starting with ABS.

What is ABS?

ABS is short for "absolute value" and is a mathematical concept that gives you the distance, regardless of direction, between any number and zero. If the number is positive, the absolute value is the same as the original number. If the number is negative, the absolute value is the positive equivalent of the number.

But what can you use ABS for in Google Sheets? The most common use is to get the positive value of a cell, regardless of if the original input was positive or negative.

How To Use ABS In Google Sheets

Using ABS in Google Sheets is simple. Type the formula “=ABS(number)” into a cell where you want to display the absolute value. Replace "number" with the cell reference or the value you want to compute.

For example, let's say you want to find the absolute value of the difference between two cells A2 and B2, which contain negative numbers. Simply type " =ABS(A2-B2) " in a cell and Google Sheets will return the positive value of the subtraction. Easy, right?

ABS Scenario Examples

Let's look into some common scenarios where ABS can come in handy:

Scenario 1: Tracking inventory

Imagine you're running an online shop and you want to track your inventory. You have a sheet that shows your current stock and how many items have been sold. You want to calculate how many items are left in stock. Some of your products are sold out, and the number of sold items exceeds the available stock for others. Here's what you can do:

  1. Use column A to list your products
  2. Use column B to show the current stock
  3. Use column C to show how many items have been sold
  4. Use the formula “=ABS(B2-C2)” in column D to get the number of items left in stock

This will give you the absolute value of the difference between the current stock and the sold items, which you can use to determine what products require restocking.

Scenario 2: Tracking distance

Imagine you're planning a road trip and want to track the distance traveled each day. You can use Google Maps to plan your route and calculate the distance between each city. You can then use the ABS formula to get the total distance traveled at the end of each day, regardless of whether you traveled east or west. Here's what you can do:

  1. List the cities in column A
  2. Use column B to show the distance between each city
  3. Use the formula “=ABS(SUM(B2:B))” in column C to get the total distance traveled at the end of each day

This formula will give you the total positive distance traveled each day, regardless of the direction.


As you can see, the ABS formula in Google Sheets is a powerful tool that can help you save time and effort when computing your data. It’s perfect for tracking inventory, distance, or anything else where you need to get the absolute value of a cell easily. Don’t be afraid to try it out and experiment with different scenarios. The more you practice, the more familiar you'll become with ABS, and the more time you'll save in the future!

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