15 de octubre de 2008

Unexpected result

Versión en español.

When you type an equal sign and a function name (for example "=SUM") and press Enter, you get the #NAME? error, because Excel "thinks" that you want to work with a name, wich is not defined.

Or not?

A few days ago, I was working on a model involving date calculations. Since I wanted to calculate the number of labor days between two dates, I used the NETWORKDAYS function.
However, while writing the formula, I (accidentally) hit Enter right after the function name (i. e. "=NETWORKDAYS", Enter). Unexpectedly Excel returned:


Where that number comes from, what does it refers to, or why I got preciselly that number and no other, is something that I completely ignore. Since this behavior was totally unexpected, I wanted to repeat it in other machines. Same result. I wondered if this would happen too with other functions, so I tried with =MAX, =MIN, =OFFSET, =RIGHT, =MID, and some others. In all this cases I got the expected #NAME? However, trying with =CONVERT gave me:


Other results were:

=WORKDAY, 1679294519

=CONVERT, 638844971

There's even negative results. =WEEKNUM returns -601489317.

I concluded that this is an exclusive behavior of the Analysis Toolpak add-in functions (for a complete list of functions and results, click here).

Continuing with these tests in my lab (sure...), I tested now with other add-ins functions I've downloaded from the web. For example, with =COUNTDIFF I got: 1769668796. With all the functions of my add-ins I watched the same behavior. After this, I tried with some UDF's. In all cases I got #NAME?, so I had to modify my original theory: This behavior ocurrs with any function that belongs to any add-in (ATP or any other), but it doesn't happen nor with built-in neither user defined functions.

Since all this was kind of an oddity to me, I sent an e-mail to John Walkenbach (brief Spanish biography). This was my original message:

Hi John:

I entered this “formula”:


Notice that I didn’t put the parenthesis. Excel returned:


That happens only whit add-in’s functions. With any other built-in function Excel returns, as usual, #NAME?

Other examples:

=NETWORKDAYS produces 840368184

=WEEKNUM, -601489317

=UNIQUEVALUES, -1451032386

=WORKDAY, 1679294519

Always the syntax =[add-in function] (no parenthesis)

I think this is kind of an oddity. Or, if you may explain me where those numbers came from…

Thank you.

This was his reply:

That's pretty strange. It doesn't happen in Excel 2007 because the ATP functions are now built-in.

I have Excel 2003 installed, but I didn't install the ATP. I'll see if I can find the original CD and install the ATP to check it out.


If any reader have some idea of why Excel returns this mysterious numbers, please post your comments.

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