What is Excel NOW Function?

Excel NOW function is an Excel function categorized under the Date and Time function in Excel. It is regarded as a volatile function that displays the current date and time in the selected cell of your worksheet.

When used in a worksheet, it is updated whenever the worksheet is refreshed, re-opened or recalculated.

Excel NOW function

How Does Excel NOW Function Work?

The NOW function takes no input argument just like TODAY function, and returns a serial number which represents the current date and time.

Dates in Microsoft Excel are stored in serial numbers and so, they can be used to perform calculations.

Furthermore, by default, dates in Excel starts from January 1, 1900 which has the serial number 1 and January 1, 2018 has the serial number 43101. This is because it is 43,101 days after January 1, 1900.

In the result returned, the numbers to the left of the decimal point represents the date, while the numbers to the right of the decimal point represents the time.


The syntax used for Excel NOW function is:

=NOW( )

Input Arguments

Excel NOW function does not take any input arguments. It is used with an empty parenthesis ( ).

When Excel NOW Function is Used?

The NOW function is used to get the current date and time value. So, it is used when you want to perform a calculation based on the current time or when you want the time updated whenever a worksheet is opened.

In addition, NOW function is ideal when your worksheet requires printing, or a time stamp on the print out of the worksheet.

Important Points to Note

  • The result returned by NOW function is a serial number with a decimal portion which is the standard Excel date and the fractional portion for the time. You will have to apply the date format to display the result as a date or a customized format to include the time.
  • The value returned by NOW function updates continually every time the worksheet is updated. It performs the re-calculation anytime the excel workbook is open or whenever a calculation is performed in the worksheet. This means that the result of the NOW function keeps changing based on the current date and time.
  • Also, you can force the worksheet to recalculate by using the F9 key. This will refresh the formula and update automatically.
  • Because it is a volatile function and hence performs the re-calculation very often, it adds to the processing time and tends to slow down the operation in your workbook.
  • If you want a static date and time (that is, one that does not recalculate), you will either manually enter the value or use Excel shortcut Ctrl + Shift + : to insert current time and Ctrl + ; to insert current date.

If NOW function is already contained in cells in the worksheet, copy the current time with Ctrl + C and use paste special with Alt + E + S + V to make the value static.

  • If you use the Excel NOW function and you don’t want it to recalculate every now and then, you can change the settings of the calculation from automatic to manual by going to Excel Options.
  • You can also get the current date without the time value by using TODAY function.

How to Use Excel NOW Function: Examples & Formulas

This is one of the simple functions in Microsoft Excel as it does not require any input argument.

It can be used alone or with other functions like EDATE, EMONTH or TODAY to perform basic arithmetic operations.

To make use of any Excel functions, you can either access it on the ribbon in the Formula tab or manually enter the function directly into the required cell.

So now, let’s get started with some examples with NOW function.

Option 1: Using Excel NOW Function through the Ribbon

You can use the NOW function using the ribbon by following these steps:

a. Click on the required cell location in the worksheet.

b. Click on the Formulas tab and click on the Date & Time option.

c. Select NOW option and it will be displayed in the selected cell.

Excel NOW Function

d. In the dialog box, click Ok.

Option 2: Enter Excel NOW Function Manually

The examples shown below shows the various ways Excel NOW function can be used by entering the formula manually in the cell.

It shows various formulas you can use with NOW function with.

When NOW function or any Date function is used, Excel returns a serial number in which the dates are stored. You will need to format the cells to date or custom format to display the result as date and time as shown above.  

Option 3: Excel NOW Function & Time Zones

As you have seen, the NOW function returns the current date and time based on the local time zone. However, the NOW function can also be used to calculate the time according to other standard time zones.

This is done by combining both NOW and TIME functions in one formula.

Excel NOW function

So in the above example, we have used the formula to calculate the current time in the different countries from Nigeria based on the different time zones.

For instance, Nigeria is ahead of Canada by 6 hrs, and so we will deduct this time from NOW function using the Excel TIME function.

Now, to get the current time in Canada from Nigeria, you use the formula:

             =NOW( )-TIME(hrs, mins, secs)

Which is:

          =NOW( )-TIME(6,0,0)

Therefore, even if the time difference in Canada is 6 hrs and 25mins, then it will be entered into the formulas as:

      =NOW( )-TIME(6,25,0)

And for countries that have time zones ahead of Nigeria, you add the TIME formula instead. For example, China is ahead of Nigeria by 7 hrs. So it will be:

                     =NOW( )+TIME(7,0,0)

You May Also Like these Other Excel Functions

  • DAYS Function
  • DAYS360 Function
  • EDATE Function