`Formula`

is a powerful yet underutilized property in Notion databases. This introductory guide covers the fundamentals of formulas, then details three practical examples for business workspaces.

You can duplicate those examples to your own workspace from Notion Market.

#### Here’s what you’ll learn:

## What’s Notion’s Formula property?

Unlike `Text`

, `Number`

and `Date`

properties, the values of `Formula`

properties are generated automatically. You compose a formula once, and it executes for each item in the database.

Typically, that formula will reference other properties in the database. Because the values of those properties can be different for each item, the output of the formula can also be different for each item.

For example, in a database of people, a `Formula`

can determine each person’s age by calculating the time between the Birthday (`Date`

) property and the current date (`now()`

). Because each birthday can be different, each age can also be different.

### Why use formulas?

The utility of formulas is virtually endless but falls into two high-level categories:

**Merge and reformat other properties.**

*For example:*

- You can create a Full Name property by merging First Name and Last Name.
- You can give a date virtually any format, expanding the limited options offered natively by Notion.

**Calculate new values from other properties.**

The age calculation was an example of this. Another simple example is calculating the total price of an ecommerce order from properties like Price, Quantity, Tax and Shipping.

### The anatomy of a formula.

To compose a formula, click any cell within the `Formula`

property column. Your formula will consist of one or more of the below elements. *For a deeper dive into these components, see Meet Notion’s Formula Property.*

#### Values

Values are the inputs of your formula — the items you calculate or reformat. They can be input directly, such as the number `2`

, or they can be the value of another property, such as Birthday (`Date`

). Using another property is known as a **reference**, which you create in this format: `prop("Birthday")`

.

Remember, a formula iterates for each item in the database, so each item’s iteration will reference the properties for that item.

Each value is a particular **data type**, such as `number`

, `date`

, `boolean`

(true or false) or `string`

(text). Your formulas will require particular data types, so it’s important to remain mindful of them. *Learn more in The Importance of Data Types.*

#### Operators

Operators are placed between values and specify the **actions** to perform on those values. You’re familiar with **arithmetic operators**, such as `+`

and `-`

. To divide and multiply, you use `/`

and `*`

, respectively.

You can also use operators to **compare** values, such as `>`

and `<`

. To test whether values are equal or unequal, use `==`

and `!=`

.

In some cases, an operator’s action depends on your data types (`numbers`

, `dates`

, etc.). When used with `numbers`

, the `+`

character is an **addition operator**; it adds the numbers: `2 + 2`

→ `4`

. When used with `strings`

(text), however, it becomes a **concatenation operator**; it merges the values: `"LeBron" + " " + "James"`

→ `"LeBron James"`

. *(When used in formulas, text strings are placed in quotation marks.)*

Placed between a `string`

and a `number`

, the `+`

character will result in a **type mismatch**. This is why it’s important to remain mindful of value types.

#### Functions

**Functions** are predefined actions to perform on its input values, which are known as its **arguments**. They’re formatted as a keyword followed by arguments in parentheses, separated by a comma. For example, the `add()`

function with the arguments of `2`

and `3`

is written as `add(2, 3)`

.

As you might suspect, the `add()`

function returns of the sum of its arguments. The formula `add(2, 3)`

returns the same value as `2 + 3`

.

Notion offers a variety of formulas for every value type. For a comprehensive list of formulas and operators, see our Notion Formula Cheat Sheet.

## Calculate days until a deadline.

In a variety of circumstances, it’s helpful to count the days *since* a date or *until* a date. For example, you may want to calculate the days since your last check-in with each customer. For tasks, it’s often helpful to count down the days until the deadline. You can then configure views to surface items needing attention, as we see in Bulletproof Tasks.

Both of these examples are easily accomplished with a formula using the `dateBetween()`

function, which takes three arguments:

- The first date
- The second date
- The unit, such as “hours,” “days,” or “years”

In a database of tasks, a Days Remaining (`Formula`

) property calculates the days between the Deadline (`Date`

) and the current time, which is written as the `now()`

function with no arguments: `dateBetween( prop("Deadline"), now(), "days" )`

## Calculate product pricing.

A database of products may have a combination of these `number`

properties, some of which can be automated using formulas:

- Product (
`Title`

) - Cost (
`Number`

) - Markup % (
`Formula`

) - Markup (
`Formula`

) - Price (
`Formula`

) - Quantity (
`Number`

) - Subtotal (
`Formula`

) - Tax (
`Formula`

) - Shipping (
`Number`

) - Total (
`Formula`

)

**Cost**, **Quantity** and **Shipping** are unique to each product, so they’re manually entered `numbers`

.

By using a `Formula`

property for **Markup %** and **Tax**, we can automatically use the same value for each product.

**Markup** multiplies **Cost** by **Markup %**: `prop("Cost") * prop("Markup %")`

**Price** adds **Markup** to **Cost**: `prop("Cost") + prop("Markup")`

**Subtotal** multiplies **Price** by **Quantity**: `prop("Price") * prop("Quantity")`

**Total** multiplies **Subtotal** by **Tax**, then adds **Shipping**: `prop("Subtotal") * prop("Tax") + prop("Shipping")`

## Merge first and last names.

For a variety of reasons, you may wish to have independent properties for first and last names. I like to sort by last name and use first names with mail merge tools. Rather than entering each contact’s first name, last name and full name, you can use a formula to generate the full name automatically.

Because Notion does not yet support formulas in the `Title`

property, you can use a “Title Generator” property to produce the full name, then quickly copy it to the `Title`

. *Hopefully we’ll see formula-generated Titles soon.* ?

- The
`Title`

property is called**Full Name**. **First Name**and**Last Name**are both`Text`

properties.- The
**Title Generator**is a`Formula`

.

For the formula, we want to combine the **First Name** and **Last Name** properties, separated by a space. We could simply use the `+`

operator, as previously demonstrated, but for the sake of learning, let’s take an alternative approach. The `join()`

function merges two `strings`

with a specified delimiter. It accepts three arguments:

- The delimiter
- The first
`string`

- The second
`string`

In our example, the two `strings`

are the values of the **First Name** and **Last Name** properties, and the delimiter is a space. Therefore, our full formulas is:

`join( " ", prop("First Name"), prop("Last Name") )`

For each contact, you can manually enter **First Name** and **Last Name**, then copy the automatically generated value of **Title Generator** to **Full Name.**

*In Part 2, I’ll cover how to populate first name and last name automatically when the full name is manually entered in the Title property.*

*Questions? Tweet @WilliamNutt.*