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Last modified: November 23, 2020

In this quick tutorial, we're going to talk about how we can **set formulas in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet **using **Apache POI **through a simple example.

Apache POI is a popular open-source Java library that provides programmers with APIs to **create, modify, and display MS Office** files.

It uses *Workbook* to represent an Excel file and its elements. A *Cell* in an Excel file can have different types such as *FORMULA*.

In order to see Apache POI in action, we're going to set a formula to subtract the sum of the values in columns A and B in an Excel file. The linked file contains the data below:

First, we need to add the POI dependency to our project *pom.xml* file. **To work with Excel 2007+ workbooks, we should use poi-ooxml**:

```
<dependency>
<groupId>org.apache.poi</groupId>
<artifactId>poi-ooxml</artifactId>
<version>4.1.2</version>
</dependency>
```

**Note that for earlier versions of Excel, we should use the poi dependency instead.**

To begin, let's first open our file and construct the appropriate workbook:

```
FileInputStream inputStream = new FileInputStream(new File(fileLocation));
XSSFWorkbook excel = new XSSFWorkbook(inputStream);
```

Then,** we need to create or look up the cell we're going be using**. Using the data shared earlier, we want to edit cell C1.

That's on the first sheet and the first row, and we can ask POI for the first blank column:

```
XSSFSheet sheet = excel.getSheetAt(0);
int lastCellNum = sheet.getRow(0).getLastCellNum();
XSSFCell formulaCell = sheet.getRow(0).createCell(lastCellNum + 1);
```

Next, we want to set a formula on the cell we've looked up.

As stated earlier, let's subtract the sum of column B from the sum of column A. In Excel, this would be:

`=SUM(A:A)-SUM(B:B)`

And we can write that into our *formulaCell* with the *setCellFormula* method:

`formulaCell.setCellFormula("SUM(A:A)-SUM(B:B)");`

**Now, this won't evaluate the formula.** To do that, we'll need to use POI's *XSSFFormulaEvaluator*:

```
XSSFFormulaEvaluator formulaEvaluator =
excel.getCreationHelper().createFormulaEvaluator();
formulaEvaluator.evaluateFormulaCell(formulaCell);
```

The result will be set in the first *Cell *of the next empty column:

As we can see, the result is calculated and saved in the first cell of column C. Also the formula is shown in the formula bar.

Note that the *FormulaEvaluator* class provides us with other methods to evaluate *FORMULA* in Excel workbooks, like *evaluateAll*, which will loop over all cells and evaluate them.

In this tutorial, we showed how to set a formula on a cell in an Excel file in Java using the Apache POI API.

The complete source code for this article* *is available over on GitHub.