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You need to prefix the formula with one of the following symbols: =, +, or -. Anything else is treated as plain text. For example, if you want to compute 2 + 2, you can use =2+2 or +2+2, but 2+2 is just a plain string. This is explained in the OpenOffice wiki. (As a sidenote, strings have their own prefix, ', so '=2+2 would be the string =2+2)

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