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ARCHIVED: In Microsoft Excel, what is cell referencing?

In Microsoft Excel, cell referencing is the method by which you refer to a cell or series of cells in a formula. Cell referencing is not important unless you plan to copy the formula to a number of other cells.

In Excel, cell referencing is relative by default. For example, suppose you use this formula in your spreadsheet:

=B7 + B8

If you copy it to the cell below, the addresses in the formula change by one cell like this:

=B8 + B9

Relative cell references are very useful, but there will be times when you wish to override this default and use absolute cell addressing to keep all or part of the formula constant. In other words, you can copy the formula to other cells, but the rows or columns or both will remain the same (absolute) no matter where you copy the formula on the sheet.

To use absolute cell references, type a dollar sign ( $ ) in front of the part of the address you wish to keep constant, for example:

  • To keep the column constant, type a dollar sign in front of the first part of the address (e.g., $B22 ).

  • To keep the row constant, type a dollar sign in front of the second part of the address (e.g., B$22 ).

  • Finally, to keep the whole address constant, type dollar signs in front of both parts of the address (e.g., $B$22 ).

You can also use a keyboard command to change cell referencing in existing formulas from absolute to relative and vice versa:

  1. Click the cell with the formula you wish to change, and then click the address you would like to change in the Formula Bar.

  2. In Excel for Windows, when your cursor is blinking on or within the address, press the F4 key. In Excel for Mac OS X, press Command-t . You will see dollar signs appear and disappear each time you press F4 or Command-t, until you have the cell referencing you desire.
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Last modified on November 06, 2012.

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