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Cell reference in excel is the like referring to other cells to a cell to use its values or its properties, in simple terms if we have data in some random cell A2 and we want to use that value of cell A2 in cell A1 we can simply use =A2 in cell A1 and this will copy the value of A2 in A1, this is called as cell referencing in excel.
Cell Reference in Excel (Table of Contents)
- How to Cell Reference in Excel?
- Types of Cell Reference in Excel
How to Cell Reference in Excel?
- Excel worksheet is made up of cells, each cell has a cell reference
- Cell reference contains one or more letters or alphabet followed by a number where letter or alphabet indicates the column and the number represents the row
- Each cell can be located or identified by its cell reference or address, e.g. B5
- Each cell in an excel worksheet has a unique address. The address of each cell is defined by its location on the grid. g. In the below-mentioned screenshot, the address “B5” refers to the cell in the fifth row of column B
Even if you enter cell address directly in the grid or name window and it will go to that cell location in the worksheet. Cell references can refer to either one cell or a range of cells or even entire rows and columns
When a cell reference refers to more than one cell, it is called as “range”. E.g. A1:A8 it indicates the first 8 cells in column A. Colon is used in between
Types of Cell Reference in Excel
Cell Reference in excel formula is defined as an alphanumeric value that is used to identify a specific cell in a spreadsheet or a worksheet. Below are the top 3 types of cell references used in excel formula.
- Relative cell references: It does not contain dollar signs in a row or column, e.g. A2. Relative cell references type in excel change when a formula is copied or dragged to another cell, In Excel, cell referencing is relative by default, it is most commonly used cell reference in the formula.
- Absolute cell references: Absolute Cell Reference in Excel contains dollar signs attached to each letter or number in a reference, e.g. $B$4, Here if we mention a dollar sign before the column and row identifiers, it makes absolute or locks both the column and the row i.e. where Cell reference remains constant even if it copied or dragged to another cell.
- Mixed cell references in Excel: It contains dollar signs attached to either the letter or the number in a reference. E.g. $B2 or B$4. It is a combination of relative and absolute references (mixed reference type in excel)
|Type||Formula||Changes after copying a formula to another cell|
|Relative||=B1||Both column alphabet B and the row number 1 change.|
|Absolute||=$B$1||Both column alphabet B and row number 1 does not change.|
|Mixed||=$B1||Row number 1 can change, whereas the column letter B does change.|
|Mixed||=B$1||Column letter B can change. whereas row number 1 does not change.|
|$A$1||Press F4 key once.|
|A$1||Press F4 twice.|
|$A1||Press F4 three times.|
#1 – How to Use Relative Cell Reference Type in Excel?
Relative Cell Reference is a cell reference that adjusts itself when the formula cell is copied to another cell.
In the below mentioned Pharma sales table, it contains medicine products in column C (C10:C16), quantity sold in column D (D10:D16) & Total sales value in column F which I need to find out.
To calculate the total sales for each item, I need to multiply the price of each item with the quantity of that
Let check out for the first item, For the first item, the formula in cell F10 would be multiplication in excel – D10*E10.
It returns the total sales value.
Now, instead of entering the formula for all the cells one by one, you can apply a formula to the entire range. To copy the formula down the column, click inside cell F10 and you’ll see the cell selected, then Select the cells till F16. So that column range will get selected. then click ctrl+d, so that the formula is applied to the entire range.
Here, when you copy or move an excel formula with a relative cell reference in excel to another row, automatically row references will change (similarly for columns also)
You can observe or notice here, the cell reference automatically adjusts to the corresponding row
To check a relative reference, select any of the cells of Total sales value in column F and you can view the formula in the formula bar. E.g. In the cell F14, you can observe formula has changed from D10*E10 to D14*E14.
#2 – How to Use Absolute Cell Reference Type in Excel?
In the below mentioned Pharma product table, it contains medicine products in column H (H6:H12) and its old price in column I (I6:I12) & New price in column J which I need to find out with the help of Absolute Cell Reference.
The rate increase for each product is 5% effective from Jan 2019 and is listed in cell “K3”.
To calculate the new price for each item, I need to multiply the old price of each item with the percentage price increase (5%) and add old price to it.
Let check out for the first item, For the first item, the formula in cell J6 would be =I6*$K$3+I6, where it returns new price
Here the percentage rate increase for each product is 5%, which is a common factor. Therefore, we have to add dollar symbol, in front of the row and column number for the cell “K3”, to make it absolute reference i.e. $K$3, it can be added by clicking function+f4 key once.
Here dollar sign for the cell “K3” fixes the reference to a given cell, where it remains unchanged no matter when you copy or apply a formula to other cells.
Here $K$3 is absolute cell reference in excel, whereas “I6” is a relative cell reference, it changes when you apply to next cell
Now, instead of entering the formula for all the cells one by one, you can apply a formula to the entire range. To copy the formula down the column, click inside cell J6 and you’ll see the cell selected, then Select the cells till J12. So that column range will get selected. then click ctrl+d, so that the formula is applied to the entire range.
#3 – How to Use Mixed Cell Reference type in Excel?
In the below-mentioned table. I have values in each row (D22, D23 & D24) & columns (E21, F21 & G21), here I have to multiply Each column with each row with the help of Mixed Cell Reference Type in Excel.
There are two types of mixed cell references can be used here to get the desired output
Let’s apply two types of below mentioned mixed reference in the cell “E22”.
The formula would be =$D22*E$21
#1 – $D22: Absolute column and Relative row
Here dollar sign before column D indicates, only row number can change, whereas the column letter D is fixed, it doesn’t change.
when you copy the formula to the right side, the reference will not change because it is locked, but When you copy it down, the row number will change, because it is not locked
#2 – E$21: Absolute row and Relative column
Here dollar sign right before the row number, indicates only column letter E can change, whereas the row number is fixed, it doesn’t change.
when you copy the formula down, the row number will not change, because it is locked but When you copy the formula to the right side, the column alphabet will change, because it is not locked
Now, instead of entering the formula for all the cells one by one, you can apply a formula to the entire range. click inside cell E22 and you’ll see the cell selected, then Select the cells till G24. So that entire range will get selected. Click on Ctrl+d key first & later Ctrl+r.
Things to Remember
- The cell reference is a key element of formula or excels functions.
- Cell references are used in excel functions, formulas, charts, and various other Excel commands.
- Mixed reference locks either of one i.e. It may be row or column, but not both.
This has been a guide to Cell Reference in Excel. Here we discuss the three types of Cell References in excel (absolute, relative and mixed) and how to each of them along with practical examples and downloadable excel template. You may learn more about excel from the following articles –