OFFSET Function in Excel

The OFFSET function in excel returns the value of a cell or a range (of adjacent cells) which is a particular number of rows and columns from the reference point. This reference point is the starting cell supplied as an argument to the function. Beginning from the reference point, the function works out an end point (ending cell or range) whose value is returned.

For example, a dataset is given as follows:

  • Column A consists of 2, 4, and 3 in the range A1:A3.
  • Column B consists of 1, 5, and 6 in the range B1:B3.

The formula “=OFFSET(A1,2,1)” returns 6. The OFFSET excel function begins to calculate the cell reference from cell A1 (starting point). Next, it moves two rows down (to cell A3) and 1 column to the right (to cell B3).

The end point is cell B3. So, the OFFSET function returns the value of cell B3, i.e., 6.

The purpose of using the OFFSET function is to find the value of the cell whose starting point is known. This function is specifically helpful in cases where the dataset is regularly updated.

The OFFSET function is a part of the Lookup and Reference functions of Excel.

The Syntax of the OFFSET Excel Function

The syntax of the function is shown in the following image:

OFFSET Formula in Excel

The function accepts the following mandatory arguments:

  • Reference: This is the starting point from which the calculation of the ending cell (or range) address begins. It can be entered as a cell or a range of adjacent cells.
  • Rows: This is the number of rows that the function needs to move. The movement can be either above or below the reference point (starting point). If this argument is positive, the function moves below the reference point. If this argument is negative, the function moves above the reference point.
  • Cols: This is the number of columns that the function needs to move. The movement can be either to the right or the left of the reference point (starting point). If this argument is positive, the function moves to the right of the reference point. If this argument is negative, the function moves to the left of the reference point.

The function accepts the following optional arguments:

  • Height: This is the height (number of rows) of the range to be returned.
  • Width: This is the width (number of columns) of the range to be returned.

The “height” and the “width” arguments should always be positive numbers. If either of these arguments is omitted, the height and width of the reference (starting point) is assumed.

Note 1: The arguments “rows” and “cols” are specified using the reference point as the base.

Note 2: If both the “height” and “width” arguments are 1, the OFFSET excel function returns the value of a cell. This is because a 1-row by 1-column range is the dimension (size) of a single cell.

Note 3: The OFFSET function does not move any cell or range. It just returns the value of the cell (or range) address that it calculates.

How to use the OFFSET Function in Excel?

The OFFSET function is a built-in function of Excel. Let us understand its working with the help of a few examples.

Every example covers a different case of the OFFSET excel function, including an explanation of the same. In the last two examples (example #4 and #5), the OFFSET function has been combined with the arithmetic functions.

You can download this OFFSET Function Excel Template here – OFFSET Function Excel Template

Example #1–End Point is a Data Cell

The following table shows the names of five racers and the corresponding ranks obtained by them. We want to find the name of the third racer with the help of the OFFSET function.

Step 1: Enter the following OFFSET formula in cell F4.

“=OFFSET(B3,2,1)”

OFFSET Example 1

Step 2: Press the “Enter” key. The output appears in cell F4. Hence, “Nadal” is the racer who ranked third in the race.

OFFSET Example 1-1

Explanation: The first argument of the OFFSET excel function is cell B3, which is the reference point (starting point).

The “rows” argument is 2. So, the function moves two rows below cell B3, which is the cell B5. The “cols” argument is 1. So, the function moves one column to the right of cell B3, which is the cell C5.

The value of the resulting cell (end point) C5 is “Nadal.” Hence, the output in cell F4 is “Nadal.” The end point is shown in the following image.

OFFSET Example 1-2

Example #2–End Point is an Empty Cell

Working on the data of example #1, we want the OFFSET function to return the value of the empty cell D5.

Step 1: Enter the following formula in cell F5.

“=OFFSET(B3,2,2)”

OFFSET Example 2

Step 2: Press the “Enter” key. The output 0 appears in cell F5. Hence, the OFFSET function returns the value of an empty cell as zero.

OFFSET Example 2-1

Explanation: In the given OFFSET excel formula, the reference point (starting point) is cell B3.

Since the “rows” argument is 2, the function moves two rows down to cell B5. The “cols” argument is also 2. So, the function moves two columns to the right of cell B3, which is the cell D5.

The resulting cell (end point) is D5. Since this cell is empty, the output returned by the OFFSET function is 0. The end point is shown in the following image.

OFFSET Example 2-2

Example #3–End Point is a Non-existent Cell

Working on the data of example #1, we want the OFFSET function to return the value of a cell (to the immediate left of cell A1) that does not exist.

Step 1: Enter the following OFFSET excel formula in cell F6.

“=OFFSET(B3,-2,-2)”

OFFSET Example 3

Step 2: Press the “Enter” key. The output appears in cell F6. Hence, the value of a non-existent cell is a “#REF!” error.

OFFSET Example 3-1

Explanation: In this example, cell B3 is the reference point.

The “rows” argument is -2. So, the function moves two rows above the cell B3, which is the cell B1. The “cols” argument is also -2. So, the function moves two columns to the left of cell B3. However, there is no column to the left of column A.

Hence, there is no resulting cell (end point). So, the output is “#REF!” error, as shown in the following image. The icon in yellow shows “invalid cell reference error.”

Note: If the end point of the OFFSET function is a cell which is out-of-range or non-existent, it returns a “#REF” error.

OFFSET Example 3-2

Example #4–Sum of Values of the Returned Range Address

The following table shows five stocks with their maximum and minimum returns (in $). We want to sum the maximum returns of these stocks. Use the OFFSET excel function combined with the SUM function.

Step 1: Enter the following formula in cell F3.

“=SUM(OFFSET(C2,0,0,5,1))”

OFFSET Example 4

Step 2: Press the “Enter” key. The output appears in cell F3. Hence, the sum of the maximum returns of the given stocks is $449.

OFFSET Example 4-1

Explanation: The cell C2 is the reference point.

Both the arguments “rows” and “columns” are zero. This implies that the OFFSET function will neither move up and down nor to the left and right.

The “height” argument is 5, implying that the OFFSET function will sum five rows beginning from the cell C2. This is the range C2:C6.

The “width” argument is 1, implying that the OFFSET function will sum the values of one column (column C).

With the given “height” and “width” arguments, the preceding formula (entered in step 1) returns the sum of values of a 5-row by 1-column range. It sums the values of the returned range (5-row by 1-column) because the OFFSET is enclosed within the SUM function.

Hence, the sum of all values of column C is calculated as 98+92+89+88+82=449.

Example #5–Average of Values of the Returned Range Address

Working on the data of example #4, we want to calculate the average returns of stock “S1.” Use the OFFSET excle function combined with the AVERAGE functionAVERAGE FunctionThe AVERAGE function in Excel gives the arithmetic mean of the supplied set of numeric values. This formula is categorized as a Statistical Function. The average formula is =AVERAGE(read more.

Step 1: Enter the following formula in cell F5.

“=AVERAGE(OFFSET(C2,0,0,1,2))”

OFFSET Example 5

Step 2: Press the “Enter” key. The output appears in cell F5. Hence, the average return of stock “S1” is $74.

OFFSET Example 5-1

Explanation: The cell C2 is the reference point.

Both the arguments “rows” and “columns” are zero. This implies that the OFFSET function will not move in any direction.

The “height” argument is 1. This implies that the OFFSET function will consider only one row (row 2) for calculating the average.

The “width” argument is 2. This implies that the OFFSET excel function will calculate the average of two columns (columns C and D).

With the given “height” and “width” arguments, the preceding formula (entered in step 1) returns the average of a 1-row by 2-column range.

In the preceding formula, the OFFSET is enclosed within the AVERAGE function. So, the values of the returned range (1-row by 2-column) are used for calculating the average. Hence, the average of the values in the cells C2 and D2 is calculated as (98+50)/2=74.

Range Returned by the OFFSET Excel Function

The OFFSET function can also return the values of a range of adjacent cells. For this, the steps to be performed are listed as follows:

  • Select a blank range of the size which is the same as specified by the “height” and “width” arguments of the OFFSET function in excel.
  • Insert the OFFSET formula in the leftmost, top cell of the blank range.
  • Press “Ctrl+Shift+Enter.” The curly brackets appear at the beginning and the end of the formula.

The values of the range of cells are obtained as the output of the OFFSET excel function.

Note: To obtain the values of a range of cells, it is essential to supply the “height” (number of rows) and “width” (number of columns) arguments.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Define the OFFSET function of Excel.

The OFFSET function in excel returns the value of a single cell or a range of adjacent cells. The address of this cell (or range) is calculated from a reference point (starting cell) supplied as an argument. This reference point is taken as the base for specifying the “rows” and “cols” arguments.

The syntax of the OFFSET excel function is stated as follows:

“=OFFSET(reference,rows,cols,[height],[width])”

The OFFSET function accepts the following arguments:

Reference: This is the starting point or the base from which the calculation of the cell (or range) address begins. It can be either a single cell or a range of adjacent cells.

Rows: This is the number of rows the function needs to move. It is calculated from the starting point. A positive number implies a downward movement, while a negative number implies an upward movement.

Cols: This is the number of columns the function needs to move. This is also calculated from the starting point. A positive number implies a rightward movement, while a negative number implies a leftward movement.

Height: This is the height (number of rows) of the range that is to be returned.

Width: This is the width (number of columns) of the range that is to be returned.

The first three arguments are mandatory, while the last two are optional.

Note: To obtain the values of a range of cells, select a blank range of the same height and width as specified in the argument. Next, insert the OFFSET formula and press “Ctrl+Shift+Enter.”

2. What is the SUM OFFSET formula in Excel?

In the SUM OFFSET formula, the OFFSET is enclosed within the SUM function in the following way:

“=SUM(first cell:(OFFSET(cell containing total,-1,0)))”

The “first cell” is the first cell address whose value is to be added. The “cell containing total” is the output cell (containing the total) at the end of the numerical cells. The numbers -1 and 0 are the “rows” and “columns” arguments respectively.

The given formula helps in finding the sum of a range of adjacent cells. The OFFSET function calculates the address of the range. The SUM function sums the values of the range.

For example, let us sum the values of column B consisting of the values 20, 35, 42, and 11 in the range B1:B4. The steps are listed as follows:

• Enter the following formula in cell B5.
“=SUM(B1:(OFFSET(B5,-1,0)))”

• Press the “Enter” key.

The output in cell B5 is 108.

3. Why should the OFFSET function be used and when should it be used in Excel?


The reasons for using the OFFSET function are listed as follows:

• It helps find the value of a cell (or range) whose address is unknown, but the starting point is known.
• It works with data in which rows or columns are added regularly.
• It helps create a dynamic range for PivotTables and PivotCharts.
• It can be combined with other functions which require the cell address to work.

The OFFSET excel function is used in the following situations:

• To include the value of a newly inserted cell in the total of a range, the OFFSET is used with the SUM function.
• To find the mean, maximum, or minimum by including the additions or deletions of rows, the OFFSET is used with the AVERAGE, MAX, and MIN functions.
• To create a dynamic drop-down list (updates with the changes in the source list), the OFFSET is used with the COUNTA function.
• To overcome the limitations of the VLOOKUP (cannot look at the left) and HLOOKUP (cannot look upwards), the OFFSET is used with the MATCH function.

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This has been a guide to OFFSET function in Excel. Here we discuss how to use the OFFSET excel formula along with step by step examples. You may also look at these useful functions of Excel–

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