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Converting from Relative to Absolute

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Converting from Relative to Absolute.

Excel allows you to easily edit formulas. In doing so, you can quickly change a cell reference or a range reference from relative to absolute. What if you have a large number of cells in which you need to change from relative to absolute referencing? In this instance, the nature of the problem is well-suited to being solved through a macro.

By using the ConvertFormula method available in VBA, you can easily convert a formula from relative to absolute addressing. The following short macro uses this method to change the addressing method used in a range of cells:

Sub Relative2Absolute()
For Each c In Selection
    If c.HasFormula = True Then
        c.Formula = Application.ConvertFormula(c.Formula, _
          xlA1, xlA1, xlAbsolute)
    End If
Next c
End Sub

The key to how this macro works is, of course, in the ConvertFormula method. The last parameter used by the method is—in this case—xlAbsolute. If you want to adapt the macro so that it changes to other types of addressing, you can change xlAbsolute to xlRelative, xlAbsRowRelColumn, or xlRelRowAbsColumn. (I'm sure you can figure out the purpose of each constant by its name.)

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1927) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Converting from Relative to Absolute.

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Comments for this tip:

Alan Elston    13 Nov 2016, 05:48
Thanks Allen Wyatt. This was helpful.
_1) Some literature had confused me as, untypically in this case, a named argument, ( the 4th ( Your last ) ) did not give a good indication of its meaning. That argument is given as ToAbsolute:= . As I expected , setting this to True or 1 caused the formula to return Absolute type like R2C3 or $A2$3 etc.
Setting to False or 0 left the Type as it were.
It was therefore not clear that this argument could be used as well for the other types, as you have indicated. This blog helped me to notice that I could use xlRelative or 4 to cause the Application.ConvertFormula Method to return Relative type.
_2) I note that there is a 5th and final Argument, RelativeTo:= . This is for the Cell to which the Relative reference “Offset Number” is applied. If not given this appears, in first instance, to default to the Application.ActiveCell, which in turn appears in this case to apply to the Active Cell at time of running the code, (regardless of which Code Module the Code is in).
An exception appears to be when the Application.ConvertFormula Method is applied , as in your case , to a Cell. In which case the final argument if given is ignored and the Cell to which the Relative reference “Offset Number” is applied is taken as that of the Cell to which the Application.ConvertFormula Method is applied
_3a) Some literature confuses if it is talking about the Relative or Absolute type or the “R C style” or “column letter and row number style”.
'_3b) It does not help that the former "Style" is referred to as "R1C1 style" ( or xlR1C1 ) and the latter is referred to as "A1 Style" ( or xlA1 ).
'For a beginner this is very confusing. For example, used in a formula
'_ A1 is a Relative type of the "column letter and row number Style", that is to say applied such
 Range("A5:A6").Value = "=A1"
'will return in Cell A5 "=A1" and in Cell A6 "=A2"
'_ R1C1 is an Absolute type of the "R C Style", that is to say applied such
 Range("A5:A6").Value = "=R1C1"
'will return in Cell A5 "=$A$1" and similarly in Cell A6 ="=$A$1"
Michael (Micky) Avidan    24 Oct 2016, 05:13
The tip was mainly aimed to "What if you have a LARGE(!) number of cells" and not for a single cell - therefore you words "An easy way to do this..." are misleading the readers.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2017)
Ingrid Kennedy    24 Oct 2016, 02:02

An easy way to do this is to tap the F4 key while the cursor is next to the reference that needs to be changed to absolute. Also, tap F4 to remove the $ next to the column and row references as desired.


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