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Exact Formula Copies

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: Exact Formula Copies.

Many formulas in a worksheet don't occur in solitude—they often appear numerous times in a worksheet. For instance, you may copy a formula into a range of cells in a column, each formula operating on data on its own row.

When you copy formulas, Excel automatically adjusts any relative cell references in the formula so that they remain relative in the target cell. For instance, if a formula in cell C4 is =A4+B4, then copying the formula down to cell C5 results in the formula =A5+B5.

There may be times when you want to create an exact copy of a formula, without Excel adjusting the relative cell references during the copy process. Assuming you want to make an exact copy of the formula in cell C4 and copy it to C5, follow these steps:

  1. Select cell C4.
  2. Press F2. Excel enters Edit mode, with the insertion point at the end of the formula.
  3. Press Shift+Ctrl+Home. Excel selects everything in the cell, back to the beginning of the formula.
  4. Press Ctrl+C to copy the selected text (the formula's text) to the Clipboard.
  5. Press Enter to move to cell C5.
  6. Press Ctrl+V to paste the Clipboard contents into the cell.

During this paste process, the relative cell references are not updated—the formula in cell C5 is now an exact duplicate of the one in cell C4.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2990) 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: Exact Formula Copies.

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Comments for this tip:

Dave Kerr    01 Nov 2011, 05:06
Another alternative is to insert an apostrophe at the start of the formula. This converts the contents to text. Then copy the formula to the new location and remove the apostrophes from the original and copy.
Doug Rawlins    31 Oct 2011, 16:14
Another way to copy large groups of formulas without changing relative references is to: 1) select all of the formulas you wish to copy, 2) use the Replace command to change all the '=' to '#', 3) copy and paste the text of the formulas to the new location, and 4) use the Replace command to change all of the '#' back to '='. If the formula's contain the # character, use some other unique character that can be changed with the Replace command
Charlie O'Neill    29 Oct 2011, 19:39
Another way to copy a formula without changing the cell reference is to use absolute cell reference. Add a $ in front of the cell to remain absolute. For example A1+B1 can be entered as $A$1+$B$1. The formula will remain unchanged when copying. Also if cell A1 is to be absolute and cell B1 is to be relative enter $A$1+B1

A shortcut for entering absolute reference ($) is to highlight the formula and press F4.

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