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: Understanding Auditing.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 24, 2021)
Auditing is the process of analyzing the contents and formulas in a worksheet to make sure they are correct. Excel provides several tools that make auditing as painless as possible. Even so, auditing can be difficult and tedious work if your worksheet is large, complex, or poorly put together.
Excel uses some specific terminology that refers to the concepts involved in auditing, namely precedents and dependents. Precedents are those cells on which a formula is based. Thus, if cell A5 contains the formula =A3 + A4, then both A3 and A4 are precedents for cell A5. Dependents are the reverse of precedents. Thus, in this example, cell A5 is a dependent of cells A3 and A4.
You can further break down the distinction by having direct and indirect relationships. In the previous example, cell A5 is actually a direct dependent of (it directly depends on) cells A3 and A4. Likewise, A3 and A4 are direct precedents for cell A5. Suppose, however, that cell A6 contained the formula =A5 * 1.05. As you might imagine, cell A6 is a direct dependent of cell A5, but it is also an indirect dependent of cells A3 and A4. Similarly, A5 is a direct precedent of A6, and A3 and A4 are indirect precedents. It is possible to have many different levels of indirect precedents in a worksheet.
Excel allows you to perform auditing tasks through the use of the Auditing toolbar. You can display this toolbar by choosing Auditing from the Tools menu, and then choosing Show Auditing Toolbar from the submenu.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2243) 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: Understanding Auditing.
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