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: Relative Worksheet References when Copying.

Relative Worksheet References when Copying

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 19, 2015)

2

When you copy a formula from one cell to another, Excel automatically updates any relative references within the formula based on the target that is receiving the formula. For instance, assume that cell B7 contains the following formula:

=B6+A7

If you copy this formula to cell D22, Excel automatically updates the references so they are relative to cell D22, as shown here:

=D21+C22

When you are copying formulas from one worksheet to another, and the formula contains a reference to a previous worksheet, Excel doesn't do this type of formula updating—at least not on the worksheet names. For instance, let's say you have three worksheets named January, February, and March—in that order. On the February worksheet you have the following formula:

=January!B7*1.075

If you copy this cell to the March worksheet, Excel will automatically change the B7 reference (if necessary), but it won't change the sheet name (January, which was "one less" than the sheet on which the formula first occurred) to the adjusted relative sheet name (February, which is "one less" than the sheet to which the formula is being copied).

If you have only a few worksheet references in your copied formulas, it is fairly easy to just edit the formulas so they reference the proper worksheet. The task can quickly become a nightmare, however, if you have dozens or hundreds of such references.

The solution is to do a simple search-and-replace operation in Excel, as outlined here:

  1. Copy the formulas from the February worksheet to the desired location on the March worksheet.
  2. With the March worksheet visible, press Ctrl+A. This selects all the cells in the target worksheet.
  3. Choose Replace from the Edit menu, or press Ctrl+H. Excel displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  5. In the Find What box, enter "January!" (without the quote marks).
  6. In the Replace With box, enter "February!" (without the quote marks).
  7. Click on Replace All.

The formulas in the worksheet are now updated so they refer to the proper worksheet.

Notice in steps 4 and 5 that what you are searching for and replacing it with is not the straight month names. This is done because the month names alone (January, February, etc.) could easily occur in other places in the worksheet without being part of a formula. You don't want to change these instances, so the extra characters are included to help narrow down the search.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2946) 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: Relative Worksheet References when Copying.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Moving Through a Table in a Macro

Do you need to step through a table, cell by cell, in a macro? It's easy to do using the Move method, as described in this ...

Discover More

Adding Ordinal Notation to Dates

Want to add an ordinal suffix to a number, as in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th? Excel doesn't provide a way to do it automatically, but ...

Discover More

Flipping Landscape Orientation when Printing

When printing a worksheet, you may want to rotate the output on the page to fit a certain orientation. Excel doesn't allow ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Can't Copy Data between Workbooks

Edit a group of workbooks at the same time and you probably will find yourself trying to copy information from one of those ...

Discover More

Entering Info into Multiple Cells

Want to make an entry of the same value into a group of selected cells? It's easy to do with just one small change in how you ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Non-Printing Characters Intelligently

Is your worksheet, imported from an external source, plagued by non-printing characters that show up like small boxes ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 7 + 5?

2015-09-23 02:52:10

Mike

Referencing values from a former month I took a different approach:

If you name your worksheet according to an Excel date format you can calculate a reference to the specific sheet.

Here a short sample of how I did it:

Assume A1 contains the name of the current worksheet (e.g. "Jan 2015")
=MID(CELL("filename"),(FIND("]",CELL("filename"))+1),50)

Set A2 to the calculated previous month as =DATE(YEAR(A1),MONTH(A1)-1,1) resulting in "Dec 2014".

Set A3 to =CONCATENATE("'",TEXT(A2,"MMM JJJJ"),"'!") and name this cell "PrevSheet".

With the formula =INDIRECT(PrevSheet&"xx") you are able to access any cell "xx" of the previous worksheet.


2015-09-19 10:16:52

AQ

This is an excellent solution, especially when inserting new worksheets that need referencing to other worksheets.

Thanks again


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.