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 References when Recording Macros.

Relative References when Recording Macros

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 28, 2020)

One of the most common ways of creating a macro is to use the macro recorder built into Excel. The recorder allows you to record your keystrokes and play them back again later. When you record your macros, Excel is very literal about recording what you do. For instance, if you start recording while cell B7 is selected, and then you press the Down Arrow key, cell B8 is now selected.

When you later select cell E12 and play back this macro, you might expect that the macro would move down one cell, to E13, as if you had pressed the Down Arrow key. Instead, when that line of the macro is executed, cell B8 is selected.

The reason this happens is that Excel memorized your absolute steps. It didn't record the press of the Down Arrow key, but instead recorded the movement to cell B8. This exemplifies the default condition of the macro recorder—to record all movements and cell references absolutely.

If you instead want your macros to be recorded relatively (so that the macro moves down one cell instead of moving to cell B8), then you need to instruct Excel to do so. You do this by using the Relative Reference tool on the Stop Recording toolbar. Click the tool and all your subsequent actions are interpreted relative to the current selected cell. Click the tool a second time, and you are back to subsequent actions being interpreted absolutely.

It is important that you remember to click the tool before you take an action that is recorded. The tool's stated (on or off) affects only the recording of future actions, not what has been already recorded.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3108) 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 References when Recording Macros.

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

Highlight Words from a Word List

Do you need to highlight certain words in a document, and aren't quite sure how to go about it? Using the techniques ...

Discover More

Different Ways of Inserting Dates

Word provides a couple of different ways you can insert the current date into a document. Which method should you choose? ...

Discover More

Ensuring Standardized Numbering

Want to make sure your paragraph numbering looks the same on different computer systems? It's a harder task in Word than ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Showing RGB Colors in a Cell

Excel allows you to specify the RGB (red, green, and blue) value for any color used in a cell. Here's a quick way to see ...

Discover More

Deriving an Absolute Value in a Macro

Need to figure out an absolute value within your macro code? It's easy to do using the Abs function, described in this tip.

Discover More

Using SUM In a Macro

Want to use a worksheet function (such as SUM) from within a macro? Here's how easy it is to accomplish the task.

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. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. 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 seven more than 0?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.