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: Accessing Dependent and Precedent Information.

Accessing Dependent and Precedent Information

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 27, 2013)

David rightly notes that Excel provides auditing tools (Trace Dependents and Trace Precedents) that are a very helpful way of keeping track of what is happening in large worksheets. However, the actual interface just lists out the cells in a small area, and David cannot easily copy out this list of cells to analyze and manipulate it. When he uses Trace Dependents on an important cell in a large worksheet, the small dialog box can contain several hundred references. David wonders if there is a relatively easy way of getting this information into a more usable format, like a blank worksheet or another workbook.

There is obviously no way to do this with native Excel commands, but you can create a macro that will extract the information you desire. The following macro will list the dependent cells for whatever cell is selected when you run the macro:

Sub ListDependents()
    Dim rArea As Range
    Dim rCell As Range
    Dim sActiveCell As String
    Dim rDep As Range
    Dim lRow As Long

    On Error Resume Next
    Set rDep = ActiveCell.Dependents
    If rDep Is Nothing Then
        MsgBox ActiveCell.Address(False, False) & _
          " has no dependents"
        Exit Sub
    End If

    On Error GoTo 0
    sActiveCell = ActiveCell.Address(False, False)
    Worksheets.Add
    lRow = 1
    Cells(lRow, 1).Value = "Dependents for " & sActiveCell
    For Each rArea In rDep
        For Each rCell In rArea
            lRow = lRow + 1
            Cells(lRow, 1) = rCell.Address(False, False)
        Next
    Next
    Set rArea = Nothing
    Set rCell = Nothing
    Set rDep = Nothing
End Sub 

When the macro is first run, it checks to see if there are any dependents for the cell. If there aren't, then you are notified and the macro is exited. If there are dependents, then a new worksheet is added to the workbook and the dependents of the cell are added to the worksheet.

If you want the macro to instead list precedents, all you need to do is change the all instances of "Dependents" in the macro to "Precedents."

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3121) 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: Accessing Dependent and Precedent Information.

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. ...

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