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: Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks.

Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 15, 2015)

Excel allows you to define names that refer to specific cells or ranges of cells in a workbook. In the same manner (using Insert | Name | Define), you can assign a formula to a name, and then use that name in place of the formula throughout the workbook.

A named formula is part of a collection in workbook object. This is why it can be used across different sheets in the same workbook and (in most cases) acts like it is part of the same "sheet" for many functions and routines.

To use a name in another workbook, your workbook must have a link to that name in the other workbook. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to link to the named formula with a formula like this:

='C:\Folder\Path\Filename.xls'!NamedFormula

This can be copied in multiple cells. The other way is to create a name in the workbook (it can be the same or different than the name in the other workbook). Just display the Name dialog box (Insert | Name | Define) and use the following in the Refers To field:

='C:\Folder\Path\Filename.xls'!NamedFormula

And now the workbook has a name and it refers to the named formula in the other workbook.

Both techniques create a "link" to the original workbook. There is one problem with either of these methods, however. Many simple formulas (the "direct links," like named ranges) will work even if the original file is closed. The more complicated formulas (which act like "indirect links," formulas with offset or other functions) will give a #REF! error if the original workbook is closed. In this latter case, the references will work only if both workbooks are open.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3130) 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: Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks.

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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