Copying Between Instances of Excel

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 31, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


If you've ever worked with a system that is configured for two monitors, it is really quite amazing; it can change the way you work. For example, you might open two instances of Excel and put one of them on one monitor and the other on the other monitor. You can then work with both workbooks onscreen at the same time.

One thing you'll notice, however, is that copying information from one instance of Excel to another works differently than when you copy within the same instance. If you copy a cell that contains a formula and then paste it in the other instance, what gets pasted is the result of the formula, not the formula itself. You can't even use Paste Special from the Edit menu to paste formulas; that isn't an option when working with two instances.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get formulas from one instance of Excel to another. The best you can do is the following:

  1. In the source workbook, select a single cell that you want to copy.
  2. Press F2. Excel switches to Edit mode.
  3. While still in Edit mode, select everything in the cell (the entire formula).
  4. Press Ctrl+C. Excel copies the formula to the Clipboard.
  5. Press Esc to exit Edit mode.
  6. In the target workbook, select the cell where you want the formula pasted.
  7. Press F2. Excel again switches to Edit mode.
  8. Press Ctrl+V. The formula is pasted into the cell.
  9. Press Enter. Edit mode is exited, and the formula is now safely in the target cell.

This tedious procedure must be used for each formula you want to copy between instances. For this reason, many people choose not to use separate instances of Excel, even if they have the luxury of multiple monitors. Instead, the work with different windows within the same instance of Excel. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the two workbooks you want to work with.
  2. Choose Arrange from the Window menu. Excel displays the Arrange Windows dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Arrange Windows dialog box.

  4. Choose Tiled. (You can choose other options, if you prefer, but I find that Tiled works best for me.)
  5. Click OK. The two workbooks are now side-by-side in the program window.
  6. Make sure the Excel window is not maximized. (Click the Restore button at the upper-right corner of the program window.)
  7. Position the non-maximized window in the left-most of your monitors.
  8. Drag the right border of the Excel program window onto the second monitor. A single instance of Excel now covers both monitors.
  9. Within the Excel window, use the mouse to arrange the two workbooks so one is on each monitor.

Since you are using a single instance of Excel—even though it extends across two monitors—you can now cut, copy, and paste as you normally would.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3404) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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