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 to Cells in Other Workbooks.

Relative References to Cells in Other Workbooks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 25, 2017)

When Stephen is creating a formula and refers to a cell in another worksheet in the same workbook, the reference is always relative (A1). However, when he refers to a cell in another workbook, the reference is always absolute ($A$1). Stephen wonders if there is a way of getting this to be automatically relative (A1) without having to go into the cell and press F4 three times.

The typical way to deal with this situation is to simply edit the reference in the formula, as you are effectively doing. There are, however, two other ways that you can approach this problem, if you desire.

The first idea is to simply create all your formulas, but leave the absolute references in place. Then, as a "final" step, use Find and Replace to get rid of the dollar signs in the formulas. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells that have the formulas in them.
  2. Press Ctrl+H. Excel displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. In the Find What box, enter a single dollar sign.
  5. Make sure the Replace With box is empty.
  6. Click Replace All.

That's it; all the dollar signs in the selected cells are deleted, leaving relative references, as desired. If you have some absolute references in those cells that you want to remain, then you should use the controls in the Find and Replace dialog box to step through each instance and do the replacement, as desired.

The second idea is quite novel, really. If your references are all to the same worksheet in the external workbook, then follow these general steps:

  1. Move the target worksheet to the workbook that will contain the formulas. (Actually move it, don't just copy it.)
  2. Create your formulas. Since the target worksheet is now within the same workbook as your formula, the references in those formulas will be relative, by default.
  3. Save your workbook.
  4. Move the target worksheet (the one you moved in step 1) back to its original workbook.

What happens with these steps is that when you move the worksheet back to its original workbook, Excel updates the first part of the formula references to include the information about the external workbook. It does not, however, change the cell references in those formulas from relative to absolute.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11225) 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 to Cells in Other 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Setting Web Fonts

Is your worksheet information destined for a Web page? Here's how you can specify the fonts that should be used when ...

Discover More

Calculating Months of Tenure

Need to know the number of months between two dates? It's easy to figure out if you use the DATEDIF function.

Discover More

Changing Shading when a Column Value Changes

If you have a data table in a worksheet, and you want to shade various rows based on whatever is in the first column, ...

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)

Determining Business Quarters from Dates

Many businesses organize information according to calendar quarters, especially when it comes to fiscal information. ...

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, ...

Discover More

Solving Simultaneous Equations

One branch of mathematics allows you to work with what are called "simultaneous equations." Working with this type of ...

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 four less than 5?

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.