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How to keep formula cell reference constant in Excel?

Author: Siluvia Last Modified: 2024-04-12

In this tutorial, we will demonstrate how to change a cell reference in a formula to a constant (absolute) reference to prevent it from changing when the formula is copied elsewhere.

The screenshot below shows two different types of cell references in the formulas for calculating the total cost of items:
  • The formula on the left incorrectly shifts the discount rate reference down each row. When copying from D3 to D4 and D5, it references F4 and F5 instead of the fixed discount rate in F3, leading to incorrect calculations in D4 and D5.
  • On the right side of the screenshot, $F$3 is a constant (absolute) reference. It keeps the discount rate linked to cell F3, no matter where the formula is copied within the workbook. Therefore, copying the formula down the column keeps the discount rate consistent for all items.

Keep formula cell reference constant with the F4 key

To maintain a constant cell reference in a formula, simply add the $ symbol before the column letter and row number by pressing the F4 key. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Click on the cell that contains the formula.
  2. In the formula bar, place the cursor within the cell reference you want to make constant. Here I choose the reference F3.
  3. Press the F4 key to toggle through the reference type until you reach the absolute reference, which adds a dollar sign ($) before the column letter and the row number. Here F3 will be changed to $F$3. Then press Enter to confirm the change.

Now, it keeps the discount rate linked to cell F3, no matter where the formula is copied within the workbook.

Note: Each press of the F4 key cycles through different reference states: absolute ($A$1), mixed absolute-column and relative-row ($A1), mixed relative-column and absolute-row (A$1), and back to relative (A1).

A few clicks to make all cell references absolute in ranges

The above method helps to handle cells one by one. If you want to apply absolute reference to multiple cells at once, here highly recommend the Convert Refers feature of Kutools for Excel. With this feature, you can easily make all cell references in a cell range or multiple cell ranges absolute in a few clicks.

After installing Kutools for Excel, go to the Kutools tab, select More > Convert Refers to open the Convert Formula References dialog box. Then you need to:

  1. Select a range or multiple ranges containing formulas that you want to make all cell references constant.
  2. Choose the To absolute option and then click OK to start converting.

Then all cell references for formulas in the selected range are immediately changed to constant references.

Note: To use this feature, you should install Kutools for Excel first, please click to download and have a 30-day free trial now.

Demo: Keep formula cell reference constant with Kutools for Excel


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Comments (12)
Rated 5 out of 5 · 1 ratings
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Thank you for this post, it was very helpful
Rated 5 out of 5
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Not working if you have index match or vlooup in the formula
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That Kutools "Convert Formula References" is perfect, exactly what I need. Unfortunately I can't install that, but it's nice to know someone else needed it and made an extension for it. At least it gives me some closure knowing I'll never find it in base Excel haha. Thanks.
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Hi Austin,Did you get any error prompt when installing Kutools for Excel? 
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Hi Crystal! Oh, thanks for asking. I was on my Work PC so I knew I would be unable to install anything like this without going through the process of getting it approved with IT, presenting a solid reason to the team as to why we need to pay for additional software, etc. It would be a major headache, and I'm certain I would lose the argument. (Make no mistake, I'm all for it) But, unfortunately I settled for the smaller headache of doing what Kutools' "Convert Formula References" process would do, to a few hundred cells by hand. When I've made it to the big leagues, and I'm the boss, I'll ensure that my whole team is outfitted with Kutools. It's an awesome addition, for sure. 
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Hi Austin314,Thank you very much for your feedback and I look forward to the day when your whole team is outfitted with Kutools.^_^
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Superb.....
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Does not work. If I insert a row above the cell, the formula "tracks" the cell to its new location. This is not what your title implies. I need a formula that reads = B1 and if data gets inserted into row B:B then the formula reads = B1 and returns the new value. Absolute referencing does not do this.
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Andrew, that is exactly what I want too..... how can we hold the cell reference Completely constant in these circumstances?
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Andrew, Martin! .....I came here for something else but I think I've got what you need.  You can also reference cells using the INDIRECT() function. For your case, if you go to cell C1 (or wherever) and set the equation in C1 to be =INDIRECT("B1"), then it will always return whatever is in B1, no matter what happens to B1. So then, if you insert a column of data into column B, your equation would move over to cell D1, and would continue to pull data from the brand new value in B1. The older referenced value is now in C1, with the column of data before. You can also perform mathematic operations on it as you would any other cell reference. Happy Spreadsheets :)
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Use the INDEX() function and for the Array use a range of columns to cover all your data (assuming no column inserts/deletes will happen)
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Financial ratios are one of the most common tools of managerial decision making. A ratio is a comparison of one number to another‚ÄĒmathematically, a simple division problem. Financial ratios involve the comparison of various figures from the financial statements in order to gain information about a company's performance. It is the interpretation, rather than the calculation, that makes financial ratios a useful tool for business managers. Ratios may serve as indicators, clues, or red flags regarding noteworthy relationships between variables used to measure the firm's performance in terms of profitability, asset utilization, liquidity, leverage, or market valuation.
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