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Dynamic workbook reference

Excel formula: Dynamic workbook reference
Generic formula 

To build a dynamic worksheet reference – a reference to another workbook that is created with a formula based on information that may change – you can use a formula based on the INDIRECT function. In the example shown, the formula in E6 is:


Note: the external workbook must be open for this reference to work.


In this example, the goal is to create a reference to an external workbook with variable information. The easiest way to do this is to assemble  the reference to a range or cell in another workbook as a text value, then use the INDIRECT function to convert the text to an actual reference. In Excel, a full reference to an external worksheet looks like this:

'[sample data.xlsx]Sheet1'!A1

Note the square brackets ([ ]) around workbook name, single quotes (' ') around the worksheet + sheet, and the exclamation mark (!) that follows.

To create a reference like this using text, we use concatenation to join values from columns B, C, and D with the required brackets, quotes, and exclamation mark:


The result is fed into INDIRECT as ref_text. Once the concatenation is performed, we have:

=INDIRECT("'[sample data.xlsx]Sheet1'!A1")

The INDIRECT function then evaluates the text and converts it to a genuine reference, and Excel follows the reference and returns the value at the given reference.

Note: if the reference is invalid, or if the workbook referenced is not open, INDIRECT will throw a #REF error. You can catch this error with the IFERROR function and display a custom result if you like.

Dave Bruns

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