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What is a cell reference?

The key to formulas in Excel is cell references. Cell references tell Excel where to look to find the values it needs to calculate the result of a formula. Cell references can refer to one cell, a range of cells, or even entire columns and rows.

Let's take a look.

Every cell in an Excel worksheet has a unique address. The address of each cell is defined by its location on the grid. The address "B7" refers to the cell in the seventh row of column B. The address "D6" refers to the cell in the sixth row of column D, and so on.

To check the address of any cell, just watch the Name Box as you select different cells.

In fact, you can type addresses directly into the Name Box and Excel will go to that location on the worksheet.

When a cell reference refers to more than one cell, it is often called a "range." A range uses a colon to indicate its beginning and end. For example, the first 10 cells in column J can be referred to as the range J1:J10.

When we type this value into the Name Box, we see that range selected in the worksheet.

When multiple cells are selected, notice that the Name Box does not display the full range with a colon. Only the active cell in the selection is displayed.

A range can even be an entire column or row. Column A can be referred to as the range A:A, and row 10 can be referred to as the range 10:10.

This works for multiple columns and rows as well. Columns B through G is the range B:G, and rows 5 through 12 is the range 5:12.

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Author 
Dave Bruns

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