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Understanding R1C1 References

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Understanding R1C1 References.

Excel, by default, uses a reference format known as A1. This simply means that columns are referred to using letters and rows using numbers. References contain a combination of both the column letter and row number, thereby designating a unique cell.

Not all spreadsheet programs use this same method of referring to cells. The other major method of referencing cells is called the R1C1 format. In this notation, both rows and columns are referred to using numbers. The numbers are differentiated by using of the R and C letters, which stand for row and column. Thus, the intersection of row 5 and column 7 would be referred to as R5C7.

Excel allows you to control whether it uses A1 or R1C1 notation for cell references. To specify which notation format you want to use, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Formulas. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Formulas tab of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. If you want to use R1C1 format, select the R1C1 Reference Style check box; if you want to use A1 format (the default for Excel), clear the check box.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8803) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Understanding R1C1 References.

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