Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Relative References when Recording Macros.

Relative References when Recording Macros

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 2, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


1

One of the most common ways of creating a macro is to use the macro recorder built into Excel. The recorder allows you to record your keystrokes and play them back again later. When you record your macros, Excel is very literal about recording what you do. For instance, if you start recording while cell B7 is selected, and then you press the Down Arrow key, cell B8 is now selected.

When you later select cell E12 and play back this macro, you might expect that the macro would move down one cell, to E13, as if you had pressed the Down Arrow key. Instead, when that line of the macro is executed, cell B8 is selected.

The reason this happens is that Excel memorized your absolute steps. It didn't record the press of the Down Arrow key, but instead recorded the movement to cell B8. This exemplifies the default condition of the macro recorder—to record all movements and cell references absolutely.

If you instead want your macros to be recorded relatively (so that the macro moves down one cell instead of moving to cell B8), then you need to instruct Excel to do so. You do this by clicking Use Relative References on the Developer tab of the ribbon. After clicking, all your subsequent actions are interpreted relative to the currently selected cell. Click the tool a second time, and you are back to subsequent actions being interpreted absolutely.

It is important that you remember to click the appropriate tool before you take an action that is recorded. The tool's state (on or off) affects only the recording of future actions, not what has been already recorded.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3331) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Relative References when Recording Macros.

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

Shifting Margins Evident in Word 2002

When you open a document in one version of Word and compare it to what you see for the same document in a different ...

Discover More

Limits on Path Length in Word

When you organize your hard drive, it is easy to go hog-wild with folders and subfolders. You need to know that how you ...

Discover More

Conditional Formatting for Errant Phone Numbers

Conditional formatting can be used to draw attention to all sorts of data based upon the criteria you specify. Here's how ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Searching Very Large Strings in a Macro

VBA provides a few different ways you can search for information within strings. This tip looks at the most efficient ...

Discover More

Creating a Function Inventory for a Workbook

Your worksheets are very often made up of formulas and these formulas are made up of functions. If you ever want to ...

Discover More

Generating Unique, Sequential Names

Do you need to create a number of words or phrases where you only alter a few letters in each one? If the alterations ...

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 3 + 4?

2023-09-05 09:50:32

Julie

This appears to be something you have to do every time you close Excel and restart it. Is there a way to make it long-term?


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu 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.