Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. 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: Counting Precedents and Dependents.

Counting Precedents and Dependents

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 24, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


Because Excel allows you to create formulas that refer to other cells, it stands to reason that cells can be dependent on each other. In fact, Excel has two technical terms that are used to define the relationship between cells: precedents and dependents.

Precedents are those cells on which a formula is based. Thus, if cell A5 contains the formula =A3 + A4, then both A3 and A4 are precedents for cell A5. Dependents are the reverse of precedents. Thus, in this example, cell A5 is a dependent of cells A3 and A4. You can use the auditing tools in Excel to graphically depict these relationships between cells, as described in other issues of ExcelTips.

What if you want to know how many dependents and precedents there are in a worksheet, however? There is no Excel command that displays this information. You can use a macro to calculate and display this information, however. The following macro will do just that:

Sub CountDependentsPrecedents()
    Dim ws As Worksheet
    Dim lDep As Long
    Dim lPre As Long

    On Error GoTo err
    For Each ws In Worksheets
        ws.Select
        lDep = 0
        lPre = 0
        lDep = Range("a1:xfd1048576").Dependents.Count
        lPre = Range("a1:xfd1048576").Precedents.Count
        MsgBox "Worksheet: " & ActiveSheet.Name & vbCr & _
          "Dependents: " & lDep & vbCr & _
          "Precedents: " & lPre
    Next ws
    Exit Sub
err:
    Resume Next
End Sub

When you run this macro, it steps through each worksheet in your workbook and displays the number of dependents and precedents in each.

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 (6196) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Counting Precedents and Dependents.

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. ...

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