Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 29, 2019)


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
        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
    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.


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 Office 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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What is two more than 5?

2019-01-29 12:50:14

Willy Vanhaelen

Range("a1:xfd1048576").Dependents.Count is archaic, better use cells.Dependents.Count.
This works in pre 2007 versions of Excel as well.

2015-04-12 21:58:53

Col Delane

Below is a modified version of the code, which: (1) advises the user as to the type of any unexpected error encountered, (2) allows the macro to continue if there are no precedents or dependents on the active sheet (otherwise it bombs out due to the error), (3) incorporates Nir's suggestion, and (4) allows the user to exit gracefully after testing any sheet.

Sub CountDependentsPrecedentsBySheet()

'Define Procedure Variables
Dim wbk As Workbook
Dim ws As Worksheet
Dim lDep As Long
Dim lPre As Long
Dim MsgResp

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

Set wbk = ActiveWorkbook

For Each ws In wbk.Worksheets
lDep = 0
lPre = 0

On Error Resume Next
lDep = Cells.Dependents.Count
lPre = Cells.Precedents.Count
On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

Select Case MsgBox("Worksheet name: " & ActiveSheet.Name & vbCr & vbCr & _
"No. of Precedents: " & lPre & vbCr & vbCr & _
"No. of Dependents: " & lDep, vbOKCancel + vbInformation, "Count of Precedents & Dependents")

Case vbOK
'Do nothing >> continue
Case vbCancel
GoTo ExitPoint
End Select

Next ws

ExitPoint: '-------------------->>>>>>>>>-------------------->>>>>>>>>-------------------->>>>>>>>> Exit Sub
On Error GoTo 0
Exit Sub

MsgBox Prompt:=Now & ":" & vbLf & vbLf & "Error " & err.Number & " (" & err.Description & ")" & vbLf & vbLf & "in procedure named 'CountDependentsPrecedentsbySheet'" & vbLf & vbLf & "in workbook named " & ThisWorkbook.Name, Buttons:=vbOKOnly + vbExclamation, Title:="VBA Error"
Application.StatusBar = False
Resume ExitPoint

End Sub

2015-04-12 01:17:51

nir liberman

shorter / easier:
lDep = Cells.Dependents.Count
lPre = Cells.Precedents.Count

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