Filling Cells with Decreasing Cell References

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 13, 2018)

1

Adam has two formulas in cells A1 and A2. In A1 he has the formula =B150 and in cell A2 he has the formula =B149. He tried to copy this sequence downward, using the fill handle, but the sequence wouldn't work right. (For instance, after filling cell A3 contained =B152 when it should have contained =B148.) Adam wonders if there is a way to have such a fill work properly.

Adam is right; filling will not work in this instance. The reason is because the fill feature in Excel works with values, not with formulas. So, there are a couple of ways you can approach this problem.

The first is to place text values of some sort into cells A1 and A2. For instance, you could place the text "x=B150" (without the quotes) into cell A1 and "x=B149" (again, without the quotes) into cell A2. Excel rightfully parses these cells as text. You can then select A1:A2 and drag downward as far as you need. Excel follows the pattern in the text (remember, it isn't a formula) and decreases the numbers. (Don't drag past cell A150. When you hit A151 the text will be "x=B0" and then Excel starts counting upwards again in cell A152.)

Now, select all the cells that you just filled and use Find and Replace to search for the preface character (x) and replace it with nothing. You end up with the equal sign in the leading position, and Excel now parses the cells as formulas, just as you want.

Another approach is to use a more complex formula to accommodate the need of decreasing references. In this instance you can do it using the INDIRECT function, in this manner:

=INDIRECT("B"&151-ROW())

Paste this into cell A1 and then copy it down through cell A150. It works because you are subtracting the current row number from 151, adding a "B" to the front of it, and then using INDIRECT to reference the value in that calculated cell address. Obviously, if you want to reference a different cell (other than starting with B150), you'll need to adjust the formula so that the proper cell address is calculated.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8443) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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

AutoText Limits

Are there limits to AutoText entries in Word? If you are having problems saving entries, it may not be due to limits ...

Discover More

Using Manual Line Breaks with Justified Paragraphs

If you use justified paragraphs, you know that if you press Shift+Enter, it can lead to some odd spacing between words ...

Discover More

Determining Font Formatting

If you need to determine the font applied to a particular cell, you’ll need to use a macro. This tip presents several ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Calculating an Expanding Square

When doing a systematic search for rescue purposes, it isn't unusual to implement what is termed an "expanding square." ...

Discover More

Exact Formula Copies

When you copy a formula from one cell to another, Excel normally adjusts the cell references within the formula so they ...

Discover More

Shortening ZIP Codes

US ZIP Codes can be of two varieties: five-digits or nine-digits. Here's how to convert longer ZIP Codes to the shorter ...

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}] 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 six more than 6?

2018-10-13 08:36:15

Alex B

Since Indirect is a volatile function it may be worth consider using this:-
=INDEX($B$1:$B$150,COUNT($B$1:$B$150)-ROW()+1)


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.