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: Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks.

Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 15, 2015)

2

Excel allows you to define names that refer to specific cells or ranges of cells in a workbook. In the same manner (using the Define Name tool on the Formulas tab of the ribbon) you can assign a formula to a name, and then use that name in place of the formula throughout the workbook.

A named formula is part of a collection in workbook object. This is why it can be used across different sheets in the same workbook and (in most cases) acts like it is part of the same "sheet" for many functions and routines.

To use a name in another workbook, your workbook must have a link to that name in the other workbook. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to link to the named formula with a formula like this:

='C:\Folder\Path\Filename.xls'!NamedFormula

This can be copied in multiple cells. The other way is to create a name in the workbook (it can be the same or different than the name in the other workbook). Just display the New Name dialog box (click the Define Name tool on the Formulas tab of the ribbon) and use the following in the Refers To field:

='C:\Folder\Path\Filename.xls'!NamedFormula

And now the workbook has a name and it refers to the named formula in the other workbook.

Both techniques create a "link" to the original workbook. There is one problem with either of these methods, however. Many simple formulas (the "direct links," like named ranges) will work even if the original file is closed. The more complicated formulas (which act like "indirect links," formulas with offset or other functions) will give a #REF! error if the original workbook is closed. In this latter case, the references will work only if both workbooks are open.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8668) 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: Using Named Formulas Across Workbooks.

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 7 + 9?

2018-12-16 16:50:42

Chris Brown

Great stuff always Allen! - i come to your site to figure things out all the time

In this using names in other books tip, it seems to work in 2016 if I define a name in a second book that computes a formula in a cell; the name is defined as the cell. But if I use a name itself to compute a formula, in that second book i can use =[name] and i get the result of the formula, but i can't use that even with the path from the first book pointing to this second book/name. When i do, i get a "0" result. Am i doing it wrong or is that another limitation in addition to the open-book limitation you discuss?


2014-06-18 12:26:32

Taylor

Would you use this method for having a master workbook check on slave workbooks to see if updates have been made?

E.G. if every slave workbook has a column for current month's data--but the new columns would only exist once a user creates them, I could have the master spreadsheet check the slave for the new column header and return a value if it is/isn't found?

If this isn't the best way to go about an update check, I'd love to hear your advice on the optimal process!


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