Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Understanding R1C1 References.

Understanding R1C1 References

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 8, 2016)


Excel, by default, uses a reference format known as A1. This simply means that columns are referred to using letters and rows using numbers. References contain a combination of both the column letter and row number, thereby designating a unique cell.

Not all spreadsheet programs use this same method of referring to cells. The other major method of referencing cells is called the R1C1 format. In this notation, both rows and columns are referred to using numbers. The numbers are differentiated by using of the R and C letters, which stand for row and column. Thus, the intersection of row 5 and column 7 would be referred to as R5C7.

Excel allows you to control whether it uses A1 or R1C1 notation for cell references. To specify which notation format you want to use, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Formulas. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Formulas tab of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. If you want to use R1C1 format, select the R1C1 Reference Style check box; if you want to use A1 format (the default for Excel), clear the check box.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8803) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Understanding R1C1 References.

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 five less than 8?

2017-03-18 04:39:04

Alan Elston

This is a great basic tip, that someone using Excel should learn at an early stage, In my opinion.
It would save a lot of confusion later when one , as is typically the case, comes across the Row and column number ( R C ) type convention notation somewhat later in the learning of Excel

2016-11-08 15:10:36


I have been using Excel in A1 mode for years and I won't change, too lazy!
However, I recently discovered that I can also use the R1C1 notation in my A1 workbooks thanks to the INDIRECT or the HYPERLINK functions.

Example: INDIRECT("Sheet1!R1C99", False)

2016-11-08 07:44:36

Guy Goodwin

In case Bruce is still seeking the answer to his question, you must save this property setting in your default workbook. The following link provides the answer for Excel 2010:

2015-10-08 05:42:31

tony madan

thank you very much

2015-01-29 11:23:55

Bruce Hogman

How does one set Excel to open every time in R1C1 style?

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