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: Empty Cells Triggers Error.

Empty Cells Triggers Error

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 8, 2017)

3

Wayne uses an Excel workbook to track his bank balance and bill due dates and amounts due by month. In one of the columns he is suddenly getting an error flagged: "The formula in this cell refers to cells that are currently empty." This occurs through the entire worksheet and every other worksheet he opens. Wayne has been using this workbook for over seven years and this is the first time he has encountered this. Excel automatically checks for several different types of potential errors in your worksheets; this is one of them. There are two ways you can handle this situation. First, if you only want to turn off the flagging in the cells that note the error, select all the cells that have the error. Then click the small "error icon" that appears in the upper-right of the cells. Excel displays a drop-down list from which you should select Ignore Error. The error should go away. If you want a more global solution, follow these steps instead:
  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 area of the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Clear the Formulas Referring to Empty Cells check box.
  5. Click on OK.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9575) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Empty Cells Triggers Error.

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 6 + 0?

2017-02-08 11:02:57

Dave Bonin

Building off what Peter wrote, I use a similar technique with a few key differences.

My example would be:
= IF( COUNT( F19, H1 ) = 2, F19 / H1 * 100, "•" )

- Before attempting any calculation, I nearly always check to see if all of the operands are available.
- This method helps ensure the user never sees a divide by zero error as that almost always leaves the user wondering whether the spreadsheet is broken.
- I also add other qualifications as needed to trap potential errors, such as maybe checking H1 is not equal to zero.
- I use the dot "•" character often. It removes all ambiguity about whether a cell is empty or its formula evaluates to a blank. Much easier code maintenance.
- To go one step further, I often use formatting to make the dot a light gray so you can see it but it is not distracting. Conditional formatting works for this. Numeric formatting with a color code on the alpha portion works much more robustly.
- Lastly, as a point of style, I use spaces when writing formulas for readability. While it sounds like extra work, it actually quickly becomes natural -- just like we insert spaces between the words we write in sentences. Imean,wedon'tstringallthewordstogetherintoonelongstringoftext.


2017-02-08 08:20:41

Peter Ross

I have always handled this problem by a slight change to the formula.

For example:
If your original formula in was =F19/H1*100
it would become =IF(F19="","",F19/H1*100)


2014-06-05 14:18:41

Bryce

Sure, but turning off the Excel options doesn't travel with the spreadsheet.


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