Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 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: Stopping a Formula from Updating References.

Stopping a Formula from Updating References

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 27, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


David wonders if there is a way he can make a formula not automatically update when he inserts a column that would otherwise affect the formula. For instance, if he has the formula =SUM(B:B) and then he inserts a column to the left of column B, the formula is automatically updated by Excel to =SUM(C:C). He doesn't want the formula to update; he still wants it to refer to column B after he inserts the new column.

One way to get the result you want is to use the OFFSET function to refer to column B. For instance, consider the following formula:

=SUM(OFFSET(A:A,0,1))

If this formula is in a cell, and you insert a column before column B, then the formula doesn't update; it still refers to column B. Why? Because the formula refers to column A and you didn't do anything to move column A. If you did insert a column before column A, then the formula would update to reference column B.

This means that the best way to handle the formula is to use the INDIRECT function, in this manner:

=SUM(INDIRECT("B:B"))

The INDIRECT function uses text for a parameter, and since it is text it is not considered a reference to be updated by Excel. Regardless of inserting or deleting columns, the formula will always refer to column B.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10786) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Stopping a Formula from Updating 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Converting a Table into Text

Word includes a power table editor that allows you to create and work with tables easily. At some point, however, you ...

Discover More

Printing Shortcut Key Assignments from a Macro

Need to know what shortcut keys are defined? You can use a single macro command line to print out the definitions.

Discover More

Jumping to a Relative Line Number

As you navigate through a document, you may have a need to move forward or backward a specific number of lines. This is ...

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)

Determining Winners, by Category

Do you need to determine the top three values in a range of columns? The techniques discussed in this tip will come in ...

Discover More

Counting Cells According to Case

Text placed in cells can either be lowercase, uppercase, or a mixture of the two. If you want to count the cells based ...

Discover More

Referencing the Last Six Items in a Formula

If you have a list of data in a column, you may want to determine an average of whatever the last few items are in the ...

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 one more than 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.