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: Stopping a Formula from Updating References.

Stopping a Formula from Updating References

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 27, 2021)

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 Office 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. ...

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