F4 No Longer Changes Cell References

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 6, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365


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Hazel recently bought a new computer that uses Windows 10. She has found that she can no longer use F4 as a method of toggling a cell reference through the absolute/relative settings. Instead, F4 opens a sidebar about projecting to a second monitor. As Hazel only has one monitor, but lots of requirements to set cell references to and from absolute, this is driving her crazy. She would like F4 to work as it traditionally did in Excel.

Testing on a Windows 10 system indicates that the F4 key still cycles through absolute/relative versions of references. There is a caveat, however: You need to make sure that you are in "edit mode" when it comes to using F4 with formulas. In other words, select the cell you want, press F2 to enter edit mode, use the left and right arrow keys to move through the formula, and press F4 whenever you want to cycle a reference through various permutations of absolute and relative notation.

If the F4 key still doesn't work as you expect, then it is a good bet that you are using a laptop computer or a super-duper, multi-function keyboard with your desktop system. On these types of keyboards the function keys typically do special things, such as adjust your volume, adjust screen brightness, etc. To get to the normal operation of a particular function key, look for a key labeled something like FN (short for "function") or F Lock (for "function lock"). Press or hold down that key (it varies from system to system) as you press the F4 key, and it should work as you expect.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13235) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.

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 3 + 7?

2021-10-16 23:53:24

Brad

THANK YOU! this has been killing me, but now I'm back to Excellin'.


2021-02-17 23:10:01

Andrei

Very shocked when my long-trusted F4 was closing my excel book rather than change cell reference. I noticed in your method (F2 then F4), it only works on a single cell, is there a way to mass change a table's cell references? It's a very frustrating update!

Cheers


2021-02-07 18:41:45

Tomek Dluzniewski

It is also possible to create a Windows shortcut that opens some program and assign a function key as a shortcut key to run it. In that case this Windows action will take precedence over Excel shortcut. You would have to find which program is run by that function key, figure out which Windows shortcut has that function key assigned to it, and change or disable it.


2021-02-07 07:13:31

Peter M

If your Keyboard has an Fn key that will be the problem as Allen has indicated.

You can in many cases reverse the functionality of the Fn key, so you need it for the Hotkey functions instead of the Function key functions.

Try a Google search using "How to use the function keys without pressing Fn on a ***** computer"

Good Luck!


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