by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 16, 2019)
Hazel recently bought a new computer that uses Windows 8.1. 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 8.1 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"). Hold down that key as you press the F4 key, and it should work as you expect.
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