Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Cell references explained
Figure 3–1. Comparing the Formula Bar and its current cell
Now we know why the Formula Bar is so named. It opens a window on what is really going on in the
cell beneath the surface, and in this case of course what you see in the bar doesn’t correspond to what
you see in the cell. If you print the spreadsheet you’ll see the number 8 (by default, anyway), and that’s
nearly always want you want to see. But you also may need to know that the number was brought about
by a formula, and not a simple act of data entry. To glean that bit of information, click on the cell and
view the Formula Bar.
Now, nothing at all prevents you from writing a more protracted formula, such as
=3+5+6+78+91+5+12+45+1
Press Enter and you’ll get your answer. Remember, after all—you have 32,767 characters per cell to
work with. But for a variety of reasons, spreadsheet users don’t like to enter numbers directly into a
formula; it’s inefficient and a pain to edit, and if you content yourself with this approach you’re treating
Excel as little more than a PC-based calculator. The far superior way of proceeding is to enter the data
you’re going to work with in cells, and to work with cell references .
Cell references explained
What’s a cell reference? It’s an expression that, as its name suggests, refers to, or returns the ,
contents of another cell. Thus if you type the number 45 in cell C6 and proceed to type =C6 in cell C7,
that latter cell will display 45 onscreen. If I type Excel in C6, cell C7 will now naturally display Excel. What
it won’t display onscreen is =C6, even though that’s what you’ve actually typed in the cell.
Now back to our addition example. If I type the same numbers I added above in separate cells, as in
Figure 3–2:
 
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