Relative and Absolute Cell References

Learn the difference between a relative absolute cell reference in Excel and an absolute cell reference in Excel in this free lesson.

Using cell references with multiple worksheets

Excel allows you to refer to any cell on any worksheet, which can be especially helpful if you want to reference a specific value from one worksheet to another. To do this, you'll simply need to begin the cell reference with the worksheet name followed by an exclamation point (!). For example, if you wanted to reference cell A1 on Sheet1, its cell reference would be Sheet1!A1.

Note that if a worksheet name contains a space, you'll need to include single quotation marks (' ') around the name. For example, if you wanted to reference cell A1 on a worksheet named July Budget, its cell reference would be 'July Budget'!A1.

To reference cells across worksheets:

In our example below, we'll refer to a cell with a calculated value between two worksheets. This will allow us to use the exact same value on two different worksheets without rewriting the formula or copying data.

  1. Locate the cell you want to reference, and note its worksheet. In our example, we want to reference cell E14 on the Menu Order worksheet.
    Locating a cell
  2. Navigate to the desired worksheet. In our example, we'll select the Catering Invoice worksheet.
    Selecting a worksheet
  3. Locate and select the cell where you want the value to appear. In our example, we'll select cell C4.
    Selecting a cell
  4. Type the equals sign (=), the sheet name followed by an exclamation point (!), and the cell address. In our example, we'll type ='Menu Order'!E14.
    Entering a formula
  5. Press Enter on your keyboard. The value of the referenced cell will appear. Now, if the value of cell E14 changes on the Menu Order worksheet, it will be updated automatically on the Catering Invoice worksheet.
    Formula result

If you rename your worksheet at a later point, the cell reference will be updated automatically to reflect the new worksheet name.

If you enter a worksheet name incorrectly, the #REF! error will appear in the cell. In our example below, we've mistyped the name of the worksheet. To edit, ignore, or investigate the error, click the Error button beside the cell and choose an option from the menu.

Correcting an error


  1. Open our practice workbook.
  2. Click the Paper Goods tab in the bottom-left of the workbook.
  3. In cell D4, enter a formula that multiplies the unit price in B4, the quantity in C4, and the tax rate in E2. Make sure to use an absolute cell reference for the tax rate because it will be the same in every cell.
  4. Use the fill handle to copy the formula you just created to cells D5:D12.
  5. Change the tax rate in cell E2 to 6.5%. Notice that all of your cells have updated. When you're finished, your workbook should look like this:
    Paper Goods Tab
  6. Click the Catering Invoice tab.
  7. Delete the value in cell C5 and replace it with a reference to the total cost of the paper goods. Hint: The cost of the paper goods is in cell E13 on the Paper Goods worksheet.
  8. Optional: Use the same steps from above to calculate the sales tax for each item on the Menu Order worksheet. The total cost in cell E14 should update. Then, in cell C4 of the Catering Invoice worksheet, create a cell reference to the total you just calculated. Note: If you used our practice workbook to follow along during the lesson, you may have already completed this step.
  9. When you're finished, the Catering Invoice worksheet should look something like this: