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How to use names instead of cell addresses in Microsoft Excel

This week's series of tips will be focusing on handy little features for Microsoft Excel and Word. To see the previous tips, check our Tips index.

By default, Excel uses cell references in formulas, which results in formulas that look like D5/20 (Meaning, divide the contents of cell D5 by 20). This is fine as long as your formulas are very simple. If you start pulling in data from multiple cells and using many complex formulas in a single spreadsheet, however, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember what each cell address means.

That's where named ranges come in handy. As the name implies, these are names you can give ranges of cells -- but a range can also be a single cell! So rather than having a formula read D5/20, you could have it read CostOfLiving/20. "CostOfLiving" is actually a named range consisting of one single cell.

This all sounds quite complex, but once you name your first cell you'll see how simple it is. To do this, simply:
  • Select the cell you wish to name.
  • Click the Name Box. This is the text box to the left of the formula bar – it should contain your cell's current address (say, H12).
  • Type in whatever name you wish to use for this cell (say, "MonthlyExpenses"). It must not contain spaces.
  • That's it! You can now use this name in all of your formulas instead of the cell's address.

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