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Understanding Microsoft Excel Cell References
In Microsoft Excel, a cell reference is how you refer to an address or location. In its simplest form, a cell address is simply a label for a location, such as A1, which is the intersection of column A and row 1.
Understanding your options for Excel cell references is key to the accuracy and success of your calculations. When you’re creating formulas, you can work with more than one type of cell reference.
In Microsoft Excel, there are 3 types of references:

a relative

Absolute

Circular (which you don’t want to put on paper)
A compound reference is a combination of relative and absolute.
a relative
The default structure of a formula in Excel is that the formula adjusts automatically when you copy the formula from one cell to another. This is known as adjustment relative context, that is, the content of the formula adjusts relative to (or based on) the new position of the formula. Why does this behavior in Excel cell references update and adjust formulas when you copy or move formulas.
Absolute
When you don’t want cell references to change when a formula is copied to a different cell, you must specify one or more values to be constant. It is called Absolute reference. Absolute cell references are often used when a formula refers to a constant value in a worksheet, such as an interest rate, labor cost, or projection percentage. An absolute cell reference says “Use this value absolutely or always, regardless of the position of the formula.” It’s the GPS of a formula–it’s an exact destination regardless of your starting location.
You can create one Absolute reference For constants that do not change, place a $ in front of the column and/or row space. You can designate a part of a formula as an absolute by highlighting a cell and pressing [F4] function key.
Examples of absolute (or compound) cell references include:

$G$5

B$3

$C8
While building the formula, press [F4] Repeatedly to return cell references to pure absolute references, mixed references, or relative references.
Mixed
A compound cell reference is actually just a formula or a cell that has both relative and absolute references. For example, if you want to consistently refer to the values in row 4 then copy the formula to each column, the cell reference to the value might be B$4 which updates to C$4 when copied one column to the right.
circular
A circular reference occurs when a cell in an Excel worksheet refers to itself, either directly or indirectly. For example, if =100+B2 is entered in cell B2, a direct circular reference is created. An indirect circular reference occurs when a formula in a given cell refers to one or more other cells that in turn return to the parent cell. For example, a formula in C1 refers to cell C2, C2 refers to C3, and C3 refers to C1.
When Excel encounters a circular reference in a worksheet, a circular reference warning is displayed in the dialog box when the workbook is first opened. You can either ignore the circular reference or you can locate it by editing the worksheet. Stop! Ignoring circular references makes your data inaccurate and can lead to poor decisions. Unfortunately, many Excel users do not understand circular references, they click through the warning without any additional action.
If you see the Circular References dialog box, click OK, and then track down the problem references so you can correct the formula logic:

Look in the status bar. If you see a message Circular references The error after the cell is in the active worksheet. If not, move through the other worksheets in the workbook until you find the worksheet that contains one or more cell references. or

Even easier with multiple worksheets, choose Formulas > Error Checking > Circled References which will show you circled references in open workbooks.
Excel circular references will usually be flagged visually in the worksheet with a green marker in the upper left corner of the cell.
Understanding the different types of cell references in formulas is one of the keys to accurate results and success in Microsoft Excel. This is the key to creating and editing formulas more easily and successfully.
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