Setting an absolute cell reference in Google Sheets

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An absolute cell reference points to a specific cell and doesn’t change if you replicate that original cell. In this article we will cover how to turn a relative reference into an absolute one. We will also analyze some cases where this is necessary or useful.

Make your data work together

What is an absolute cell reference?

It is a cell reference that points to a specific cell which does not change when a formula is replicated.

By default all cell references are relative and if they are copied to another cell they change accordingly. The image below illustrates just that, the green cell is the original that was replicated to all other cells.

absolute cell reference 1

To point to a specific cell that never changes just add dollar signs to the cell range (“$A$21”). These act as anchors and have to be added before the column and row in the coordinates.

absolute cell reference 3

You can also add a dollar sign to either the column or the row to create a mixed cell reference (“$A21”). In the next example the column is frozen and the row changes.

absolute cell reference 2

When would an absolute cell reference be most helpful?

An absolute cell reference is a great way to point to one specific value to add in your formulas. As a rule of thumb, you should use them if:

  • Replicating a cell breaks the formula it contains.
  • You have to introduce a specific value in a lot of formulas. Especially if this is a value you will have to update regularly.

Here are some common scenarios where it can be particularly useful:

  • Currency Conversion: Include the conversion rate in a cell and use an absolute cell reference to point to it. This way, when the rate changes, you only need to update one value to keep all calculations up to date.
  • Consistent References in Replicated Formulas: When replicating a formula across multiple cells, using an absolute cell reference ensures that specific values or ranges remain constant. Without it, you might get incorrect results as the reference shifts with each replication.
  • Sales Tax Calculation: When calculating sales tax for multiple items, using an absolute cell reference for the tax rate ensures that the same rate is applied consistently to all items. If the tax rate changes, you only need to update it in one place.

Absolute cell reference shortcut

Adding dollar signs to existing references in your formulas can be annoying. Fortunately, there is a way to do this easily, just place your cursor on the cell reference and press F4. This will turn it into an absolute reference.

Press it again and it will turn into a mixed cell reference with an anchored row, one more time will fix the column instead of the row. One final and fourth tap of F4 will complete the cycle, returning to its original state as a relative reference.

This saves you the time of having to place your cursor in the right place and type the dollar sign. It isn’t a life changer, but it speeds things up considerably.

Update reference values automatically with Sheetgo

Once you set up an absolute cell reference to a specific value, chances are you have to update it regularly. The next step in your spreadsheet journey is updating information automatically and Sheetgo is the best companion.

Here are just a handful of Sheetgo features that could automate tasks:

  • Connect your files: Link up your spreadsheets and transfer information between them. Always keep necessary data up to date and accessible. Share information and stop copy-pasting.
  • Consult BigQuery databases: If you have a BigQuery database you could bring that information straight into your spreadsheets. 
  • API connect: Draw information automatically from an API, no need to learn how to do a request or parse incomprehensible files.

Try out Sheetgo for free and automate your problems away!

Conclusion

Absolute cell references are crucial in Google Sheets for ensuring stable and accurate formulas. By anchoring columns and rows in your cell coordinates, you keep critical values constant.

Converting relative references to absolute ones is easy and can be sped up with the F4 shortcut. As your spreadsheets become more complex, Sheetgo is a great ally to automate updates and enhance data consistency.

Ready to streamline your spreadsheet data?

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