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Excel 2003: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Descriptive Names for Cell References

One of the obvious problems with Excel formulas is that they don't make for the easiest reading in the world. For example, consider this formula:

=(A1+A2)*B1

It's immediately obvious that this formula adds together two numbers (the numbers in the cells A1 and A2), and multiplies the result by a third number (the number in cell B1). However, the formula gives absolutely no clue about the purpose of this calculation. There's no way to know whether it's converting currencies, calculating a discount, or measuring the square footage of your llama day care center. To answer these questions, you need to look at the worksheet and track down the cells this formula references.

On the other hand, consider the next formula, which uses descriptive names in place of cryptic cell references. Although it performs the same calculation, this formula provides much more information about what it's actually trying to accomplish—calculating the retail price of a product:

=(ProductCost + ShippingCost) * MarkupPercentage

Excel lets you build formulas using such descriptive names, or named ranges. All you have to do is define the ranges as you create your worksheet, then you can use these names instead of cell references.

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