O'Reilly logo

Excel 2010: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

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. Consider this formula:

=(A1+A2)*B1

It's immediately obvious that this formula adds together two numbers (the numbers in cells A1 and A2), and then 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 do—calculate 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, and then you can use these names instead of cell references.

Named ranges provide other benefits besides conveying the meaning of a formula:

  • They make complex, nested formulas more understandable.

  • They make it easy to quickly find a cell or select a group of cells. That makes them ideal for navigating large worksheets or for applying ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required