Excel FAQ

  1. What is the difference between absolute and relative cell references?
    When you copy formulas from one cell to another, Excel automatically adjusts the cell references to the new location. For example, if you copy the formula in cell B6 =SUM(B2:B5) and paste it into cell C6, the formula in cell C6 will adjust to =SUM(C2:C5). This is relative cell referencing where the cell references are relative to the cell's position.

    Copying Formula

    If you want to control which column or row is referenced in a formula, you must use absolute referencing by placing a dollar sign ($) before the column and/or row. For example, if we want to copy a formula that references a value in cell E1, and we always want to reference that cell regardless for where the formula is copied to on the spreadsheet, we would reference the cell as $E$1. The absolute reference may be used in any formula (ex. =B6/$E$1), and when the formula is copied, B6 would change relative to the new location of the formula, but the reference to E1 would remain constant.

    You may also place the dollar sign ($) just before the row as in E$1. When the formula is copied, the row number will remain constant, but the column will be relative to the formula's new location.

    You may also place the dollar sign ($) just before the column as in $E1. When the formula is copied, the column will remain constant, but the row will be relative to the formula's new location.
  2. If my data is going across columns on the spreadsheet and I need it going down the rows, how do I transpose the data?
    If you want to transpose your data (i.e.  you have the following spreadsheet and the years need to go down the rows), select the range of data that you want to transpose by dragging the mouse over the range.

    Copying Data

    the data. Click in the cell where you where you want your data to begin. Open the Edit menu and select Paste Special.

    Edit Menu

    The Paste Special dialog box will open. Click in the Transpose check box and then click OK.

    Paste Special

    The result will be as follows.

  3. Where can I get more help with Excel?
    You can learn more about Excel using any of the following resources:
    • Element K tutorials
    • There are several guides to Excel and other computer software at the Circulation Desk in Leyburn Library providing step-by-step instructions for using specific applications. A list of guides available can be found on Annie.
    • Search the help feature in Excel. The Help offered on Excel is probably the quickest way to learn specifics about individual features in Excel.


© Copyright 2007 Washington & Lee University
This website is provided by the Leyburn Library and University Computing
Website design and implementation by Jack Jeong , Class of 2007