How to Use INDIRECT function in Excel: master cell referencing

Master Excel's INDIRECT function to create dynamic cell references.

As a result of its unique purpose and usefulness, the INDIRECT feature in Microsoft Excel stands out from many others. INDIRECT is different from most functions because it’s a dynamic reference tool that lets users indirectly refer to cells or ranges within formulas. In this guide we talk about how to use INDIRECT function in Excel.

Because it can read text lines as cell references, it is very flexible. This lets you make dynamic formulas based on changing conditions or criteria. Although the idea behind it may seem easy, it can be very useful, especially when cell references need to be found on the fly, like when data is being validated, conditional formatting is being used, or formulas need to be updated on the fly based on user inputs or data from outside sources.

Expertise in INDIRECT can greatly improve your Excel skills, even though it seems simple. It opens up many options for creating flexible and dynamic spreadsheets, which cuts down on manual work and speeds up processes. You can find more comprehensive information about Excel on the Microsoft official website

How to use INDIRECT function in Excel

  1. The text value in cell C2 is turned into a reference by this method.
  2. In this case, the INDIRECT function gives back the number from cell D2.
  3. In this case, the second input is not given, so an A1 reference style is used.
  4. Even though this is a very simple and not very useful example, it helps you understand how the INDIRECT method works.
  5. Come with me as I show you how the INDIRECT function works with named groups.
  6. The names of cells C13, F13, and I13 in this case are Brussels, Chicago, and Toronto.
  7. The code below has been typed into cell C3. Using the number in cell B3, it indirectly points to a named range.
  8. A drop-down menu lets you choose this number.
  9. =DIRECT (B3)

Basic Usage of the INDIRECT Function in Excel

The INDIRECT function allows you to indirectly reference cells, ranges, other sheets, or even workbooks based on a text string or cell reference containing the address. This means you can use cell values or text strings to determine which cell or range your formula should reference, instead of manually entering the address every time.

How to use INDIRECT function in Excel

Here are some key points about the INDIRECT function:

  • Syntax:=INDIRECT(ref_text, [a1])
    • ref_text: This is the text string or cell reference containing the address you want to use.
    • [a1]: This is an optional argument that specifies the reference style. TRUE or omitting this argument uses A1 style (e.g., A1, B2). FALSE uses R1C1 style (e.g., R1C1, R2C2).

Advanced Techniques with the INDIRECT Function

References that change over time with LOOKUP functions:

  • Think about a situation where product codes are in one column and prices are in another. The price table is on a different sheet. You can use INDIRECT with VLOOKUP or INDEX MATCH to get the price based on the product code on the fly.
  • If your product codes are in cell A2, your prices are on Sheet2 in range B2–C10, and the method to get the price is in cell B2, you can do the following:
  • Microsoft Excel =VLOOKUP(A2, INDIRECT(“‘Sheet2’!B2:C10”), 2, FALSE)
    Be careful when you use code.
  • The word “Sheet2!B2:C10″ is turned into a cell reference by INDIRECT. This lets VLOOKUP find the product code in the dynamic range and return the price that goes with it.

Making charts that change:

  • With INDIRECT, you can make charts that change themselves based on what the user chooses. Say you have a drop-down menu with a list of different sales areas and a chart that shows the sales data for the selected region.
  • In the drop-down menu cell (let’s call it D2), you can add places like “East,” “West,” and so on. Then, in the chart data range (for example, A1:B10), you can use INDIRECT to find the exact data based on the choice:
  • In Excel, “‘” & D2 & “‘!A1:B10”) = INDIRECT
    Be careful when you use code.
  • When the user chooses an area from the drop-down menu, INDIRECT changes the chart data range to show sales data from that region.

Best Practices for Using the INDIRECT Function

Think about other options:

  • Direct references: Using direct references to cells is often easier and faster than using indirect references. This helps keep things clear and stops problems from happening if the reference text changes.
  • Named ranges: Giving ranges names can make formulas easier to read and keep up to date than using INDIRECT with cell references that could change.

Make use of INDIRECT judgement:

  • Dynamic situations: INDIRECT can be helpful when working with dynamic data or situations where references need to be built based on math or user input.
  • Advanced methods: INDIRECT can be useful for advanced techniques like making dynamic arrays or drop-down lists that depend on other lists.

Dos and Don’ts:

  • Dealing with errors: If the reference text doesn’t point to a legal cell, INDIRECT can return errors like #REF! Use error handling, like IFERROR, to handle these kinds of events in a polite way.
  • Detail and documentation: If you have to use INDIRECT, make sure that your methods are well-documented and simple enough for other people to understand who might be working on the spreadsheet.


How do you use indirect in a range in Excel?

You can also refer to a range of cells the same way you refer to a single cell using the INDIRECT function in Excel. For example, =INDIRECT(“A1:A5”) would refer to the range A1:A5. You can then use the SUM function to find the total or the LARGE/SMALL/MIN/MAX function to do other calculations.

How do you indirect address a cell in Excel?

The INDIRECT function returns the value of a cell whose address is provided by a text string. In other words, the function can interpret text strings as valid cell addresses (or cell references). Once analyzed, the function goes to this cell address, picks its value, and returns it.

What is indirect formula?

With Excel’s INDIRECT tool, you can get a cell reference from a string of text. It takes two arguments, the first of which is needed and the second of which is not: FROM(ref_text, [a1]) TO You can use ref_text to find a cell, a text string that points to a cell, or a named range.

Lucas Simonds
Lucas Simonds
Lucas Simonds is a skilled content editor at Bollyinside, specializing in "How to" and "Tips & Tricks" articles focused on Gaming, Software, and Apps. With a genuine passion for video games, he not only writes about them but also actively engages in gaming. His commitment to providing insightful and approachable content has earned him a trusted reputation within the online community.


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