Toggle Between Cell References (Absolute/Relative/Mixed) Shortcut

When working with spreadsheets in Excel or other similar programs, users often need to change the type of cell reference used in their formulas.

Cell references can be of three different types:

  • Absolute references (example $A$1)
  • relative references (example A1)
  • Mixed references (example A$1 or $A1)

Toggling between absolute, relative, and mixed cell references is a popular practice while creating formulas in Excel.

If you try it manually, you have to keep the cursor in the right place of the cell reference and type the $ sign.

Learning the Excel shortcut to toggle cell references will make it easier to complete this tedious task.

In this short tutorial, you will learn how to toggle between absolute, relative, and mixed cell references.

Shortcut to Toggle Between Cell References (Absolute/Relative/Mixed)

Below is the keyboard shortcut to toggle between cell references (absolute/relative/mixed) in Excel:

F4

Note – If the function keys are enabled, you have to press the F4 while holding the Fn key.

If you’re using a Mac, you can use the below shortcut:

Command + T or fn + F4 

For Mac users, the “Command + T” shortcut was more common in earlier versions of Excel.

However, in recent versions like Excel 365, the “fn + F4” shortcut has also been added to make it more consistent with the Windows version of Excel.

How to Use the Keyboard Shortcut to Toggle Between Cell References

Below are the steps to use the above keyboard shortcut to toggle between cell references in Excel:

  1. Activate the cell that you want to change the cell reference type. You can either double-click on that cell or press F2 to activate the cell.
  2. Place the cursor anywhere near the cell reference. You can place the cursor before, after, or middle of the cell reference.
  3. Press F4 until you get the desired cell reference type. When you press F4 repeatedly, you can toggle between cell reference types.

Important Things to Know:

Below are some important things to know when using a shortcut to toggle between cell references (absolute/relative/mixed) in Excel:

  1. You have to activate the cell and place the cursor near the cell reference before pressing the F4 key. Otherwise, Excel will repeat the last action you did.
  2. If you want to change the cell reference type of all cell references of a formula, highlight the entire formula and use the keyboard shortcut. Then, you can toggle between cell references all at once.
  3. You have to press only the F4 key (If function keys are locked, press the Fn key as well). If you press the F4 key with CTRL or ALT key, Excel will close all the open Excel files.

Understanding Cell References in Excel

Cell references are an essential element of working with spreadsheets, as they allow users to refer to specific data within formulas, functions, and conditional formatting rules.

In this section, we will discuss the primary types of cell references: absolute, relative, and mixed.

Absolute Cell References

Absolute cell references are fixed references that do not change when copying or filling formulas.

By inserting a dollar sign ($) before the column and row, an absolute reference is created.

For example, the reference $A$1 will always refer to cell A1, regardless of where the formula is copied or dragged.

This is particularly useful when referencing constants or fixed data in a spreadsheet.

Relative Cell References

Relative cell references, on the other hand, adjust their position depending on where the formula is copied or filled.

They do not use dollar signs and automatically update when dragged across the spreadsheet.

For instance, if a formula contains the reference A1 and the formula is copied one cell to the right, the reference will automatically update to B1, as it has been shifted one column to the right.

Mixed Cell References

Mixed cell references fall between absolute and relative cell references; they have one fixed element (either the row or column) and one relative element. There are two types of mixed references:

  • Row-relative: The row value can change, but the column value remains constant. For example, $A1 would always refer to column A, but the row reference would change depending on where the formula is copied.
  • Column-relative: The column value can change, but the row value remains constant. For example, A$1 would always refer to row 1, but the column reference would change depending on where the formula is copied.

The following table summarizes how different reference types react when copied two cells down and two cells to the right:

Reference TypeOriginal ReferenceAdjusted Reference
RelativeA1C3
Absolute$A$1$A$1
Mixed (Row Absolute)A$1C$1
Mixed (Column Absolute)$A1$A3

In summary, understanding different cell reference types is crucial for efficient and accurate spreadsheet management.

Utilizing absolute, relative, and mixed cell references effectively allows for flexibility and precision in calculating and organizing data.

Other Excel shortcuts you may also like:

Other articles you may also like:

I am a huge fan of Microsoft Excel and love sharing my knowledge through articles and tutorials. I work as a business analyst and use Microsoft Excel extensively in my daily tasks. My aim is to help you unleash the full potential of Excel and become a data-slaying wizard yourself.