# Absolute and Relative Cell References in Google Sheets Explained

Google Sheets uses formulas to simplify tasks, and these formulas work like magic instructions for handling numbers and data. One fascinating technique you can leverage with these formulas is the use of absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets.

Instead of directly inputting specific numbers into your formulas, you can refer to other cells, employing the power of absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets.

## Use Case Or Scenario

Imagine you’re organizing a budget. Each expense category has various costs, and you want to calculate the total expenditure. Rather than manually entering each cost into your formula, you can harness the capabilities of absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets.” This means that if you modify a cost later, the formula will automatically update the total expenditure, streamlining your budgeting process.

Understanding the distinction between absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets” is vital. On occasions, you might want a particular part of your formula to remain constant, even when copying it to other cells.

This is precisely where the concept of absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets becomes invaluable. It enables you to lock in specific values while enabling others to adapt dynamically.

Think of it akin to designing a blueprint. Let’s say you have a floor plan, and you wish to replicate it for different rooms. The dimensions of the walls should stay fixed, but the furniture arrangements need to adjust based on the room’s size. Utilizing absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets” is akin to preserving the wall dimensions (absolute) while allowing the furniture layout (relative) to flexibly adapt.

Today’s post will explore the nuances between absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets. We will explore what constitutes absolute references and delve into the realm of relative references.

Moreover, we will unravel the practical ways to harness the capabilities of absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets to enhance your spreadsheets.

## Different Kinds of Cell References in Google Sheets

In Google Sheets, there are two main ways to talk about cells. We call them “relative” and “absolute” references. These ways affect what happens when you copy and move data from one cell to another.

Let’s start with relative references. Imagine you have a formula in a cell. When you copy that formula to another cell, the references inside it change based on where you copied it. For example, if you had a formula in cell B1 that added the numbers in cells C1 and D1 (=C1+D1), and you copied that formula to cell B2, the formula would change to add the numbers in cells C2 and D2 (=C2+D2).

On the other hand, absolute references work differently. When you copy a formula with absolute references, the references don’t change. They stay the same no matter where you copy the formula. Using the same example, if you had a formula in cell B1 that added the numbers in cells C1 and D1 (=C1+D1), and you copied it to cell B2, the formula would still add the numbers in cells C1 and D1, not C2 and D2.

To summarize, relative references change when you copy a formula, while absolute references stay the same. This helps you control how your data behaves when you move it around in Google Sheets. Just remember, absolute references are different from absolute values in Google Sheets.

## Absolute and Relative Cell References in Google Sheets: How they work

Using relative references in Sheets is pretty easy – they’re automatically used without any extra effort. But if you want to use absolute references, there’s a simple trick to remember.

To switch from relative to absolute, just add a Dollar sign (\$) before the row number or the column letter in your cell reference.

Here’s how you can do it:

• If you want the row to stay fixed but allow the column to change, use a Dollar sign before the row number. For example, if you have a cell reference like B1 and want the row to stay the same but let the column change, you’d write it as B\$1.
• On the other hand, if you want the column to remain unchanged but allow the row to change, put the Dollar sign before the column letter. For instance, if you had a cell reference like B1 and you wanted the column to stay constant but let the row change, you’d write it as \$B1.
• If you want the column and row to stay fixed, you can use the Dollar sign before the column letter and row number. So, if you had a cell reference like B1 and you wanted both the column and the row to stay the same when you copy or fill, you’d write it as \$B\$1.

Remember, these Dollar signs let you control whether columns, rows, or both remain the same or change when you copy or fill your formulas. It’s a handy way to get your desired results in Google Sheets.

## Practical examples of Absolute cell references in Google Sheets.

Now that we’ve learned the basics, let’s dive into some real-life examples of using absolute cell references in Google Sheets.

Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Let’s look at a simple example using a spreadsheet. Imagine we’re keeping track of sales in a store.

In the first row, we have the number of items sold; in the second row, we have the price for each item.

Now, in the third row, we want to determine the total amount of money earned from these sales. To figure this out, we’ll multiply the number of items by their respective prices. As you’ll see, this uses relative reference.

Here is the sample data we will use for this example.

Now that we have sorted our sample data, let’s get down to business.

Step 1: Select the cell where you want the result generated

The first thing we need to do is choose the cell where we want our result generated. For this example, we will use cell C2.

Step 2: Type in your formula

After selecting the cell where we want our result generated, we need to head over to the formula bar and type in the following formula:

Step 3: Hit Enter

Finally, hit the Enter button on your keyboard, and Google Sheets will automatically generate the result in the selected cell.

Here is what ours looks like:

Note: Something interesting happens when you copy the same formula to cells below C2. The formula kind of knows where it is and adjusts itself based on its new home. Let’s try something out: we’ll use an example and copy the formula to cell C11.

The video below provides better insight.

From the video above, you can see how the formula adapts its address to fit where it’s placed.

Most of the formula uses a part of what we talked about earlier. But now, let’s show you something new with absolute references. Imagine you’re handling online product purchases, and there’s always a \$5 shipping fee. This fixed amount is in cell E2, and we want it to stay the same no matter where we use the formula. That’s where Google Sheets’ absolute cell reference comes in.

We will use our sample data from earlier on.

Here is how to go about it:

Step 1: Choose the cell where you want your result generated

First, we must choose the cell where we want our result generated. For this example, we will use cell D2.

Step 2: Type in your formula

Now, head over to the formula bar and type in the following formula:

Step 3: Hit Enter

After typing your formula, you only need to hit the Enter button on your keyboard, and Google Sheets will automatically generate the result in the selected cell.

Here is what our spreadsheet now looks like after applying the formula.

To check if we’ve used the absolute reference correctly, we’ll use a handy tool called Google Sheets Autofill

This tool helps us quickly put the formula in other cells automatically.

The video below provides better insight:

Look at what happened: every cell now has that \$5 shipment fee added. This shows that we did everything right and followed the steps well.

## Shortcuts for Absolute Reference in Google Sheets

While using the dollar sign in a cell reference is already quite simple, there’s an even easier trick for absolute references.

If you’re on a Windows computer, just pick the cell you want for absolute reference and press the F4 key in Google Sheets. For Mac users, it’s a bit different – you’ll need to press the fn key and F4 together.

When you press this key while a cell is selected, something happens. It switches back and forth between absolute and relative references.

The video below provides better clarity:

## Understanding Relative Cell Reference in Google Sheets

Unlike absolute cell references, relative references are a bit different. When you copy a formula, these references like to adapt and change. And guess what? You don’t need to do anything special.

Here is what’s interesting, when you write your formula, they automatically act as relative references.

We will use the following sample data to demonstrate how relative reference works in Google Sheets:

Let’s say we want to add the total sales in our example spreadsheet to demonstrate relative cell reference, here is how we will go about it:

Step 1: Choose the cell where you want the result generated

The first thing we want to do here is select the cell where we want our result generated. We will use cell C2 for this example.

Step 2: Type in your formula

Once you’ve picked the cell where we want your answer, it’s time to put in the formula. Here’s how: go up to the formula bar and type in this formula:

Step 3: Hit Enter

With our formula now correctly entered, simply hit the Enter button on your keyboard. Google Sheets will automatically generate the result in the selected cell.

Here is what ours looks like:

Step 4: Copy the formula to other cells

Now that we have generated the result for cell C2, we must repeat the same steps for other cells. But instead of doing it manually, we will use the Google Sheets autofill feature, which saves us time and effort.

The video below shows how to leverage the Google Sheets autofill feature:

Note: When you click on the cells showing the answers, you’ll notice something interesting. They’re already using those relative cell references we talked about. This means that each formula has cell references related to each other in the rows.

The video below gives a glimpse of what we are talking about.

### What’s the difference between absolute and relative cell references?

Absolute references stay fixed, while relative references change when you copy a formula. Absolute references use a dollar sign (\$) to lock a cell, while relative references adapt to their new locations.

### How do I switch between absolute and relative references quickly?

On Windows, select the cell and press F4; on Mac, use fn+F4. This switches between absolute and relative references. Pressing the shortcut again can fix the row or column.

### Why do some formulas change when I copy them, while others stay the same?

Formulas with relative references change to fit their new positions, making calculations based on neighboring cells. Formulas with absolute references remain constant, using specific cells you’ve locked.

### Can I use a combination of absolute and relative references in one formula?

Yes, you can! Mixing absolute and relative references lets you create powerful formulas. You can lock certain cells while allowing others to adjust based on their locations.

## Final Thoughts

Understanding when and how to use absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets is like having a secret trick up your sleeve. It keeps you from repeatedly redoing the same formula when you want to use it in different spots. Plus, knowing this stuff is a must if you want to make some cool spreadsheets in Google Sheets.

We hope this article clarified how absolute and relative cell references in Google Sheets work and how you can use them. You might also want to look at our guide on creating a dependent drop-down list in Google Sheets for more helpful tips.