How to Use a Cell Value as a Reference in Excel

By Gregory Hamel

Cell references are a feature of Microsoft Excel, a popular computer spreadsheet program -- it's a link to a value in a specific cell which help users quickly perform calculations on data in existing cells. For instance, if your spreadsheet contains a cell value that lists your total monthly expenses, you could use a cell reference to subtract that value from your monthly income to determine the amount of money you have leftover for that month.

Things You'll Need

  • Microsoft Excel 2003, 2007 or 2010

Step 1

Open the spreadsheet containing data that you want to work with.

Step 2

Click the worksheet tab containing the data value you are interested in referencing. Worksheets are listed along the bottom of Excel workbooks. The first worksheet that opens when you open the workbook will likely contain the data you want to work with.

Step 3

Click on an empty cell and then press the "=" button. This will open the formula editor.

Step 4

Click on the cell containing the value that you want to reference. A cell reference will appear in the formula. The name of the reference will be determined by column and row of the cell you are referencing. For instance, if you are referencing the value in the second cell in the second column (cell B2), the cell reference will be called "B2" in the formula.

Step 5

Type in the rest of the formula you want to use and then press the "Enter" key. The result of the equation will appear in the cell. For instance, if you referenced cell B2 and then typed "+2" the cell would display the value of cell B2 plus 2.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can type the name of the cell into the formula instead of clicking on the cell to create a reference.
  • A single formula can contain many cell references. For example, if you wanted to add the values in two different cells, you could click on a blank cell, press "=," click on the value of the first cell, press "+," click on the value of the second cell and then press "Enter" to calculate the sum using two cell references.