INDIRECT: Excel Formulas Explained

Now, I'll be honest, I'm not a math person. I can't calculate percentages in my head, and I have to use a calculator to double-check my tip at a restaurant. But, Excel is a whole other story. I love Excel. It's like a playground for number-loving people and even for those like me who don't quite understand the math behind the formulas.

One of the most versatile and misunderstood formulas in Excel is the INDIRECT formula. If you're anything like me, you probably don't know how to use it, or even what it does. Well, I've got you covered. In this article, I'm going to explain the INDIRECT formula in plain English and show you some real-world examples of how it can be used.

What is the INDIRECT Formula?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let's start with the basics. The INDIRECT formula is an Excel function that takes a text value and converts it into a cell reference. Essentially, it allows you to use text strings as cell references in formulas and functions.

For example, let's say you have a worksheet with the names of your sales team in cells A1 through A5, and their sales numbers in cells B1 through B5. If you want to calculate the total sales for a specific team member, you can use the INDIRECT formula to convert the name of the team member in a cell reference.

How to Use the INDIRECT Formula

To use the INDIRECT formula, you need to follow the syntax below:

=INDIRECT(ref_text, [a1])

  • ref_text - This is the text value that specifies the cell reference you want to use. This value can be a cell reference, a cell name, or a text string that represents a cell reference.
  • a1 (optional) - This is a logical value (TRUE or FALSE) that determines the type of reference.
    • TRUE or omitted - The INDIRECT function will interpret the text reference as an A1-style reference.
    • FALSE - The INDIRECT function will interpret the text reference as a R1C1-style reference.

Real-World Examples of INDIRECT Formula

Now that you know the basics of the INDIRECT formula, let's take a look at some examples of how to use it in real-world situations.

1. Summing Multiple Worksheets

Let's say you have multiple worksheets that each contain sales data for a different region. You want to create a summary worksheet that shows the total sales for all regions. You can use the INDIRECT formula to create a dynamic reference to the cell range containing the sales data for each worksheet.

In this example, we have four worksheets: East, West, North, and South. Each worksheet contains sales data for its respective region, and the data is organized in the same layout. To create a summary worksheet that shows the total sales for all regions, we can use the formula below:


  • The "&" symbol is used to concatenate the text value of A1 (the worksheet name) with the rest of the cell reference.
  • The single quotes are used to enclose the text value of A1, which is necessary because the INDIRECT function requires text values to be enclosed in quotes.

By changing the value in cell A1 (the worksheet name), the formula will update and show the total sales for the selected region.

2. Creating Dynamic Named Ranges

Named ranges are a great way to make formulas easier to read and understand. With the INDIRECT formula, you can create dynamic named ranges that update automatically based on the value of another cell.

In this example, we have a list of products in column A, and their sales data in column B. We want to create a named range for each product that includes all of its sales data. To do this, we can use the formula below:


  • The MATCH function is used to find the first and last row numbers of the product in column A.
  • The "&" symbol is used to concatenate text values.

By creating named ranges for each product in this way, we can easily reference their sales data in other formulas. And, as the data changes, the named ranges will update automatically.

Closing Thoughts

The INDIRECT formula can be a powerful tool in your Excel arsenal. By allowing you to use text values as cell references, you can create dynamic formulas and functions that are easy to update and maintain. Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of the INDIRECT formula and how it can be used in real-world situations.

Now, I'm off to create some dynamic named ranges and sum some multi-regional sales data. Who knew Excel could be so exciting?

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