From Another Workbook

From Another Workbook

Last week we discussed how to write Excel formulas that reference cells located on a different worksheet within your workbook. Well, the logical occurred – a reader wrote in inquiring about formulas that reference cells from a completely different workbook.

Good question – one that I immediately set out trying to answer and here’s what I found…

The easiest way to tackle this one is to let Excel do the referencing for you. So begin by opening both the workbook with the data cells and the one that will contain the formula.

Now go to the cell that’s to contain the formula and begin as usual – that is, start with your equal sign, function and pause at the first place in the formula where you’re looking for pull data from a different workbook. For example:


Next it’s to the Window menu and select the workbook containing the data from the list of open files. (For the keyboard people out there, Ctrl + F6 will rotate you through the open workbooks.)

Once you’re switched over to the data workbook highlight the cell(s) that contain the needed info.

Return to the Window menu and switch back to the formula workbook using the list of open files. (Ctrl + F6 works here too.)

When you return you should see that Excel has automatically put in the reference you were looking to have from the other workbook.


At this point you’re ready to finish up your formula – in the above example I would finish up with the right parentheses.

And there you have it – a complete formula containing references to cells from another workbook. Better yet, Excel did a lot of the typing for you!

I think at this juncture we should discuss how Excel handles updating the formula to reflect changed data.

  • If both workbooks are open then data changes will be immediately reflected.
  • If the data workbook is open when you open the formula workbook then updates will be reflected upon opening the file.
  • Here’s the most involved situation. If you’re opening the formula workbook without the data workbook open you will be asked if you want to update your formulas.


    If you choose to update then Excel will go into the data file and get the info to update without actually opening that workbook.

That last situation brings us to this next question… Can I get Excel to stop asking and just go ahead with the update automatically?

Another good question and fortunately I have the answer right here – should you decide that updating is always the thing to do and you want Excel to stop asking go to the Tools menu, Options choice.

On the Edit tab uncheck the “Ask to Update Automatic Links” checkbox.


Click OK.

Now you’re set – automatic updates without a second thought.

~ April

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