Guide: How to Use Ref­er­ence Func­tions in MS Excel

Collecting data in Microsoft Excel is not that difficult. But sort, validate, adjust, look up values ​​and the like is quite difficult. Some features may not be as popular as others, but knowing them will significantly reduce your workload. Don’t be afraid to find the right data in complex sheets | Shutterstock Let’s take a look at reference functions in MS Excel.

What are they?

If you want to find a match (not the Tinder kind), you may have to scan an Excel sheet that is full of data for a long time. But there are features that will do the hard work for you, provided you use them properly. All you need to do is provide the value you are looking for, a range to search in, and an (optional) argument how to perform the search. Usually this argument is specified by the number 0, which means you want an exact match.

How does it work?

So, let’s say you searched for a certain value in a large excel file and the function found it in the third row, the Match function returns a value of 3. Match functions work in conjunction with the Index functions, sometimes Match provides the index for the Index function. Matching is not easy Okay, don’t let that confuse you. Let’s take a look at a simple example using an Excel Orders for Profit sheet. Here we look for the maximum profit, but we also look at the corresponding order quantity. Since it is a simple blade, we can locate them easily, but what if it were 10 times more complex?

That’s when we need to know formulas. And do that in the profit row, I just have to enter the formula below – This formula should be entered where you want to see the results. To get the corresponding order quantity which matches the result you get from the above formula, you need to use the Index function. So under the Order Quantity table, type this formula – Again, the 0 used at the end just indicates that we want an exact match to be displayed.


If your Excel data is more complex, you need to be more careful. I’ll show another example, taking the same numbers as the previous example, but also adding additional columns for inventory costs. How to find the best profit and corresponding order quantity here? It’s simple, we’ll kill the Batman. Um, I mean you kill overthinking your brain functions and just use the same formulas for all the cells that need to show the results. And the best way to drag a formula to adjacent cells is to drag it over it.

This can be done for both Match and Index functions.

Keep in mind that: We add the symbol in the formula to keep the ‘reference’ column constant, as the A column here is constant for all inputs.


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How to Use Ref­er­ence Func­tions in MS Excel: benefits


Final note

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