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Excel For Noobs Tutorial: How to Define Cell Names and Refer to Named Cells in Formulas and Functions
Excel allows you to assign names to cells and cell ranges. This can be useful especially when referring to cells in formulas. It would probably be much easier to understand a function argument that reads Tax_Rate than it would be if it was simply the address of a cell such as Sheet1!A1.
To understand this in more depth I’ll perform an example. First, examine the screenshot below.
Here in a worksheet named Assumptions I have entered two assumptions. In cell B2 I have entered a tax rate and in cell B3 I have entered a commission rate. Both of these assumptions will be used to calculate the amount of taxes and salary a company will have to pay.
This image above is from a different worksheet named Income which is located in the same workbook. Here we have a very consolidated income statement that is not yet complete. To complete this income statement we need to define the names of our cells in the Assumptions worksheet.
How to Name a Cell in Excel
Step 1: First we need to activate the Assumptions worksheet.
Step 2: Now we are going to activate the cell that I want to name. In our case it is cell B2 where I have inserted the tax rate.
Step 3: Next we click on the Formula tab and click the Define Name button which is located in the Defined Names group in the ribbon. The New Name dialog box will appear.
The New Name dialog box contains 4 boxes, Name, Scope, Comment & Refers to. In the Name box you can see that the name “Tax_Rate” has already been suggested. This is because Excel recognized that the cell directly to the left has the name Tax Rate inserted into it. You can override this suggestion by entering a different name. In the Scope box you can select the scope where you want the new name to be applied. You can select the entire workbook or you can apply the name to a specified worksheets within the workbook. In the comments box you can add any necessary comments about the name. Finally we have the Refer to box. The address of the cell or range of cells that we are referring to and naming is inserted here. The address will be in the following format, =WorksheetName!$ColumnLetter$RowNumber. In our case it’s =Assumptions!$B$2. Since we are naming a specific cell the cell reference is absolute.
Step 4: Make the changes to the options in the New Name dialog box and click OK.
NOTE: Defined names must start with either a letter or an underscore, cannot contain spaces or invalid characters and cannot be a name that conflicts with other names in the Excel workbook.
Another way to access the New Name dialog box to name a cell is by using the shortcut menu. Simply activate the cell or range of cells that you want to name. Rightclick and the shortcut menu will appear. From the shortcut menu select Define Names and the New Name dialog box will appear.
How to Refer to Named Cells in an Excel Formula
Now that we have named our cells that are assumptions are inserted to, we can refer to the cells with the cell name instead of the cell address. Again I will do an example.
Step 1: First I am going to activate the Income worksheet where I have my income statement.
Step 2: Now I need to calculate my taxes. In cell B5 I am going to begin inserting my formula by typing =T. Before I can even finish inserting my formula, Excel provides a list for me to choose my arguments. In this list you can see the there is a tag that is labeled Tax_Rate. By selecting this I am select cell B2 in the Assumptions worksheet.
Step 3: I am going to select Tax_Rate from the dropdown list by double clicking it. Then I will finish inserting my formula by multiplying Tax_Rate by the cell that contains Profits which is cell B4 in my example. The final formula to solve for the amount of taxes paid will be =Tax_Rate*B4.
When we press Enter the result of our formula will be $271,181.82 which is 34% of the Profits entered into cell B4. Now we can calculate our Net Profits by subtracting Taxes from Profits resulting in $540,000 of net profits.
Find the next tutorial in the links below.

