I can't figure out how to copy a formula using a mixture of absolute and relative references and sheet name references.

I have a sheet that's a summary of the other sheets in the book, each component sheet representing a month of the year. I need to populate the summary sheet by copying cells with references to the other sheets. The formula columns need to reflect the associated columns from a fixed row on each sheet, while the formula row needs to reflect the sheet selection. The sheet names are based on the month name.

The workbook has one sheet for each month of the year, Jan, Feb, etc. Each of those sheets is identical, and I am pulling values from the month summary row (row 4) of each month's sheet. The summary row contains month totals for different accounting categories in consecutive columns starting in column E.

Each row of the summary sheet contains the summary row from the associated month sheet.

In other words, I have this: cell E5 is =IF(Jan!E4>0,Jan!E4," ")and I want the cell below it (E6) to be =IF(Feb!E4>0,Feb!E4," ").

Then cell 'F5' (to the right of E5) would be =IF(Jan!F4>0,Jan!F4," ").

I'm attaching screenshots of the summary page and one of the monthly sheets.

January Sheet

Summary Sheet

  • Just following up. Did we manage to solve this for you? – fixer1234 Jan 31 '19 at 10:58
  • I have time set aside later today to try again. I'll let you know after that. Thanks so much for all your help and attention to this. Much appreciated. – PatP Jan 31 '19 at 17:11
  • fixer1234 - My workbook is complete! I'm not supposed to post a "thanks" here but I'm not allowed to vote yet. You can delete this comment after you read it. I am SO grateful for the time you and @ReyJuna took to not only show me how to do this but explain it in a way that I understand it and can apply it to other projects later. Hats off to you! – PatP Feb 1 '19 at 2:38

Rey Juna's answer explains how to do this with a lookup table. Here is an alternate approach to derive the reference addresses without a lookup table. The general structure of the formula is similar. Much of it is dictated by translating your formula locations to cell references (note that the location translations in my formulas may now be a little different from Rey's because the description in the question changed a little).

  • You want formula row 5 to refer to January (month 1), so we need to subtract 4 from the formula row.
  • You want to pull data column-for-column, starting in column E, but always from row 4 of the target sheet.

The description in the question changed, so I'll use a slightly different method with INDIRECT. INDIRECT has a feature that allows referencing cells with the so-called R1C1 format, which is handy for this kind of requirement. You can specify row and column numbers easily, and do relative addressing.

INDIRECT has an optional last parameter used for indicating the style of cell references. If it is FALSE or 0, it indicates R1C1 style addressing. Within the INDIRECT string, R4C[0] refers to row 4 and the same column as the formula (zero offset).

Otherwise, the main difference here is how to derive the sheet names via a formula instead of a lookup.

The key to that is this formula:


The row minus 4 was explained above, translating formula location to month number. We need to turn the month number into a date that falls within that month (which can be in any year, we just need a day of the year). Multiplying by 28 does that. All months but February during a non-leap year have more than 28 days, but that's good enough to guarantee that the resulting day number is in the right month.

(Note that this trick works for translating 1-12 to Jan-Dec, but it would need to be tweaked if your starting month is something other than January or you have multiple consecutive years; you can't just adjust the row offset. See the addendum below.)

The TEXT function formats the result as the three letter month abbreviation.

Putting that together, the actual formula is:


You can copy and paste this formula into cell E5, then just copy and paste or drag to fill-in your matrix. You shouldn't need to adjust the formula unless the worksheet layout changes.

Addendum: If your months run something other than Jan-Dec (like fiscal years), and/or you have multiple consecutive years, here's another trick to use the conversion shown above of month number to month abbreviation.

  • Make the first row adjustment to translate row number to starting month number. Say your first formula row is 5 and your starting month is October, so you would use ROW()+5.
  • Wrap that with the MOD function to leave the remainder after dividing by 12 (December will come out zero, but that still works): MOD(ROW()+5,12). The result is that every row points to the right month number.
  • Use that in the TEXT function: TEXT(MOD(ROW()+5,12)*28,"mmm").
  • @PatP, you asked about starting with Dec in row 7 and using +5 instead of -6. No, the trick isn't that smart, the next row would still be a day in December. You could use -7; the arithmetic would produce 0 for the first day, which Excel sees as being in December of the previous year, and the rest of the months would come out right. For years that aren't Jan-Dec, you would need to tweak the formula to correctly translate row numbers to days that fall in the right month. This is just a trick that works for producing Jan-Dec. – fixer1234 Jan 29 '19 at 17:44
  • I've been able to make the formula work for Jan-Dec in column E. I got it to work in Col F by changing "!e"&COLUMN()-1 to "!f"&COLUMN()-2. I'm assuming that is right. I have about 100 columns to carry the formula over to. I've played with a couple changes to make it 'drag-able' but I haven't been able to make that work. Not sure what I'm missing. – PatP Jan 29 '19 at 18:03
  • @PatP, can you update the question to more accurately/completely describe your spreadsheet? Maybe add a screenshot? It sounds like your requirement is a little more complex than the question implies. It will be easier for people to give you a good solution if we have a better understanding of everything you need to accomplish. – fixer1234 Jan 29 '19 at 18:40
  • @PatP, thanks for posting the images and clarifying the cell references. What's showing is a little different from what I previously envisioned, so I'll update the answer. – fixer1234 Jan 29 '19 at 20:37

This approach requires a list of abbreviated month names, which I put in cells A1 through A12 of a sheet that I named ListMo, like this:

|    |  A  |
|  1 | Jan |
|  2 | Feb |
|  3 | Mar |
|  4 | Apr |
|  5 | May |
|  6 | Jun |
|  7 | Jul |
|  8 | Aug |
|  9 | Sep |
| 10 | Oct |
| 11 | Nov |
| 12 | Dec |

Here's the formula that would go into your cell E7:

=IF(INDIRECT(INDEX(ListMo!$A$1:$A$12,ROW()-6,) & "!E" & COLUMN()-1)>0,INDIRECT(INDEX(ListMo!$A$1:$A$12,ROW()-6,) & "!E" & COLUMN()-1)," ")



Index allows you to select one element from an array/list. Row() just returns the number of the row your formula is in and the -6 is the offset needed to get row 7 to equal the first element in the list, "Jan".


Just like Row(), Column() will return the number of the column that your formula is in and the -1 is the offset needed to get column E, or 5, to equal the 4 inE4.

Indirect allows you to put all this text together with & and then read that as a cell reference.

In the case of cell E7 it would resolve like this:

INDIRECT(INDEX(ListMo!$A$1:$A$12,1) & "!E" & 4) which then would equal Jan!E4.

The Indirect formula has to be done twice because the that cell reference is used twice in your formula.

What all of this allows you to do is to drag the formula right and yet get the cell reference to move down which is not the default behavior when dragging formulas in Excel. And dragging the formula down now selects the next sheet name and sheet names can't be incremented by default dragging.

  • I so appreciate you taking the time to spell all this out for me. I think I understand most of it. I do need some clarification on two points though. One, I made a mistake in explaining my situation by saying that 'E7' would be collecting information from the January sheet. Actually it will be 'E5' pointing to January. To allow for that, I would change 'ROW()-6' to 'ROW()-4', is that correct? ...continued next comment – PatP Jan 28 '19 at 19:50
  • The other point I'm unclear on would be setting it up to drag the formula. 'E5' would be the first column with the formula and I would be dragging that to the right over multiple columns. All of the columns on that row will be pulling from January. All the columns on the next row '6' would be pulling from February, etc. 'E5' would be the first column with a formula. ...continued next comment – PatP Jan 28 '19 at 19:51
  • So, you have Just like Row(), Column() will return the number of the column that your formula is in and the -1 is the offset needed to get column E, or 5, to equal the 4 inE4. If I'm reading that correctly, the formula is telling the current cell to look to the cell to the left. If I have that right, what would I put in the first column? – PatP Jan 28 '19 at 19:51
  • The formula is telling the current cell to look at a cell on another sheet, which is your month name sheet. You asked for cell E7 to refer to your month sheet E4 and your cell to the right of E7, which would be F7, to refer to your month sheet E5. That's what this accomplishes. If you just drag the E4 reference to the right without INDIRECT then you will get a reference to F4 instead. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "the first column". Do you mean cell E1? – Rey Juna Jan 29 '19 at 1:28
  • Sorry, I only saw you last comment so that is what I responded to. Yes, if you started at E5 instead then it would be ROW()-4. And now that I have read all of your comments, the E in E5 is the column and it will look at column E on your month sheet. Do you mean "first row"? If so, wouldn't row 5 be your first row? – Rey Juna Jan 29 '19 at 1:44

The $ sign in the cell address fixes the cell or row reference. If you mean for example, to refer to a cell in row 4, and copy that formula, then you might refer to the cell E$4. When this is copied down the column, it would give always E$4. Copying it across a row gives E$4, F$4, G$4.

If you were constructing a thing with reference to a column of months, (off the chart), you might refer to something like (IF $A1=E$4 ...). This when copied downwards would change the 1 so to point to A2, A3, ... which would contain the months. E4 would continue to act as the test variable, but in the next column, (when the column is copied), it would be F$4, pointing to a new test.

  • That won't handle this situation. The sheets have month name abbreviations, and copying down rows needs to change the name of the sheet. – fixer1234 Jan 26 '19 at 4:48

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