How to use INDIRECT Function in Excel

The INDIRECT function in Excel displays the contents of a specified dynamic reference. The INDIRECT Function is great because you can reference each attribute of the reference (workbook name, worksheet name, and cell reference) individually to create a dynamic excel formula.

Something to point out at this stage is that when referencing workbooks, the INDIRECT function only returns the result of a reference to an open file.  This means if a workbook that the INDIRECT function is referencing is closed, then you will get the #REF! error.

To create a reference to a workbook using three different cell inputs as references for the workbook, worksheet, and cell link, follow the steps in the following examples.

Example 1

1. Open Excel.
2. In Book1, Sheet1, cell A1 type Excel Geek.
3. In Microsoft Office Excel 2003 or earlier, click New on the File menu, click Workbook, and then click OK.In Microsoft Office Excel 2007, click the Microsoft Office Button, click New, and then click Create.
4. In Book2, Sheet1, cell A1 type Book1.
5. In Book2, Sheet1, cell A2 type Sheet1.
6. In Book2, Sheet1, cell A3 type A1.
7. Save both workbooks.
8. In Excel 2003 or earlier, type the following formula in Book2, Sheet1, cell B1:

=INDIRECT("'["&A1&".xls]"&A2&"'!"&A3)

In Excel 2007 or greater, type the following formula:

=INDIRECT("'["&A1&".xlsx]"&A2&"'!"&A3)

The formula returns Excel Geek.

Example 2

In Excel 2003 or earlier, you can replace the formula above with multiple INDIRECT statements, as in the following formula:
=INDIRECT("'["&INDIRECT("A1")&".xls]"&INDIRECT("A2")&"'!"&INDIRECT("A3"))

In Excel 2007 and Excel 2010, type the following formula:
=INDIRECT("'["&INDIRECT("A1")&".xlsx]"&INDIRECT("A2")&"'!"&INDIRECT("A3"))

Example 1 references cells A1, A2, and A3 without the use of quotation marks, wheras Example 2 references the cells using quotation marks around the references.

The INDIRECT function references cells without using quotation marks. This function evaluates the result of the cell reference. For example, if cell A1 contains the text C1 and cell C1 contains the word Excel, the formula =INDIRECT(A1) returns the result Excel.

However, referencing a cell with quotation marks returns the result of the cell contents. In the example in the previous sentence, the formula returns the text string C1 instead of the contents of cell C1 (Excel).

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