Indirect Function in Excel
Updated on 29th Dec, 23 9.1K Views

In this blog, we will understand an INDIRECT function in Excel. From the formula to the usage of an INDIRECT function in Excel, we will be able to implement an INDIRECT function in Excel through an example. Let us get started with indirect functions in Excel.

Table of Contents

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What is an INDIRECT Function in Excel?

The INDIRECT function in Excel is a powerful tool that allows you to indirectly reference cells or a range of cells. Instead of directly specifying the cell or range in a formula, the INDIRECT function in Excel lets you refer to a cell by providing a reference as text within the formula. This enables dynamic referencing and the ability to create flexible formulas that can change cell references based on certain conditions.

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Formula and Use of an INDIRECT Function in Excel

The INDIRECT function is used in various scenarios, often to create dynamic references to cells or a range of cells.

Let us know the basic formula of the INDIRECT function:

=INDIRECT(reference_text, [a1])

  • reference_text is the cell reference in the text format or the name defined for a cell.
  • [a1] is the argument that specifies the reference style; if omitted, the default reference style becomes (A1).

Uses of INDIRECT Function

Here are some uses of INDIRECT functions in Excel discussed in detail:

1. Dynamic Referencing: The INDIRECT function in Excel offers a dynamic way to refer to cells or sheets indirectly. It allows formulas to change their cell references based on conditions or inputs stored elsewhere in the spreadsheet. This flexibility enables adaptable formulas that respond to varying data scenarios. For instance, it can dynamically switch between different cell addresses or sheets based on certain criteria.

2. Creating Dynamic Formulas: By using the INDIRECT function in Excel, users can create formulas that adjust automatically to changes in referenced cells or ranges. This functionality is particularly helpful when dealing with conditional logic, allowing formulas to adapt based on specific conditions or criteria defined within the spreadsheet.

3. Summarizing Data: One of the primary uses of INDIRECT is in creating dynamic summaries of data. It enables the easy referencing of varying ranges for functions like SUM, AVERAGE, MAX, or MIN, ensuring that calculations adapt to changes in the underlying data without needing manual adjustments.

4. Sheet Switching: Excel users leverage INDIRECT to reference cells or ranges on different sheets dynamically. This feature streamlines tasks involving multiple sheets or workbooks, as formulas can adapt and fetch data from various locations based on specific conditions or inputs.

5. Conditional Formatting: INDIRECT cell referencing within conditional formatting rules empowers users to dynamically format cells based on changing conditions or criteria. INDIRECT allows for versatile formatting adjustments without the need for constant manual intervention.

6. Named Ranges: Utilizing named ranges indirectly within formulas enhances the scalability of spreadsheets. It makes managing and maintaining formulas more efficient, especially as data grows or changes over time.

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How to Implement an INDIRECT Function in EXCEL

Here are the steps to implement an INDIRECT function in Excel.

Let us understand each step in detail:

Step 1 Loading the data: Load the sample data in the table. Use the reference as per the default A1 cell. Here, we take an example of employee salary data according to their number of working days.

Loading the data in Excel

Step 2 Using the formula: Now, we will write an INDIRECT formula referencing a cell with parameters.

Implementing the formula

It results in the corresponding value for the referencing cell in an INDIRECT function.

Step 3 Formula to display empty string: To display the empty string using the INDIRECT function, we use the formula in the image below. When a cell is empty, it gives the output as 0. If the condition is true, it refers to an empty cell.

Formula to display empty strings

We can also use the aggregate function while implementing the INDIRECT function in Excel.

Using the above table, we will show the implementation of the aggregate function. Instead of calling the aggregate functions directly on the data cells, we indirectly carry out the aggregate function on the cell reference.

Note: Each set of columns with salary is renamed after the respective Emp_Name. 

Let us employ the most commonly used aggregate functions in Excel, such as average and sum, in the above sample.

Using the Average Function:

Using Average function while using indirect function

 In the above example, we are calculating the average number of working days.

Using the Sum Function:

Using sum function

INDIRECT Formula to Dynamically Refer to Another Worksheet

To dynamically refer to another worksheet using INDIRECT, you can use a cell reference containing the worksheet name and concatenate it into the formula.

Formula format:

=INDIRECT(“‘” & A1 & “‘!” &B1)

  • A1 contains the name of the worksheet you want to refer to.
  • & is used for concatenation.
  • ” ‘ ” and ” ‘ ” are single quotation marks needed to properly format the worksheet name in case it contains spaces or special characters.
  • ! is used to separate the worksheet name from the cell reference.
  • B2 is the cell reference you want to refer to in the dynamically specified worksheet.

Example: Suppose you have some important data in Sheet 3, and you want to pull that data in Sheet 2.

Sheet 3 data is given below.

INDIRECT Formula to Dynamically Refer to Another Worksheet

Output after dynamic referencing in Sheet 2: 

INDIRECT Formula to Dynamically Refer to Another Worksheet

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The INDIRECT function in Excel helps refer to cells indirectly, using text references. It is very useful in making formulas dynamic and changing cell references based on conditions. You can summarize data, switch between sheets, and format cells dynamically. It is a great function for managing large sets and making formulas adapt easily. 

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What is the INDIRECT function in Excel?

The INDIRECT function in Excel is used to create a reference to a cell, a range of cells, or a named range indirectly. It takes a text string as input and interprets it as a reference to a cell or range.

How do I use the INDIRECT function in Excel?

To use the INDIRECT function, you need to provide it with a cell reference as a text string. For instance, if cell A1 contains the text “B2”, entering =INDIRECT(A1) in another cell will reference cell B2.

What are the practical applications of the INDIRECT function?

The INDIRECT function is useful for creating dynamic references in formulas. For example, it can be used to reference different sheets within a workbook, dynamically change cell references based on user input, or construct dynamic range references.

Can the INDIRECT function be used with named ranges?

Yes, the INDIRECT function can work with named ranges. If you have a named range called “SalesData” and want to refer to it indirectly, you can use =INDIRECT(“SalesData”) to use the range as specified by the named range.

Are there any limitations or considerations when using the INDIRECT function?

One consideration is that excessive use of INDIRECT can make a workbook harder to understand and maintain. It can also cause issues if the referenced cells are deleted or the structure of the workbook changes. Additionally, using volatile functions (like INDIRECT) extensively can affect performance in large workbooks.

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