Display the relationships between formulas and cells

Worksheet with tracer arrows Sometimes, checking formulas (formula: A sequence of values, cell references, names, functions, or operators in a cell that together produce a new value. A formula always begins with an equal sign (=).) for accuracy or finding the source of an error can be difficult when the formula uses precedent or dependent cells:

  • Precedent cells   ¬† are cells that are referred to by a formula in another cell. For example, if cell D10 contains the formula =B5, cell B5 is a precedent to cell D10.
  • Dependent cells    ¬†contain formulas that refer to other cells. For example, if cell D10 contains the formula =B5, cell D10 is a dependent of cell B5.

To assist you in checking your formulas, you can use the Trace Precedents and Trace Dependents commands to graphically display, or trace the relationships between these cells and formulas with tracer arrows (tracer arrows: Arrows that show the relationship between the active cell and its related cells. Tracer arrows are blue when pointing from a cell that provides data to another cell, and red if a cell contains an error value, such as #DIV/0!.).

  1. Click the File tab, click Options, and then click the Advanced category.
  2. In the Display options for this workbook section, select the workbook you want, and then make sure that All is selected under For objects, show.
  3. If formulas reference cells in another workbook, open that workbook. Excel cannot go to a cell in a workbook that is not open.
  4. Do one of the following.

ShowTrace cells that provide data to a formula (precedents)

  1. Select the cell that contains the formula for which you want to find precedent cells.
  2. To display a tracer arrow to each cell that directly provides data to the active cell, on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Trace Precedents Button image.
    1. Blue arrows show cells with no errors. Red arrows show cells that cause errors. If the selected cell is referenced by a cell on another worksheet or workbook, a black arrow points from the selected cell to a worksheet icon worksheet icon. The other workbook must be open before Excel can trace these dependencies. If the other workbook is not open, Excel may prompt you to locate and open it.
  3. To identify the next level of cells that provide data to the active cell, click Trace Precedents Button image again.
  4. To remove tracer arrows one level at a time, starting with the precedent cell farthest away from the active cell, on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click the arrow next to Remove Arrows, and then click Remove Precedent Arrows Button image. To remove another level of tracer arrows, click the button again.

ShowTrace formulas that reference a particular cell (dependents)

  1. Select the cell for which you want to identify the dependent cells.
  2. To display a tracer arrow (tracer arrows: Arrows that show the relationship between the active cell and its related cells. Tracer arrows are blue when pointing from a cell that provides data to another cell, and red if a cell contains an error value, such as #DIV/0!.) to each cell that is dependent on the active cell, on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Trace Dependents Button image.

Blue arrows show cells with no errors. Red arrows show cells that cause errors. If the selected cell is referenced by a cell on another worksheet or workbook, a black arrow points from the selected cell to a worksheet icon worksheet icon. The other workbook must be open before Excel can trace these dependencies. If the other workbook is not open, Excel may prompt you to locate and open it.

  1. To identify the next level of cells that depend on the active cell, click Trace Dependents Button image again.
  2. To remove tracer arrows one level at a time, starting with the dependent cell farthest away from the active cell, on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click the arrow next to Remove Arrows, and then click Remove Dependent Arrows Button image. To remove another level of tracer arrows, click the button again.

ShowSee all the relationships on a worksheet

  1. In an empty cell, type = (equal sign).
  2. Click the Select All button.

Select All button

  1. Select the cell, and on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Trace Precedents Button image twice.

ShowIssue: Excel beeps when I click the Trace Dependents or Trace Precedents command.

If Excel beeps when you click Trace Dependents Button image or Trace Precedents Button image, either Excel has traced all levels of the formula, or you are attempting to trace an item that cannot be traced. The following items on worksheets that can be referenced by formulas cannot be traced by using the auditing tools:

    1. To remove all tracer arrows (tracer arrows: Arrows that show the relationship between the active cell and its related cells. Tracer arrows are blue when pointing from a cell that provides data to another cell, and red if a cell contains an error value, such as #DIV/0!.) on the worksheet, on the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Remove Arrows Button image.

     Notes 

     
     
    Applies to:
    Excel 2010