INDIRECT function

This article describes the formula syntax and usage of the INDIRECT function (function: A prewritten formula that takes a value or values, performs an operation, and returns a value or values. Use functions to simplify and shorten formulas on a worksheet, especially those that perform lengthy or complex calculations.) in Microsoft Excel.


Returns the reference specified by a text string. References are immediately evaluated to display their contents. Use INDIRECT when you want to change the reference to a cell within a formula without changing the formula itself.


INDIRECT(ref_text, [a1])

The INDIRECT function syntax has the following arguments (argument: A value that provides information to an action, an event, a method, a property, a function, or a procedure.):

  • Ref_text    Required. A reference to a cell that contains an A1-style reference, an R1C1-style reference, a name defined as a reference, or a reference to a cell as a text string. If ref_text is not a valid cell reference, INDIRECT returns the #REF! error value.
    • If ref_text refers to another workbook (an external reference), the other workbook must be open. If the source workbook is not open, INDIRECT returns the #REF! error value.

      Note    External references are not supported in Excel Web App.
    • If ref_text refers to a cell range outside the row limit of 1,048,576 or the column limit of 16,384 (XFD), INDIRECT returns a #REF! error.

      Note    This behavior is different from Excel versions earlier than Microsoft Office Excel 2007, which ignore the exceeded limit and return a value.
  • A1    Optional. A logical value that specifies what type of reference is contained in the cell ref_text.
    • If a1 is TRUE or omitted, ref_text is interpreted as an A1-style reference.
    • If a1 is FALSE, ref_text is interpreted as an R1C1-style reference.


The workbook below shows examples of this function. Inspect them, change existing formulas, or enter your own formulas to learn how the function works.

To work more in-depth with the example data in Excel, download an embedded workbook, and then open it in Excel.

Applies to:
Excel 2013, Excel Online