Absolute Reference Excel Shortcut: Easy and Efficient Tips

December 5, 2023 1.4K views

Excel, a powerful data tool, becomes cumbersome when handling complex data with repetitive entries. Users aiming to reduce errors through absolute reference shortcuts often face confusion. In this article, we provide quick and efficient methods to create absolute references in Excel, catering to diverse functions.

Part 1. What is Absolute Reference in Excel

Absolute reference

Absolute reference

Introduction: Absolute referencing in Excel is a fundamental concept that ensures stability and precision in spreadsheet calculations. Unlike relative references that change when a formula is copied to different cells, absolute references remain fixed, pointing to the same cell regardless of the formula's location. This characteristic makes absolute referencing invaluable in complex spreadsheets where data consistency is crucial.


  1. Consistency in Formulas: Absolute references maintain constant connections to specific cells, ensuring that formulas consistently refer to the intended data points. This prevents inadvertent errors caused by shifting references.

  2. Ease of Replication: When replicating formulas across multiple cells or sheets, absolute referencing allows users to maintain the relationship with a specific cell or range, saving time and reducing the risk of formula errors.

  3. Preventing Error Propagation: In large datasets with interconnected formulas, using absolute references helps prevent error propagation. If a mistake occurs in one cell, it won't affect other cells that reference the same data.

  4. Simplified Data Analysis: Absolute referencing simplifies data analysis by providing a fixed point of reference. This is particularly useful when working with large datasets, as it allows users to focus on specific data points without worrying about formula inconsistencies.

Part 2. How to Make Absolute Reference in Excel Using Shortcuts

Example 1. Convert Reference to Absolute Reference:

Step 1: Select the cell reference within your formula that you want to make absolute.

Step 2: To insert the $ sign, manually type it before the column letter and row number in the selected cell reference.

The cell reference is now absolute, with the $ sign indicating its fixed nature.



Manually inserting the $ sign is a straightforward method to convert references to absolute. This hands-on approach provides direct control over which part of the reference becomes absolute, offering a customized solution.

Example 2. Using F4 Key to Make Absolute References:

Step 1: Open the Excel worksheet and start typing or editing a formula that uses a cell reference.

Step 2: Identify the cell reference that needs to be an absolute reference.

Step 3: Instead of typing the dollar signs before the column letter and row number, press the F4 key.

f4 key

f4 key

Step 4: The F4 key will automatically add both dollar signs to the cell reference, making it absolute.  Press F4 again to cycle through different types of cell references if necessary. (This is useful if you want to lock the row or the column).

 press f4

press f4

Step 5: Finish typing or editing the formula as needed.

The F4 key provides a dynamic and efficient way to toggle between different types of cell references. This shortcut is especially useful when working on complex formulas or when needing to replicate formulas across multiple cells.

Part 3. Important Points of Using Shortcut to Make Absolute Reference

  1. Locking Both Row and Column Reference: To ensure the referred cell remains fixed and doesn't move when the formula is copied, press Fn + F4 once.

  2. Locking Only the Row Reference: If you want to keep the row reference constant while allowing the column to change, press Fn + F4 twice. This ensures the row remains locked.

  3. Locking Only the Column Reference: When you wish to maintain the column reference but allow the row to adjust, press Fn + F4 three times. This locks the column while allowing the row to vary.

  4. Returning to Relative Reference: To revert to a relative reference, where both row and column can change dynamically, press Fn + F4 four times.

  5. Toggling Between Reference Types: If you find yourself needing to switch between locking both row and column, only locking the row, only locking the column, and returning to relative reference frequently, continue to press Fn + F4 to cycle through these options. This dynamic approach allows you to adapt your

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WPS Office

WPS Office

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Relative reference, absolute reference, and mixed reference on WPS:

In WPS Office, understanding reference types—relative, absolute, and mixed—is essential for optimizing your spreadsheet experience.

  • Relative Reference: A relative reference in WPS Office adapts when formulas are copied or moved to different cells. It adjusts the reference based on the formula's new location.

Example: If a formula refers to cell A1 and is copied to cell B1, the reference adjusts to B1.

  • Absolute Reference: Absolute references in WPS Office remain fixed, irrespective of the formula's location. This stability is vital for maintaining consistent connections to specific cells.

Example: $A$1 is an absolute reference; if copied or moved, it will always point to cell A1.

  • Mixed Reference: A mixed reference in WPS Office involves fixing either the column or the row, allowing flexibility in one direction while remaining absolute in the other.

Example: $A1 is a mixed reference; if copied across columns, the column reference adjusts, but the row remains absolute.

How to use Absolute Reference in WPS Office

Step 1: Launch the WPS Spreadsheet

open wps

open wps

Step 2: Highlight the specific cell for which you want to create an absolute reference.

Step 3: Press the F4 key once. This action automatically adds a Dollar sign before both the row number and the column letter in the selected cell reference (e.g., $A$3).

press f4

press f4

Step 4 Once you've pressed F4 and modified the reference, hit the Enter key to solidify the absolute reference in your WPS Office spreadsheet.

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How to Fix F4 not working (doesn’t lock reference)

  • If you're on a MAC, the F4 shortcut to lock a reference doesn't work. Instead, use the shortcut ⌘ + T to toggle between absolute and relative references.

  • Ensure that your marker is placed inside the reference within the formula before using the shortcut. Select the cell reference, and then press F4 to toggle absolute and relative references.

  • If you're on a laptop with a smaller keyboard, the F-keys like F4 might serve a different function. Hold down the Fn key before pressing F4 to enable the shortcut for locking references.


Navigating the complexities of Excel becomes a seamless endeavor with the insights shared in this guide. We've not only demystified absolute references, offering practical shortcuts and crucial tips, but also highlighted the game-changing convenience of WPS Office.

Whether you're a novice seeking clarity or a seasoned user aiming for efficiency, our step-by-step tutorials provide a holistic approach. Empower your Excel journey, minimize errors, and embrace the user-friendly landscape of WPS Office – your key to a more productive and error-free spreadsheet experience.

15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.