What Does the Symbol

November 10, 2023 564 views

Excel is a powerful tool, but for beginners, it can be a complex puzzle. The symbol "$" in Excel might seem confusing, but it's a crucial element. In this beginner's guide, we'll simplify it, explaining its significance, practical uses, and shortcuts. Whether you're a student, professional, or just curious, this knowledge will enhance your Excel skills. Let's dive into the world of Excel and unravel the mystery of the "$" symbol.

Part 1. What Does the Symbol "$" in Excel 

In Excel, the dollar sign symbol "$" has a specific purpose, and it's commonly used to create absolute cell references. Absolute references are cell references that do not change when you copy or fill a formula to other cells. Understanding how to use the "$" symbol is essential for effective spreadsheet modeling. Here's a recap of how this works with a practical example:

Example: Suppose you have the formula =C6*$C$3 in cell D6. In this formula:

  • C6 is a relative reference. When you copy this formula to cell D7, it will automatically adjust to C7, and so on, because the row reference is relative.

  • $C$3 is an absolute reference. When you copy this formula to cell D7, it will still refer to C3, and it won't change, because both the column and row references are absolute.

Now, if you copy the formula =C6*$C$3 from cell D6 to cells D7 through D15, you will get the following results:

  • D7 will have the formula =C7*$C$3, which adjusts the row reference.

  • D8 will have the formula =C8*$C$3, and so on.


Part 2. Why use dollar sign ($) in Excel formulas?

Reference Types in Excel:

  • Relative Reference: A relative reference in Excel adjusts as you copy the formula to different cells. For example, if you have a formula =A1+B1 in cell C1 and you copy it to cell C2, it becomes =A2+B2. The references change relative to the position of the formula.

example 1

  • Absolute Reference: An absolute reference is fixed and does not change when you copy the formula. You use the dollar sign "$" to indicate an absolute reference. For example, if you have a formula =$A$1+B1 in cell C1 and you copy it to cell C2, it remains =$A$1+B2. The references with the dollar sign stay the same.

example 2

  • Mixed Reference: A mixed reference combines both relative and absolute references. You can make either the row or column absolute by using the "$" symbol. For example, if you have a formula =$A1+B$1 in cell C1 and you copy it to cell C2, it becomes =$A2+B$1. In this case, the column reference for A is absolute, while the row reference for B is absolute.

example 3

Why Use the Dollar Sign ($) in Excel Formulas:

  1. Locking Specific References: The primary reason to use the dollar sign is to lock specific cell references in your formulas. This is particularly useful when you want certain values or constants to remain the same, no matter where the formula is copied.

  2. Preventing Errors: Absolute references can help prevent errors in your calculations. For instance, if you're working with tax rates or fixed values and forget to make the reference absolute, copying the formula could lead to incorrect results.

  3. Consistency: Absolute references ensure that all cells in the copied range use the same constant or value, maintaining consistency in your calculations.

  4. Structured Data: Absolute references are crucial when working with structured data or databases. When you have headers with important values in the first row or column, you can create formulas that reference these headers using absolute references, making it easier to analyze data.

Part 3. What is the shortcut for adding the $symbol to a cell reference?

Let's say you have a cell reference like "A1" in a formula, and you want to make it an absolute reference by adding the dollar signs. Here's how to do it using the F4 shortcut:

Step 1 Select the cell reference "A1" within your formula.

select a1

Step 2 Press the F4 key once.

press f4

The reference will change to "$A$1," signifying that it's now an absolute reference. You can use this method to toggle between reference types quickly, making your spreadsheet work more efficient.

Part 4. How to Edit Excel Spreadsheet for Free with WPS Office

What Is WPS Office and Why Choose it?

WPS Office is a free, comprehensive office suite that provides tools to open, create, edit, and save Microsoft Office files, including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. It is a popular and widely used office software suite that offers full compatibility with Microsoft Office on both Windows and Mac operating systems. Here's why you might choose WPS Office:

  1. Full Compatibility: Compatible with Microsoft Office formats for seamless collaboration.

  2. Free Version: Offers a comprehensive set of features for basic office tasks at no cost.

  3. Cross-Platform: Available on Windows and Mac for versatile multi-device use.

  4. User-Friendly Interface: Familiar layout for ease of use, especially for Microsoft Office users.

  5. Wide Feature Range: Includes word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, PDF editing, and cloud storage integration.

How to Use Excel Symbols in WPS Spreadsheet?

Step 1: Access Keyboard Shortcuts

Go to the "File" menu and choose "Options."

select options

Select "Customize Ribbon," and then click "Keyboard Shortcuts" at the bottom.


Step 2: Choose a Category

In the "Categories" box, scroll down and select "Insert."

Step 3: Assign Shortcuts

Under "Commands," find the symbol you want to assign a shortcut to.

Click in the "Press new shortcut key" box and enter your desired keyboard combination (e.g., Ctrl+Alt+Shift+A).

Click "Assign."

assign short cut

Step 4: Save and Apply

Click "Close" to exit the Customize Keyboard dialog.

Your custom shortcuts are now active.

As a user, I've found WPS Office to be a highly functional and cost-effective alternative to Microsoft Office. It offers full compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats, making it an excellent choice for users who collaborate with Microsoft Office users regularly

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Algirdas Jasaitis


1. What are the symbols used in Excel?

In Excel, commonly used symbols and operators include:

  1. Mathematical Operators:

  2. (+) Addition

  3. (-) Subtraction

  4. (*) Multiplication

  5. (/) Division

  6. (^) Exponents

  7. (%) Percent

  8. (=) Equal Sign

  9. (&) Text Concatenation

  10. Comparison Operators:

  11. (>) Greater Than

  12. (

    <) less="" than="">

  13. (>=) Greater Than or Equal To

  14. (

    <=) less="" than="" or="" equal="" to="">

  15. (=) Equal To

  16. (<>) Not Equal To

  17. Logical Operators:

  18. AND: Logical conjunction

  19. OR: Logical disjunction

  20. NOT: Logical negation

  21. Reference Operators:

  22. (:) Range Separator

  23. (,) Argument Separator

These symbols and operators are essential for creating Excel formulas and functions, allowing you to perform calculations and data analysis efficiently.

2. What are the square brackets in Excel formulas?

In Excel formulas, square brackets ("[]") are not typically used as operators or symbols for mathematical calculations. However, square brackets can be used in some specific functions, particularly when working with arrays or referencing cells and ranges within functions or formulas.


In this guide to the "$" symbol in Excel, we've clarified its significance and practical uses. Understanding "$" is crucial for effective spreadsheet modeling as it helps create absolute cell references.

We've also explored how WPS Office can enhance your Excel experience. WPS Office is a versatile, free office suite fully compatible with Microsoft Office, making it a great choice for students, professionals, and curious users.With insights on using dollar signs in Excel and creating custom shortcuts in WPS Office, you're now well-equipped to navigate Excel confidently.

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