Quickly Change Formulas Using Find / Replace

Posted on February 17th, 2009 in Learn Excel - 27 comments

So you have built that spreadsheet report your boss wanted. And you were all eager to use it in your presentation. But in the last minute, your boss asked you to change average sales to total sales figures (or measure growth wrt to 2006 instead of 2007). You also want to grab an espresso before rushing to the meeting. Now what?

Simple, skip the coffee. :(

Of course, I am kidding, who would skip coffee for a bunch of formulas ? So, we use Find / Replace to do the dirty work while we let the roasted beans restore sanity. Just press Ctrl+` (it is the key next to 1), this will enable formula view. Now press Ctrl+H and change the spreadsheet formulas or input range en masse.

What are you still waiting for? Go get that espresso!

Do you know that you can use find / replace to change spreadsheet formatting too ?

This post is part of our spreadcheats series – Learn Excel in a month.

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27 Responses to “Quickly Change Formulas Using Find / Replace”

  1. Andras Ujszaszy says:

    this is a really cool stuff what I use quite often. In addtion this method also could be a good choice to switch the reference type of the formulas from relative to absolute or vice versa. (just simply replace the $ in the same way).

    • Chandoo says:

      @Andras: you are right, we can use find / replace to change references, reference types etc. Now, only if they had regex in find/ replace, we could so much more :)

      @Tony Rose: Thank you. This is very useful and powerful feature. I even use it for cleaning up data. While formulas are good, they are not the solution for every problem. Often when I need more powerful cleanup / changing, I copy paste the stuff to text editors like notepad++ and then use their find/replace to do the dirty task.

      • Sonia says:

        What if i have to change the formula from =’Analysis’!C1 to ‘Analysis 1’!C1?
        I tried doing it using Find /Replace but could’t. Encountered some errors.

        And is there a way to change this using VBA???

  2. Tony Rose says:

    This could be the most useful tips I’ve seen in a while. I use this all the time and can instantly change 400 formulas with a few clicks. Like so many other functions in Excel, I don’t know what I would do without this one.

    Keep ’em coming!

  3. […] on formulas: 5 areas where mouse kicks keyboard’s butt | Edit formulas in bulk using Find / Replace | Excel Formulas Online […]

  4. purushoth says:


  5. The Red Ranger says:

    You, sir, are a god among men…

  6. David says:

    This is really cool. Your just save me hours of work. Thanks.

  7. Jodie says:

    Thanks so much for this fix! It saved me tons of work. I’m muddling my way through and this really helped!

  8. Jesse says:

    Oh… My… God!
    This tip just saved me about 2 hours every month! I can’t believe how easy it is to use. Now, can somebody tell me who I should call to get a refund for the previous 100 hours I spent manually changing formulas cell by cell?
    Thanks so much! 

  9. Bilal says:

    THANK YOU!!!!
    You saved me hours, I had a sheet that has more than 500 formulas, and i needed to replace the year in all of them, you saved me hours

  10. Elliot says:

    Awesome info on replacing cell addresses in formulas. I have never heard about Ctrl+` before. Thank you!

  11. T says:

    I have something inside a formula like:
    =sum(A1, A2*10) all over I now need to get rid of the *10 {=sume(A1, A2)} I thought to use the find replace trick above but with a blank in the replace but it then outputs just zeros. I thought I could trick it by doing *1 but then it just turns into =*1) with none of my references. Does anyone have an idea how to do this?
    The Ctrl+ trick is cool.

  12. Peter says:

    Thank you! This literally will save me hours and hours of time, and that’s without losing my sanity in the process!

  13. Brigitte says:

    I have Sheet(1), Sheet(2), Sheet(3), etc … Sheet(100).
    Then there’s a summary tab where I want to recap information on all those different sheets. Is there anyway to create a formula on the Summary tab to get =’Sheet(1)’!B$29 copied down for all 100 sheets without having to change each sheet # within the formula by hand?

    • Hui... says:

      If you have a list of the sheet names in A2:A100
      In B2: =INDIRECT(“‘”&A2&”‘!$B$29”)
      Copy down

      or if you don’t have a list of the sheets names you can make it up on the fly
      Copy down

      • Brigitte says:

        Thanks for the suggestion. However, I copied your formula right back to my file and it didn’t work. So I did it another way. I put the tab/cell reference in one cell and then did an =INDIRECT() to capture that information.

        K2=”‘Sheet(“&L2&”)’!B$29″ which has a value of ‘Sheet(1)’!B$29
        B2=INDIRECT(K2) which now has a value of 40 (contents on Sheet(1).

        Thank you!!!!

  14. Mohammed Ali says:

    Thank you ..

  15. Niharika says:

    Hi, Out of all the formulae, I wish to replace the formula which has generated 0 value with blank space? I am unable to do it with find and replace function,

    Please suggest.

  16. Kevin says:

    Chandoo, you literally just saved me about 2 hours of work. I had a document with a daily report in two formats. The second formate just linked to all the appropriate cells in the other format (different sheets). This was 180 references that needed to be changed and I had to make this for a 4 week period (aka 28 different sheets at 180 references to change per sheet).

    Thanks so much.

  17. Brian says:

    I have tried this way and without using the Ctrl-` formula view
    Either way, I am trying to do something simple, but it won’t let me.

    I have a bunch of cells with a simple math formula like
    various values in each cell, multiplied by 20

    I simply want to change the multiplier globally from 20 to 25. But when I tell it to find *20 and replace it with *25, it replaces the entire cell contents with *25, rather than just replacing the *20 portion of the cell contents.

    Can anyone assist with this? Seems so simple, but Excel isn’t letting me do it.

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