OFFSET formula – Explained
Today, lets learn OFFSET formula.
What is OFFSET and why bother using it?
OFFSET formula gives us reference to a range, from a given starting point with given height and width in cells.
OFFSET formula syntax
OFFSET formula looks like this:
=OFFSET(starting point, rows to move, columns to move, height, width)
 Starting point: This is a cell or range from which you want to offset
 Rows & columns to move: How many rows & columns you want to move the starting point. Both of these can be positive, negative or zero. More on this below.
 Height & width: This is the size of range you want to return. For ex. 4,3 would give you a range with 4 cells tall & 3 cells wide.
And yes, All the arguments to OFFSET can be references to other cells. That means, you can write =OFFSET(A1,D1,D2,D3,D4) which will refer to a range
 Starting from A1
 Offset by D1 rows & D2 columns
 having the size of D3 rows & D4 columns
See below examples to understand the formula better.
OFFSET formula examples
Why use OFFSET?
Why not write a reference like A1:C4 directly?
Here are a few reasons why,
 Dynamic ranges: Reference like A1:C4 always refers to the range A1:C4. ie it is static. But sometimes, we want our ranges to be dynamic. This is required because our data is changing (every month new row is added, every time we launch a product new column is added etc.)
 We don’t know the exact address: Sometimes, we don’t know what our ranges actual address is. Rather, we just know it is starting from a certain cell etc. In such situations OFFSET is useful.
Understand OFFSET formula – Interactive Workbook
Since OFFSET formula is somewhat tricky to get, I created an interactive workbook so that you can understand how it works. When you input all the 5 parameters, the workbook highlights the range that your OFFSET will give. After playing with it for a few minutes, you will understand the formula better.
Practical use for OFFSET – Average of latest week
Lets say we monitor quality of a plant producing purple puppets. One of the KPIs we monitor is % of rejected puppets. We have been tracking the % of rejects by day in a spreadsheet that looks like this:
So how do we calculate average of latest week?
Assuming the values are in range C3:C18, we can write =AVERAGE(C12:C18)
BUT, WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS FORMULA EVERYDAY!!!
Even puppets would find that boring.
By using the OFFSET awesome sauce, we can write the AVERAGE formula once and forget about it.
=AVERAGE(OFFSET(C3,COUNTA(C3:C300)7,0,7,1))
Lets breakapart this formula and understand
 To calculate latest week’s average, we need to go all the to the last data point and then get 7 rows from it and average those values.
 This is where COUNTA(C3:C300) – 7 comes in to picture. It counts how many values are there in column C and then subtracts 7 from it.
 The OFFSET would then starting point from C3 to latest week’s starting point.
 To know how this formula works, watch below demo.
OFFSET limitations
While offset formula can return with a dynamic range when you beckon, it does have few limitations:
 OFFSET formula is volatile: In plain English it means, whenever there is any change in your workbook, OFFSET formula is recalculated, thus keeping Excel busy a tiny bit longer. This is not an issue if you use OFFSET formula in a small workbook. But when you use lots of OFFSET formulas in large workbooks, you will end up cursing Excel as it takes too much time to recalculate.
 OFFSET formulas are tricky to debug: Because the references are dynamic, debugging a workbook with lots of OFFSETs can get tricky quickly.
Alternatives to OFFSET formula
There 2 fine alternatives to OFFSET formula.
 Use Excel Tables: Since Excel 2007, we can create tables from structured data and write formulas, create charts that refer to dynamic ranges with ease. Click here to know more about tables.
 Use INDEX formula: Although not exactly same as OFFSET, INDEX formula can also be used to generate dynamic range references. Plus, INDEX is a nonvolatile formula, so it wont keep Excel busy unnecessarily. Know more about INDEX formula.
Do you use OFFSET formula?
For most of my dynamic range needs, I rely on tables or INDEX formula. I use OFFSET formula when I have to calculate values like average of latest week. In such cases OFFSET is an elegant solution.
What about you? Do you use OFFSET formula? In which situations do you use it? Please share your tips & examples with us using comments.
Know More about OFFSET
Check out below examples to understand OFFSET formula better:
 Calculations: Sum of values between 2 dates  Moving averages  Average of closest numbers More…
 Modeling: Calculate IRR of dynamic ranges  Manage scenario analysis
 Charting & Dashboards: Dynamic range charts  Top x chart  Analyzing large datasets  KPI dashboards
 Validations & Pivots: Dynamic Data Validation  Dependent Drop downs  Deduplicate & Sort data
 And many more uses of OFFSET
 
 

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56 Responses to “OFFSET formula – Explained”
Just a small comment not relating to the OFFSET formula, but rather your example of calculating an average from percentages. Calculating an average from percentages can be very misleading or plainly wrong, since it is not weighted at all. If on day 1 you produced 100 puppets with 1% rejected (=1 rejected) and on day 2 produced only two puppets with 100% rejected, your average would show a rejected average of 50,5%. In reality, the correct percentage would be 3% rejected.
Good point Jonas. I initially typed reject % per million, but modified it for sake of simplicity. Nevertheless, we should weigh our averages in cases like this.
how do you weigh your averages? And can you do this formula somehow without it? That’s exactly the problem i have right now in excel…
If you are given a column that includes the actual number of rejects, you can sum the total rejects, sum the total produced, and then create your percentage based on that.
If you are not given a column that includes the actual number of rejects, but only the percentage, work backwards to resolve the number of rejects, and continue.
In either case, if you were to look only at the above data given, you could not weight an average with the data given. At the least, you would need the total number produced each day, and either the number of rejects or percentage of rejects.
Hi!
Can you tell me how do you make the conditional formatting in the interactive workbook?
I can’t seem to figure out a way to, in a formula without VBA, check if a cell is within a range…
Thank you!
In this example, I made one range rngOffset that refers to the offset range. Then to check any cell overlaps with this, I used
=ISERROR(ROWS(rngOffset A1))
this will be TRUE for nonoverlap and FALSE for overlap.
The key is to use SPACE as intersection operator
WOOOW…
I didn’t knew that using the SPACE between ranges worked as an intersection operator…
You have just literally changed my life, Chandoo… :)
I’ve just checked that with other formulas SUM, AVERAGE, etc… with intersections between ranges. It works!! IT WORKS!!!! LOL
You cannot imagine how usefull that will be in my work (and I’m a heavy Excel user).
Thank you very very much, you are trully a gift from the Excel Gods…
Wow, I had no idea you could do that. Is there any chance you can do an instructional thing on the weird and wonderful features like this that are pretty obscure but insanely useful?
I spent a few minutes experimenting with this. You can also do it with more than 2 ranges… something like =SUM(rng1 rng2 rng3) will return the sum of the intersection between the 3 ranges given…
Yes, why not. Let me write a short tutorial about this later this week.
Having played a bit more (and bringing it back to the topic), you can use this with offset, so I’m betting there’s a way to do a multiple condition lookup using this rather than sumproduct and boolean operators.
I am not sure I understand this, but SPACE operator only gives intersection of two ranges. Can you tell how it can be applied for multicondition lookups?
In other words, we can use it to get 2 way lookups though. See here:
http://chandoo.org/wp/2010/11/09/2waylookupformulas/
I think I was just confusing myself. Sorry.
@Chandoo
The space function doesn’t return a value it returns a range
So the formula =SUM(B2:D20 A5:H11 C:C) is quite valid
It is the same as saying where does the Intersection of B2:D20 + A5:H11 intersect with Column C
The first part B2:D20 + A5:H11 intersects at B5:D11
and the intersection B5:D11 intersects with Column C in C5:C11
@Hui.. Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I meant range.
The conditional formatting is very cool!
I think there is a mistake in the colored box diagram. The Blue and green box should be switched. Height and width are switched
Oops. Corrected it now. Thanks for pointing it out.
I’ve found using OFFSET with INDIRECT and ADDRESS is extremely useful. In a nutshell, it allows you to have a drop down where the user can select a worksheet name so that the initial OFFSET reference is directed to a specific worksheet essentially making it dynamic. I’m more space/time is needed to further explain how it works. It’s definitely worth looking into.
Your comment has given me a hilariously amazing !dea
Thanks for your comment
HI,
I wanted to share my experience using the OFFSET command which i found very helpful. I had made a repayment schedule using PMT function for 20 years on monthly basis. Then i had to check for the total cash outflow, principle and interest separate, semi annually (6 monthly). First i thought i’d manually add the 6 month for 20 years but that was illogical and too time consuming. So i played around with SUM and OFFSET function and after a while it worked.
I used the following function;
=SUM(OFFSET(OFFSET($D$41,0,AA7),0,0,1,6))
Where D41 was the first month payment and AA7 was the reference of a cell where i had punched number in multiples of 6 ( 6,12,18,24) so it worked perfectly
I would like to thank Chandoo and everyone for this website, i have learned alot and it has made my life easier. My office colleagues respect me for my skills in excel and i couldnt have ever done it without Chandoo and this website. Thankyou
OMG!!! SPACE instead of Operator?? never thot about it.. Thanks a ton Chandoo and hui…
@Chandoo / Hui : = Can you give me some links to know something more about Array Formulas…
I use OFFSET fx with a scroll bar set with a small range that shows all records on a small static range kept in a large list somewhere else
P.S. I guess the worksheet protection password in the fifth attempt
Mystery here… do I need to reinstall?
If I use OFFSET with >1 in the height or width arguments, I get a VALUE error.
Nevertheless, in Chandoo’s demo workbook (I wasn’t clever enough to guess the password…) I can input any value and it works fine.
Thoughts?
 Juanito
Cancel that comment! Of course excel was returning a range so needs arrayentry to see content properly
 Juanito
I have been using a combination of OFFSET and MATCH for a few years now when I want to look up a value from a list based on a specific entry. This seems to be a common use of them both, but have found it very useful. IN a very similar manner, I’ve also started using INDEX and MATCH rather than OFFSET due to the volatility of OFFSET. While the syntax is slightly different between the two, I’ve not yet found any noticeable differences in how the combination works. The advantage with INDEX (as already noted) is that it will not unnecessarily task your workbook. Also, I find this solution far superior to any of the LOOKUP formulas since INDEX/MATCH and/or OFFSET/MATCH doesn’t have the limitations of LOOKUPs.
Hey Chandoo,
I cracked your password protection on 2nd attempt. that’s not good!
Fred
It was meant to be cracked
Hi,
I used offset in VBA to insert a sum formula. The macro had to figure out a range to sum and put in a formula. I used =sum(offset(…)) and inserted variables determined by VBA for the arguments in the offset function.
I would be happy to know another way to do this, but it worked and did the job intended. Now the worksheet has formulas all over it.
Hope this may be of use.
[...] How to use the Offset formula [Chandoo] [...]
I have wrote article about OFFSET (POSUN) in Czech language http://office.lasakovi.com/excel/funkce/posunoffsetfunkceexcel/, Your interactive Table ist beter. Good job.
I use OFFSET to create a dynamic dropdown list. It works as dropdown in cells in any sheet within the workbook and in combobox, listbox.
1) Enter any value in Sheet1 under column A then create the dynamic range
Insert > Name > Define: Date > Refers to:
= OFFSET(Sheet1!$A$2,0,0,COUNTA(Sheet1!$A:$A)1,1)
2) Use as dropdown in any cell in any sheet. For example: Select cell A2:A10 in sheet2. Select menu Data > Validation > Allow: List, Source: =Date
3) Use as dropdown in a combobox in any sheet: View > Toolbars > Forms > Combobox > Right Click > Format Control > Input Range: Date
Try adding some more value in Sheet1 column A. See the dropdown changing also.
I want the reference of the offset formula to be formula, in other words
offset (x,0,1). i want the x to be a formula so that it starts offseting from a result. Possible?
@Carlos
Yes that’s possible
A few functions return an Address as a result including Address(), Index() and Offset()
Not sure how it works, it there a way i can send you an example?
@Carlos
Click on Hui…
Email address at bottom of page
Can you also use VLOOKUP or HLOOKUP to return a value from where to start OFFSET? I want to COUNTIF various values in a column based on the date entered on a different sheet. Excel doesn’t seem to appreciate my VLOOKUP statement!
@Werner
You sure can use the Lookup functions with Offset
Can you post a sample of your data and what your trying to achieve?
Refer: http://chandoo.org/forums/topic/postingasampleworkbook
Thanks Hui, unfortunately I cant post the data, will try to explain in more detail. We have several sheets in same workbook for staff, labour and contractors. Each sheet contains a list of all personal and their details, as well as a roster for when they are onsite and offsite and how many hours worked. Top of colums have date and names, details and hours worked per row.
On a separate sheet I want to calculate how many labour per trade was onsite at any given day. Therefore I want to enter a date in a cell, the date should be looked up on the labour sheet, then COUNTIF the column of the valid date to display how many Riggers for instance, was onsite on that given date.
I am trying the following:
=COUNTIF(OFFSET(HLOOKUP(F3,’LABOUR’!L13:RQ14,2,FALSE),1,0,580,1),”Rigger”)
Where HLOOKUP should return the cell value of the matching date as the reference for the OFFET and then COUNTIF Riggers in the specified OFFSET range. I was trying it this way as I want to be able to enter different dates to get the figures for whatever day I need.
Hope I was clear enough. If not, I will create a dummy sheet and upload it.
Werner
[...] Chandoo has written a neat post on how Offset works at: http://chandoo.org/wp/2012/09/17/offsetformulaexplained/ [...]
[...] Welcome to the message board! I believe the OFFSETfunction is what you're looking for. Here's a good introduction to the OFFSETformula: OFFSET formula – Explained  Chandoo.org – Learn Microsoft Excel Online [...]
[…] solution is to use OFFSET formula to define the dynamic […]
[…] You can find Chandoo’s article on OFFSET here. […]
Hello Chandoo,
I took your Excel dashboard class a couple of years ago. I appreciate you posting so much helpful information on a variety of Excel topics. Great job!
[…] Related: Learn more about OFFSET Formula. […]
Awesome way to breakdown the utility of OFFSET I had read so many other blogs and help sites before this one. Not one of them had been as clear as you have posted on this site. Looking forward to learning as much as possible from you.
What role would the PMT function and the VLOOKUP function play in whatif analysis?
I set up dynamic ranges in Excel 2000 and they work for some things but not most. For example, if “Numbers” is a dynamic range, “=MAX(Numbers)” returns 0 regardless of what is in Numbers.
@Robert
There are two cases when Max(Numbers) will return 0
Firstly when all the numbers are negative, I assume this isn’t your case
Secondly if the numbers are text
That is check that the numbers don’t have leading or trailing spaces
ie a number should be like 1.23 not “1.23 ” or ” 1.23″ check a few cells and see if that helps
You may also have other nonprintable characters in the numbers
have a read of my comment at: http://chandoo.org/forum/threads/exceldoesnotcalculate.14285/#post84942
Hi Everybody,
Just a quick question…
Can I use the offset function or index function to cretae a dynamic averge for a particular month of the year. I.e excel looking up
numbers in colum B against March 2014 dates in coulm A to create a March 2014 average? Thanks!
27/01/2014 108.7
28/01/2014 108.9
29/01/2014 109.3
30/01/2014 109.8
31/01/2014 108.4
3/02/2014 106.8
4/02/2014 107.1
5/02/2014 106.9
6/02/2014 108.1
7/02/2014 109.3
10/02/2014 110.3
11/02/2014 109.3
12/02/2014 108.7
13/02/2014 109.0
14/02/2014 108.7
17/02/2014 109.2
18/02/2014 109.8
19/02/2014 110.3
20/02/2014 109.6
@Jonathan… A better option is to use AVERAGEIFS() function. It is built for situations like this.
Use =AVERAGEIFS(columnB, column A, “>=01MAR2014″,column A, “<01APR2014″)
Thanks Chandoo. I really appreciate your website. Keep up the great work. Jonathan
The zipped file doesn’t contain the spreadsheet.
@Reggie
Download the zipped file and rename it to *.xlsx
where * is the filename
Also, please note that we are investigating an issue with our webserver settings that may be causing this behavior. Sorry for the inconvenience. I am hoping to get this fixed in next 48 hours.