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One Control Three Cells



A few weeks back I was asked “Is it possible to setup a control and then drag it down a range, so that it links to all the cells below it?

The answer is, of course, No.

But it got me thinking about why not allow one control to control a number of cells.

This post describes the solution, One Control Three Cells.

But it could just as easily be applied to a larger group of controls in a much larger system.

I have attached a sample file demonstrating the technique: Download sample file

The Old

In the sample file select the Old worksheet.

Typically if you had 3 cells and wanted to add automation, you would add a control to each cell.


Here I have added 3 controls. Each Control in Column E controls the Cells value to the left of it.


Each Control is independent and has no relationship to other cells or other controls.

Each control is setup and linked as shown below to a single cell.

This whole setup has to be applied individually to each control and associated cell.

The Cell link: dialog above cannot have a range

Well it can hold a range, but it only links the control to the upper left cell of the range, C3 in the example above.

But this got me thinking, why not link the control’s Cell Link to a Named Formula, which would return the range based on say where the active cell was.


The New

Change to the New Worksheet.

Notice how we now have a single control next to the 3 cells we wish to control.

You can see that in action here


Lets first examine what has been setup, then we will work through how it works.

First, Goto the Name Manager in the Formulas, Name Manager tab.

There are 3 Named Formula setup

SelectedRow : is a direct Link to cell A1

ControlRange: is a direct Link to cells C3:C5

ControlLink : is a named Formula containing a formula =OFFSET(New!$C$1,SelectedRow-1,0)

Next Right click on the Control and notice that it is linked to the ControlLink Named Formula.

There is more, but lets follow this through first.

Cell A1SelectedRow” contains the value 4.

The Named Formula ControlLink has a formula =OFFSET(New!$C$1, SelectedRow-1, 0)

which evaluates to =OFFSET(New!$C$1, 4-1, 0)

which simplifies to =OFFSET(New!$C$1, 3, 0)

The offset of C1 by 3 rows and 0 columns is C4

so the Named Formula ControlLink =OFFSET(New!$C$1, SelectedRow-1, 0)

returns the address of C4

So the Control uses an Address of C4 when the value of A1 is 4

But we didn’t change cell A1 ?

I did say there was more, and the more is a small piece of VBA code, which does some checking for us and places an appropriate value in A1

Goto VBA by pressing Alt+F11

Double click on the Sheet1(New) object and you should now see the code in the Code Pane


This tiny piece of code is the secret behind what makes this technique work.

Lets look at what it does

Private Sub Worksheet_SelectionChange(ByVal Target As Range)
  If Intersect(Target, Range(“ControlRange”)) Is Nothing Then
    Range(“SelectedRow”).Value = 0
    Exit Sub
  End If
Range(“SelectedRow”).Value = Target.Row
End Sub

The code is encapsulated in what is known as a Worksheet event.

Worksheet events, as the name implies, are events that occur on the worksheet.

In this case it is the SelectionChange event. That is every time you change the cell by clicking on it or using the keyboard arrows etc to change the active cell, this event is triggered and the enclosed code executed.

When the event is triggered the code starts and a variable Target is assigned to the new active cell. It is the Target of the events occurrence, ie: Your click on another cell.

The next piece of code handles what happens next

If Intersect(Target, Range(“ControlRange”)) Is Nothing Then
    Range(“SelectedRow”).Value = 0
    Exit Sub
End If

It basically says If the Target and the ControlRange Don’t Intersect then do the enclosed code

That is if the Target doesn’t intersect with the ControlRange, then set the SelectedRange cell A1 to 0

Then exit the subroutine

This is done so that cells that are selected whilst using the worksheet don’t interfere with the control.

But the important thing is what happens if the Target and ControlRange do intersect

The code says If there is not an intersection do what is inside the If / End If statements

If Intersect(Target, Range(“ControlRange”)) Is Nothing Then
    Range(“SelectedRow”).Value = 0
    Exit Sub
End If

But if the two ranges Do Intersect, the code simply passes over the included code and continues past to the next code.

The next code is

Range(“SelectedRow”).Value = Target.Row

This is where the SelectedRow cell A1 is assigned the value which is the Row number of the Target cell.

That is if we click in a cell in the ControlRange, the SelectedRow is assigned the value of the Target cells Row.

The worksheet is then calculated. This simply forces the named Formula to update.

Then the VBA finishes executing.

When the Worksheet was recalculated just above, the LinkedCell was updated.

Now when a user presses the Spin Button Control, it will use the new value in the LinkedCell named range as the Link cell and update the value of the cell according to whether you pressed the Up or Down arrow.


This code can be applied to any number of controls as well as to complex ranges

If you wanted to control the values in the 9, dashed green, cells shown below highlighted

You would change the formula for ControlRange to

ControlRange =New!$B$8:$B$10,New!$C$11:$C$13,New!$B$14:$B$16



What do you think about this technique?

Let me know in the comments below:





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3 Responses to “One Control Three Cells”

  1. grah says:

    I think this is rather neat and clever. Allowing you to save some real estate on your workbook/dashboards.
    A pity you do need some vba: needing to save as xlsb/xlsm: if people do not trust VBA, and in many offices "VBA" off is the standard, the solution will not work.
    Again a creative display on how understanding how techniques work and how they can be combined, enables you to do the "impossible".

  2. Chirayu says:

    I came up with this instead. Works based on Activecell in current sheet.

    Private Sub Worksheet_SelectionChange(ByVal Target As Range)

    ActiveWorkbook.Names("Rng").RefersTo = "=" & "'" & ActiveSheet.Name & "'!" & ActiveCell.Address

    End Sub

  3. lmirica says:

    in terms of VBA then just select whatever cells you need and then use the controls on them

    Private Sub SpinButton1_SpinDown()
    For Each cel In Selection
    If IsNumeric(cel) Then cel.Value = cel.Value - 1
    End Sub

    and '+1' for the increment, no more name manager and events

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