How to Use the Formula Auditing Tools in Excel

Excel formula auditing taken to the next level! Formula auditing in Excel allows you to graphically display the relationship between formulas and cells.

Features:

  • Easy Auditing of formula dependents and precedents, including object dependencies (charts, pivot tables, form controls, Validation formulas, Conditional formatting formulas, etcetera)
  • Find circular references (yes, all of them!)
  • Trace errors
  • Time your workbook calculation for each worksheet to find bottlenecks
  • Check columns for formula inconsistencies

Tools:

 Error Checking – Checks the active worksheet for errors. If your worksheet contains errors then the Error Checking dialog box is displayed.

 Trace Precedents – Draws tracer arrows from the cells that supply values directly to the formula in the active cell. You can press this button multiple times to see additional levels.

 Remove Precedent Arrows – Removes tracer arrows from one level of dependents on the active worksheet.

 Trace Dependents – Draws a tracer arrow to the active cell from formulas that depend on the value in the active cell. You can press this button multiple times to see additional levels.

 Remove Dependent Arrows – Removes tracer arrows from one level of dependents on the active worksheet.

 Remove All Arrows – Removes all tracer arrows from the active worksheet.

 Trace Error – Traces cells with error values. If the active cell contains an error value then tracer arrows are drawn to the cells that may have caused the error.

  Circle Invalid Data – Draws red circles around any cells that contain values that are outside the limits you set by using Data Validation. To see what data restrictions and messages are in effect for a cell, click the circled cell, and then select (Data > Validation).

  Clear Validation Circles – Removes circles around cells that contain values outside the limits you set by selecting (Data > Validation). To see what data restrictions and messages are in effect for a cell before you remove circles, click the circled cell, and select (Data > Validation).

 Show Watch Window – Displays the Watch Window that can be used to keep a close eye on certain formulas as you make changes to other parts of the worksheet.

 Evaluate Formula – Displays the (Tools > Formula Auditing > Evaluate Formula) dialog box that enables you to evaluate parts of a formula.


The example below helps you master Formula Auditing quickly and easily.

Formula Auditing Example

Trace Precedents

You have to pay $96.00. To show arrows that indicate which cells are used to calculate this value, execute the following steps.

1. Select cell C13.

2. On the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Trace Precedents.

Trace Precedents

Result:

Trace Precedents First Level Result

As expected, Total cost and Group size are used to calculate the Cost per person.

3. Click Trace Precedents again.

Trace Precedents Second Level Result

As expected, the different costs are used to calculate the Total cost.

Remove Arrows

To remove the arrows, execute the following steps.

1. On the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Remove Arrows.

Remove Arrows

Trace Dependents

To show arrows that indicate which cells depend on a selected cell, execute the following steps.

1. Select cell C12.

2. On the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Trace Dependents.

Trace Dependents

Result:

Trace Dependents Result

As expected, the Cost per person depends on the Group size.

Show Formulas

By default, Excel shows the results of formulas. To show the formulas instead of their results, execute the following steps.

1. On the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Show Formulas.

Show Formulas

Result:

Show Formulas Result

Note: instead of clicking Show Formulas, you can also press CTRL + (`). You can find this key above the tab key.

Error Checking

To check for common errors that occur in formulas, execute the following steps.

1. Enter the value 0 into cell C12.

#DIV/0! Error

2. On the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Error Checking.

Error Checking

Result. Excel finds an error in cell C13. The formula tries to divide a number by 0.

Error Checking Result

Evaluate Formula

To debug a formula by evaluating each part of the formula individually, execute the following steps.

1. Select cell C13.

2. On the Formulas tab, in the Formula Auditing group, click Evaluate Formula.

Evaluate Formula

3. Click Evaluate four times.

Click Evaluate Four Times

Excel shows the formula result.

Evaluate Formula Result

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