Larger spreadsheets are usually stuffed with formulas based on cell ranges. When spreadsheets are edited or expanded over time, different types of range issues may occur. These issues are usually hard to detect, but they can be very risky! We’ve seen big numbers and large sums of money ‘disappear’ because of range issues.
Range Issues – Risks
A range is a group of cells within a row and/or column in a spreadsheet. Ranges can be referred to from other cells or formulas. This possibility is of course one of the advantages of Excel, but when the referencing goes wrong, it can cause a very risky situation.
Empty Cell References
A formula with a reference to an empty cell is either meaningless or a mistake. It’s better to remove the reference or replace it with the intended location. One exception: sometimes, we see some template spreadsheets from our clients. In template files, not all source data cells must be filled in advance. That’s why empty cell references are not always as risky as they look like.
Interrupted Formula Range
When a formula in a cell is different from the ones above and below (or right and left), PerfectXL marks it as a range issue. For example: C2=A2+B2; C3=A3+B3; C4=A4+D4; C5=A5+B5. C4 is the interruption.
Usually a range of formulas is not interrupted, because a column is typically designed to perform equal types of calculations. If the interruption was intended, it’s better to move it outside the formula range. If the interruption is unintentional, replace the value of the cell by the formula found in the range.
Merged cells are considered a range issue, because it is not obvious how to correctly refer to merged cells that contain a formula or other value. Problems with adding or deleting rows or columns may also occur. It’s better to unmerge the cell group and try other solutions, like borders and colors, to clarify your sheet.
Referencing Merged Cells
A formula reference to a merged cell is another range issue. Every group of merged cells has more than one reference-possibility, but only one is correct.
This range issue occurs when a function references to a cell range (in this case a range of >4 cells), but the range in the sheet is actually larger. Or when the length of a table (range) is shorter than the reference in the formula cell. In this case there is a great chance that the reference is outdated, or simply incorrectly chosen.
An unexpected shift is when cell references suddenly shift by more than 1 cell in an otherwise consistent formula range. Check if this is intentional or by accident.