# Cell references

A formula can reference one or more cells and automatically update its contents whenever any of the referenced cells change. The values from other cells can be obtained using A1 notation which is a flexible way of pointing at different sources of data for the formulas.

The table below summarizes the most popular methods of referencing different cells in the workbook.

Type Current sheet Different sheet
Relative =A1 =Sheet2!A1
Absolute =$A$1 =Sheet2!$A$1
Mixed =$A1 =Sheet2!$A1
Circular (example)







Range =A1:B2 =Sheet2!A1:B2

# Referencing named expressions

You can reference named expressions by their assigned names. For example, if you name the expression =SUM(100+10) as MySum, you can then reference that expression by MySum.

A named expression works within a scope. You define the scope when creating a named expression:

// define for a local scope
// sheet ID passed (1)
hfInstance.addNamedExpression('MyLocal', '=Sheet2!$A$1+100', 1);

// define for the global scope
// sheet ID not passed
hfInstance.addNamedExpression('MyGlobal', '=SUM(100+10)');

Now, you can reference MyLocal in the 1 sheet, and MyGlobal in any sheet.

HyperFormula is more limited than typical spreadsheet software when it comes to referencing named ranges. For more information about how HyperFormula handles named ranges, see this section.

# Relative references

Relative and absolute references play a huge role in copy and paste, autofill, and CRUD operations like moving cells or columns.

By default, all references are relative which means that when you copy them to other cells, the references are updated based on the new coordinates. There are two main exceptions though: the move operation and named expressions, both of which use absolute references. HyperFormula provides copy , cut and paste methods that allow for handling clipboard operations.

Cut and paste behaves a bit differently. If '=A1' is copied from cell B1 into B2 it will stay after being placed into B2.

Copy and paste will behave a bit different in a relative mean

  • if '=A1' will be copied from B1 into B2 cell it will be '=A2'.
Formula in A1 Action Result in A2

Copy A1

Paste to A2


This example shows the change after the move operation was done:

// build with a simple dataset
const hfInstance = HyperFormula.buildFromArray([
 ['=B2', '=A1', ''],

// these are the coordinates for a move operation
const source = { sheet: 0, col: 1, row: 0 };
const destination = { sheet: 0, col: 2, row: 0 };

// move B1
const changes = hfInstance.moveCells({ start: source, end: source }, destination);

// you can see the changes inside the console

# Absolute references

A reference to a column (a letter) or a row (a number) may be preceded with a dollar sign $ to remain intact when the cell is copied between different places.

Formula in A1 Action Result in A2 and A3

Copy A1

Paste to A2

Paste to A3


# Range references

In HyperFormula, a range is a reference to a group of at least two adjacent cells.

# Range definition

Range <Cell address 1>:<Cell address 2> is a reference to the smallest rectangular group of adjacent cells that includes:

  • The cell at <Cell address 1>
  • The cell at <Cell address 2>

# Range types

HyperFormula features the following types of ranges:

Range type Description Example
Cell range Has the shape of a finite rectangle =A1:B2
or =A2:B1
or =B1:A2
or =B2:A1
Column range Contains entire columns =A:B
or =B:A
Row range Contains entire rows =1:2
or =2:1

# Referencing ranges

You can reference ranges:

  • Through a relative reference, e.g., =A1:B2
  • Through an absolute reference, e.g., =A$1:$B$2
  • Through a reference with an explicit sheet address, e.g., =Sheet5!A1:B2

# Range restraints

The following restraints apply:

  • You can't mix two different types of range references together (=A1:B).
  • Range expressions can't contain named expressions.
  • At the moment, HyperFormula doesn't support multi-cell range references (=A1:B2:C3).


In contrast to Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, HyperFormula doesn't treat single cells as ranges. Instead, it immediately instantiates references to single cells as their values. Applying a scalar value to a function that takes ranges throws the CellRangeExpected error.

# More about ranges

# Circular references

Since HyperFormula does not embed any UI, it allows for the input of a circular reference into a cell. Compared to popular spreadsheets, HyperFormula does not force any specific interaction with the user (i.e., displaying a warning ) when circular reference happens.

When circular reference happens, HyperFormula returns #CYCLE as the value of the cell where the circular reference occurred. After some CRUD operation is performed, the error might disappear when it is no longer a cyclic dependency. No matter the outcome, other cells are calculated normally and the dependency graph is updated. It is non-blocking.

# The #REF! error

By deleting the cell that is referenced in a formula you make the entire formula no longer valid. As a result, you will get the #REF! error which indicates that there is an invalid address used in a cell.

Consider the following example:

Formula in C1 Action Result in B1
=A1+B1+20 Delete column A #REF!

The #REF! error may also occur in other specific situations:

  • When you copy and paste formulas containing relative references, or example:
Formula in B1 Action Result in A1

Cut from B1

Paste to A1

  • When the VLOOKUP is told to look up values in a column whose index is out of the scope.
  • When the INDEX function is told to return values from rows or columns that are out of the scope.