Numbers: How to Refer to Cells in Other Sheets

2 minute read
| Quick Tip

If you’re working with a Numbers document that has several sheets within it (designated by the tabs near the toolbar)…

Numbers Tabs Across Top

…then you can use a cell in one of those sheets to calculate values in the others. In the case of my spreadsheet above, for example, I can take a number from my “Expenses” tab and one from my “Income” tab and use those to populate a summary cell under the “Budget” one. That’s cool, and here’s how you’ll do it!

Step one is to start creating the formula that’ll add up (or average, or what have you) the cells in question. To do so, click on the cell where you want your formula to go, and then click the “Insert” button in the toolbar, which looks like a plus button with a box around it.

Insert Button in Numbers

As you can see above, you can then pick which formula you want; I’m selecting “Sum,” which’ll put that equation right into my chosen cell.

Sum Formula in Cell

Now, in this case my Mac didn’t get smart and try to auto-sum anything, but if yours does, Numbers might just populate that cell with the references around it:

Sum Cell with Bad Info Within

If that’s the case for you, just click the cell again and delete out the offending data, leaving your cursor in the middle of the blank formula, like so:

Sum Formula with No Info in It

Once you’re ready to fill in the correct information, make sure you’ve got the formula up and waiting with your cursor in it if necessary, then select your other sheets one at a time and click on the cells from those sheets you’d like to use.

Adding References into Formula

Adding References into Formula

If you’ve done it correctly, the formula will stay active while you’re clicking around, and the cells you’re adding will appear in the box as they are above for me. When you’re done, click the green checkmark next to the formula box or press Return, and when you go back to the original sheet, you’ll see your finished calculation.

Formula Finished on Original Sheet

If you want to type this in manually, note that the structure here is =SUM(Sheet 1 Name::Table Name::Cell Name,Sheet 2 Name::Table Name::Cell Name). I mean, that’s gonna take you longer than clicking around will, but if you prefer doing things that way, go you!

Now, since I’m doing income and expenses here, I should probably go in and edit that formula so it’s not adding those numbers, it’s subtracting expenses from income. Adding my expenses to my income is…well, that wouldn’t give me a great idea of where my budget is. Anyway, I’ll do that by just double-clicking the formula cell and dropping that minus sign in instead.

Editing Formula in Cell

Two things that are important:

  1. No, that’s not actually how much money I make in a month. Maybe in my next life I’ll be that wildly lucky.
  2. Yes, I realize that income minus expenses isn’t technically a “budget,” per se, but to be fair, I’m writing this at 2 a.m. in a semi-feverish daze. So pardon my late-night spreadsheet foibles, friends.

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