Convert Excel calculations to literal values

Copying Excel data to a different location can send your calculations into a tailspin. Avoid problems by using Paste Special to copy values rather than formulas.

Suppose you have a worksheet with columns and rows chock full of calculations, running the gamut from Sum functions to If tests to vertical and horizontal lookups. The calculations are correct and your data is pristine. You save the worksheet.

Now you need to use a subset of that worksheet in another worksheet. If all you're going to do is print the subset of columns or rows, you can simply hide those rows and columns, print what you need, and unhide the columns and rows later to restore the sheet to its normal state.

But if you're going to e-mail a copy of the sheet to a coworker or a third party, you may not feel comfortable simply hiding certain rows and columns. You may want to delete them instead. The problem is, of course, if you start deleting rows and columns, you're going to get error messages in the cells that depend on the cells you deleted.

The solution? First and foremost, save a copy of your pristine worksheet under a new name. Just go to File | Save As and add "_work" to the end of the "real" name. Select the entire sheet and then copy it. Without moving the cursor, go to Edit | Paste Special. Now, select the Values option, as shown in Figure A, and click OK. When you do, Excel will replace all the formulas with the values they're currently calculating and displaying. At that point, you can delete columns or rows and move cells around without generating a single error message.

Figure A

paste special values


If you use the Paste Special | Values option and the data you're pasting contains calculated dates or numbers formatted as currency, the date calculations will be pasted as the Julian date value, and the currency will lose its dollar signs and commas. To preserve that kind of formatting when you convert calculations to literals, simply choose the Values And Number Formats option instead of Values.

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