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Excel 2019: Trace Precedents to See What Cells Flow into a Formula

July 11, 2019 - by Bill Jelen

Excel Trace Precedents to See What Cells Flow into a Formula. Photo Credit: Johannes Ludwig at

If you need to see which cells flow into a formula, you can use the Trace Precedents command in the Formula Auditing group on the Formulas tab. In the following figure, select D6. Choose Trace Precedents. Blue lines will draw to each cell referenced by the formula in D6.

The dotted line leading to a symbol in B4 means there is at least one precedent on another worksheet. If you double-click the dotted line, Excel shows you a list of the off-sheet precedents.

A formula in D6 is referring to B10, A8, A6, B4, C2, D2, and one cell on another worksheet. Select D6 and Trace Precedents. Blue lines are drawn from D6 to each of the other cells. A dotted line is also drawn to a worksheet icon - this indicates one off-sheet precedent.

If you stay in cell D6 and choose Trace Precedents a few more times, you will see the second-level precedents, then the third-level precedents, and so on. When you are done, click Remove Arrows.

Title Photo: Johannes Ludwig at

Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
Excel Insights – A Microsoft MVP Guide to the Best Parts of Excel

There are fewer than 100 Excel MVPs worldwide. 24 of them have contributed to this book. Written, edited, reviewed and printed by Excel MVPs, this is practical Excel passion undiluted, with each MVP highlighting some of their favorite topics.