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Excel 2019: Use Ctrl+T with VLOOKUP and Charts


May 20, 2019 - by Bill Jelen

Excel Use Ctrl+T with VLOOKUP and Charts. Photo Credit: Steve Johnson at Unsplash.com

In this figure, the VLOOKUP table is in E5:F9. Item A106 is missing from the table, and the VLOOKUP is returning #N/A. Conventional wisdom says to add A106 to the middle of your VLOOKUP table so you don’t have to rewrite the formula.

This screenshot shows a VLOOKUP formula pointing to $E$5:$F$9. Most VLOOKUPs are working, but one item is returning #N/A because that item is missing from the table.

Instead, use Ctrl+T to format the lookup table. Note that the formula is still pointing to E5:F9; nothing changes in the formula.


Before adding the missing item to the lookup table, select one item in the table and press Ctrl+T. Even with the table formatted as a table, the original formula still points to $E$5:$F$9.

But when you type a new row below the table, it becomes part of the table, and the VLOOKUP formula automatically updates to reflect the new range.

But, miraculously, when you type data in the new row below the lookup table, the VLOOKUP formula automatically rewrites itself to include the new rows.

The same thing happens with charts. The chart below is based on A1:B5, which is not a table.

A chart based on Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr data in A2:B5.

Format A1:B5 as a table by pressing Ctrl+T. Add a new row. The row is automatically added to the chart, as shown on the right.

Make the chart source data into a table with Ctrl+T. Type new data for May below the original data and the chart automatically updates.

It is fairly cool that you can use Ctrl+T after setting up the pivot table, VLOOKUP, or chart, and Excel still makes the range expand.

When I asked readers to vote for their favorite tips, tables were popular. Thanks to Peter Albert, Snorre Eikeland, Nancy Federice, Colin Michael, James E. Moede, Keyur Patel, and Paul Peton for suggesting this feature. Four readers suggested using OFFSET to create expanding ranges for dynamic charts: Charley Baak, Don Knowles, Francis Logan, and Cecelia Rieb. Tables now do the same thing in most cases.

Title Photo: Steve Johnson at Unsplash.com


Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
MrExcel LX – The Holy Grail of Excel Tips

A book for people who use Excel 40+ hours per week. Illustrated in full color.