Understanding Auditing

Auditing is the process of analyzing the contents and formulas in a worksheet to make sure they are correct. Excel provides several tools that make auditing as painless as possible. Even so, auditing can be difficult and tedious work if your worksheet is large, complex, or poorly put together.

Excel uses some specific terminology that refers to the concepts involved in auditing, namely precedents and dependents. Precedents are those cells on which a formula is based. Thus, if cell A5 contains the formula =A3 + A4, then both A3 and A4 are precedents for cell A5. Dependents are the reverse of precedents. Thus, in this example, cell A5 is a dependent of cells A3 and A4.

You can further break down the distinction by having direct and indirect relationships. In the previous example, cell A5 is actually a direct dependent of (it directly depends on) cells A3 and A4. Likewise, A3 and A4 are direct precedents for cell A5. Suppose, however, that cell A6 contained the formula =A5 * 1.05. As you might imagine, cell A6 is a direct dependent of cell A5, but it is also an indirect dependent of cells A3 and A4. Similarly, A5 is a direct precedent of A6, and A3 and A4 are indirect precedents. It is possible to have many different levels of indirect precedents in a worksheet.

The tools that Excel provides to perform auditing tasks are available on the Formulas tab of the ribbon. (The tools are in the Formula Auditing group.)