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Excel Tutorial: Auditing Formulas with Trace Precedents


  • If you have formulas that are based on the contents of another cell, you have precedent cells. If you have problems with a formula or result, you can trace the precedent cells to help track down the problem. The Trace Precedents command is useful to see the trail of data relationships. The Trace Precedents command allows you to show tracer arrows to show the relationship between the active cell and the precedents to that cell.

  • Tracer arrows are blue when pointing from a cell that provides data to another cell.

  • Red tracer arrows indicate an erroneous value.

  • Tracer arrows are black when pointing from a cell in another worksheet.

  • The other worksheet is represented by a worksheet icon. 


If you prefer, watch the Video Tutorial below.



If tracer arrows do not show, you will need to turn on the objects in the Options window.  Use the following procedure.

  • Select the File Tab

  • Select Options.

  • Select the Advanced tab.

  • Under the Display options for this workbook, make sure the workbook you are using is displayed.

  • The For objects, show option should be All.


If a cell has a precedent that is in another worksheet, the other worksheet must be open.

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