Improving Spreadsheet Accuracy: Copying Formulas and Hiding Zeros with Conditional Formatting Techniques

Spreadsheets are powerful tools for data analysis and reporting, but they can quickly become confusing and cluttered, especially when dealing with complex formulas and unwanted zero values. This blog post will guide you through the process of accurately copying formulas and using conditional formatting to hide zeros, ensuring your spreadsheets remain clear and professional.

How To Improve Spreadsheet Accuracy By Copying Formulas


Step 1: Understanding Relative and Absolute Cell References

Before copying formulas in a spreadsheet, it’s crucial to understand the difference between relative and absolute cell references.

Relative Cell References change when a formula is copied to another cell. For example, if you have a formula in cell A2 as `=B1+C1` and you copy it to A3, it will automatically adjust to `=B2+C2`.
Absolute Cell References remain constant, no matter where they are copied. They are denoted by a dollar sign `$`. For example, `$B$1+$C$1` will always refer to cells B1 and C1, even if copied elsewhere.


Step 2: Copying Formulas Accurately

To copy formulas accurately, follow these steps:

1. Select the cell with the formula you want to copy.
2. Copy the cell by right-clicking and selecting ‘Copy’, or by pressing `Ctrl+C` (Cmd+C on Mac).
3. Select the destination cell(s) where you want to paste the formula.
4. Paste the formula by right-clicking and selecting ‘Paste Formula’, or by pressing `Ctrl+V` (Cmd+V on Mac).


| A | B | C | D |
| 1 | 2 | 3 | Formula |
| 4 | 5 | 6 | `=A2+B2+C2` |
| 7 | 8 | 9 | `=A3+B3+C3` |

Copying the formula from D2 to D3 automatically adjusts the cell references.


Step 3: Using Conditional Formatting to Hide Zeros

Sometimes, you may want to hide zero values to make your spreadsheet cleaner. Here’s how to do it with conditional formatting:

1. Select the range of cells where you want to hide zeros.
2. Go to the ‘Home’ tab, and click on ‘Conditional Formatting’.
3. Choose ‘New Rule’.
4. Select ‘Format only cells that contain’.
5. Under ‘Format only cells with’, select ‘Cell Value’, ‘equal to’, and enter ‘0’.
6. Click on ‘Format’, go to the ‘Number’ tab, and set the font color to white (or the color of the cell’s background).
7. Click ‘OK’ to apply the formatting.


| A | B | C | D |
| 10 | 20 | 30 | 60 |
| 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 (Hidden) |
| 15 | 25 | 35 | 75 |

The zero values in row 2 are hidden due to conditional formatting.



Mastering the art of copying formulas and hiding zeros with conditional formatting can significantly enhance the accuracy and presentation of your spreadsheets. By understanding relative and absolute references, you can ensure that your formulas are copied correctly. Conditional formatting is a powerful feature that can help you maintain a clean and professional look by hiding unnecessary zero values. With these tips, you’ll be able to create more efficient and visually appealing spreadsheets that communicate your data effectively.


Live Excel Support Transcript Example:

Below is a live transcript of one of our Excel Support experts helping a customer improve spreadsheet accuracy.

Full Conversation:

Customer: Okay, and then I’m going to pause the time on here for. Okay. There we go. Recording is on. There we go. Sorry. All right, now that we’re here, we can get back to this. Okay, so this would be equals to shoot one. Oh right, I need to press access. Okay, you should be in. Okay, cool. That should be this B, C, D, E, F, G, H. So every seven. So B, C, D, E, F, G, H. Yeah, every seven. So B, C, D, E, F, G, H.

Technician: I don’t normally do this, but I feel like I have to start this podcast with a bit of a disclaimer. What is that? Point number one. That is not me. The most important podcast episode I have ever. Oh, there it is. I was like, what was coming from? I was like, I was watching something with English actors before this, but I was like, it wasn’t a podcast. Okay, so. All right, we’re not. Okay. Also, if you need me to write in any shortcuts, I can on this. Okay. And does this one have some extra space? This has unit, vendor, and then amount. Unit, vendor, amount. And that one’s O. U. Okay, so that should be loads. Cool. Now we do. Okay. So from here, we would be on two ways. Let me see, because bare bones office is going to be the same. This would just need to shift over. Yeah, that would need to shift over. So usually if I were to say, okay, one could be one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. So this should be one, two, three, four, five, six, two, six, eight, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Yeah. So it’d be this plus eight. Eight, essentially, because what is this? H is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Yeah, because if I do two plus six, and then if I were to go here, it’d be 12, 13, 14. This would be 16, so that would be 15, 12, 13, 14, 15. So I don’t think I’m touching anything each time. First, we need it to go across all three. And this is, let me see, because this is already here. So we would need to move this over. I can Control-X it if that. Yeah, Control-X here. Okay, and then move it to where you put the cursor over. Yeah, Control-V there. And Control-X this one. Here, and then last one. Cool. I’m going to put the cursor here. Oh, yeah, if you could put it there. There we go. So then these would all be one. Oh, let me see if I can get Synergy to release. I can copy and paste those over. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Awesome. All right. So then here, we need three different formulas. Oh, is it going to be two or one? Range and criteria, and then the sum range. So I’m checking. Okay, let’s go start that again. All right. So here, I’m checking if it’s going to be B3, lock. B needs to change. Columns need to be locked. So we’ll do B3 to B. Criteria is that base A and B. So that would have been A3. And then sum range would be the amount here. Let’s just make sure that’s A3. So this should be A3, as long as that’s the same. And go ahead and give me this. These need to be locked. Um, let me see. I’m going down. This isn’t going across. This is going both ways. So I do need these to change, but not yet. Okay, so that’ll go. This needs to be locked. A3 needs to be able to move up and down. Okay, I think that should be it. So bare bones is always going to be the same. Then realistic would be A3. Let me see. That’s going to still be the same thing. Realistic this case would be B16. Yeah, I can’t use any kind of shortcuts. The scrolling is so awkward. Realistic. Okay, 16 to 26. That should be 16. I can copy it over. Okay. If that makes… So I’m copying the formula from cell C3. Yeah, it’ll be fine. We’ll just go about this. Okay, you’re just going to do it. 26. 29 to 39. Yeah, 29 to 39. 39, and then H back to half. Okay, 13, 6 to 16, 10 to 19. F, cool. So now that needs to switch over. Let me see if I do this. Let’s copy the pattern. E, E, yeah. So now we’re in E. This just should be H. Cool. We’ll just do that again. And do real quick. Oh, here it is. There we go. Bam. Okay, so E, said that was H. All right, what have we got? Let’s do this. So, um, so Looks like it is closed. As we go down, Let’s do the same, because the area is going to be the same anyway. Yeah. Oh. I think we’re getting, okay. Pretty good. Back this down. This is two, 25. Same thing. Cool. Looks about right. So now, Should I go to bare bones occupancy? Should, cool. So, some range is F to F13. F3 to F13. Okay. So it’s there. Cool. Problem here. That’s weird. Yeah, I need to fix that. If you go up to the first one. So M3, you can do it there and just drag it down. And then just drag it down. Oh, excuse me. Okay. And then let’s see. Equals 68. Yes. Okay, great. If you don’t want it to show zeros, we can make it. Stay blank. It’s up to you. How do we make it stay the length? So you would just do in here. And all we would say is if this is equal to, well, let’s do two things. Actually. If this is not equal to zero, then just give me the results. Then just give me the result. All right. I would say copy this. Copy it. And then paste. Yeah, sorry. Up to summit. Yeah. Like with the. Oh, no, without that one, just starting at some, there you go. Copy that. And then paste it right here. Yeah. So we’re saying if it’s not zero, then go ahead and paste. I did that. Nope, I’m doing that. Yeah, that’s what I did. And it was telling me the same thing. I don’t know why it does that. That’s so strange. I’m just going to try pasting it here. Yeah. Perfect. So we’re just saying as long as this is not zero, then go ahead and give me the result. Otherwise, just leave this blank. Okay, great. And then let me see. Oh, because there is a result in there. Oh, right. Damn it. Can’t use shortcuts. Do control shift down. Arrow. Control shift down. And then control D as in dog. Control B as in boy. Or D as in dog. D as in dog. Okay. There we go. Oh, look, there’s professional services down there. Oh, oh, I need to change it. This whole thing needs to be, clearly there’s like you working on this has showed me there’s holes. Yeah. So you would just go in and make sure that all of those match and that this matches everything in that dropdown. Otherwise it won’t work as expected. Actually, if you want to do this and save yourself some time, I would just be copying and pasting the end of each of these. So let me see where we at here. So I would just copy this, for example. Yeah. And then paste it into the next one. Let’s see, escape. Paste it here. Which would just be F. And then let me comment this out real quick. And then it’s going to be essentially the same thing. I guess at that point I wouldn’t need it. Okay. Cool. Well. Cool. Yeah, I can work on that. Yeah. And you would just be making sure that says it’s not equal to zero. Paste it again. Same thing. And then otherwise just leave it blank. It’s just two quotes. Okay. That’s really all you’re doing to match it. I would just do it. The easiest way is do it all the way across the top. Yeah. Once you do it across the top ones, then do that trick I showed you. You’ll click on here. Pull it down. Specifically B3. And then you can do control shift to the right and then control shift down and then control shift D. Okay, great. And that’ll copy everything straight down. Yeah, great. Thank you so much. Yeah, of course. My pleasure. Other than that, is there anything else I can help you with? Nope. That’s it. Have a great day, Jason. Of course. It’s been my pleasure. You as well. After this, it will ask you for some feedback. So if there’s anything you liked or didn’t like, you can always put it there. And then if you’d like to work with me again in the future, specifically when you do post a new job, you should be able to select me from a dropdown. Otherwise, if it’s in relation to this specific job, You can always repost this one from your dashboard. Okay, great. Thank you so much. Of course. It’s been my pleasure. You have a great day, Monica. Yeah, you too, Jason. Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye. Bye.