Excel Tutorial: How To Make An Excel Spreadsheet Automatically Update


Having an automatically updating Excel spreadsheet can save you time and ensure that your data is always accurate. Whether you're tracking inventory, sales, or expenses, setting up your spreadsheet to automatically update can streamline your workflow and reduce the risk of errors. In this tutorial, we'll provide a brief overview of the steps you can take to achieve automatic updating in Excel.

Key Takeaways

  • Automatically updating Excel spreadsheets can save time and ensure accurate data
  • Understanding Excel calculation options is crucial for automatic updating
  • Using formulas, functions, data connections, macros, and Power Query are key techniques for automatic updating
  • Managing and maintaining data connections is important for successful automatic updating
  • Exploring advanced techniques and practicing is encouraged for mastering automatic updating in Excel

Understanding the Excel Calculation Options

Excel offers different calculation options that allow users to control how formulas and functions are recalculated in the spreadsheet. Understanding these calculation options is essential for ensuring that your spreadsheet updates automatically and accurately.

A. Explanation of the different calculation options in Excel
  • Automatic

    With the Automatic calculation option, Excel recalculates formulas and functions every time a change is made to the spreadsheet. This ensures that the data is always up to date, but it can also slow down the performance of large spreadsheets.

  • Manual

    When Manual calculation is selected, Excel only recalculates formulas and functions when the user manually initiates the recalculation. This can improve performance for large spreadsheets, but it requires the user to remember to update the data.

  • Automatic Except for Data Tables

    This option is similar to Automatic, but it excludes data tables from automatic recalculation. Data tables are recalculated only when explicitly requested by the user, which can improve performance when working with complex data tables.

B. How to access and change the calculation options in Excel

To access and change the calculation options in Excel, go to the "Formulas" tab on the ribbon and click on the "Calculation Options" button. From there, you can select the desired calculation option from the dropdown menu.

C. Advantages and disadvantages of each calculation option
  • Automatic

    Advantages: Ensures that data is always up to date

    Disadvantages: Can slow down performance for large spreadsheets

  • Manual

    Advantages: Improves performance for large spreadsheets

    Disadvantages: Requires manual initiation of recalculation

  • Automatic Except for Data Tables

    Advantages: Excludes data tables from automatic recalculation, improving performance

    Disadvantages: Requires manual recalculation of data tables

Using Formulas and Functions for Automatic Updating

When working with Excel spreadsheets, it is important to understand how to use formulas and functions for automatic updating. By utilizing these tools effectively, you can ensure that your data is always accurate and up to date.

A. How to use formulas to reference cells for automatic updating
  • Relative vs Absolute References:

    When creating formulas in Excel, it is important to understand the difference between relative and absolute references. Relative references will automatically update when copied to other cells, while absolute references will remain constant. By using a combination of these references, you can create formulas that automatically update based on changes in your data.
  • Using Named Ranges:

    Another useful method for automatic updating is to use named ranges in your formulas. By assigning a name to a specific cell or range of cells, you can easily reference them in your formulas and ensure that the data is always up to date.

B. Overview of common functions used for automatic updating (e.g. VLOOKUP, INDEX/MATCH)

    VLOOKUP is a popular function used for looking up a value in a table and returning a corresponding result from another column. By using VLOOKUP, you can automatically update your data based on changes in the referenced table.

    INDEX/MATCH is a powerful combination of functions that allows you to look up a value in a table based on specific criteria. This dynamic duo is often preferred over VLOOKUP for its flexibility and ability to automatically update based on changes in the referenced data.

C. Tips for troubleshooting formulas and functions
  • Check for Errors:

    When your formulas or functions are not automatically updating as expected, it is important to check for errors. Common errors include referencing the wrong cells, using incorrect syntax, or having missing data.
  • Use the Evaluate Formula Tool:

    Excel provides a useful tool called Evaluate Formula, which allows you to step through a formula and see the results at each stage. This can help you identify where the automatic updating may be going wrong.

Setting up Data Connections for External Data Sources

When working with Excel, it is essential to understand how to set up data connections for external data sources in order to automatically update your spreadsheet. Data connections play a crucial role in ensuring that your Excel spreadsheet stays updated with the latest information from external sources, such as databases, web pages, and other data repositories.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you set up data connections in Excel:

Explanation of data connections and their role in automatic updating

  • Data connections are links that allow Excel to retrieve external data and update it within your spreadsheet automatically. This can include data from databases, web queries, text files, XML files, and more.
  • Data connections play a vital role in ensuring that your Excel spreadsheet always reflects the most current information from external data sources.

Step-by-step guide to setting up a data connection in Excel

  • Open your Excel spreadsheet and navigate to the “Data” tab.
  • Click on the “From Other Sources” option and select the type of data source you want to connect to, such as “From SQL Server,” “From Web,” or “From Text.”
  • Follow the prompts to enter the necessary connection details, such as the server address, database name, credentials, and any query parameters.
  • Once the data connection is established, you can choose to either import the data directly into your spreadsheet or create a connection only and then build queries and reports with it.
  • After creating the connection, you can set up automatic data refresh options by right-clicking on the data connection in the “Connections” pane and selecting “Properties.” From there, you can specify how often you want the data to refresh.
  • Save your Excel spreadsheet, and the data connection will now automatically update at the specified intervals.

Best practices for managing and maintaining data connections

  • Regularly review your data connections to ensure that they are still valid and accurate. Remove any outdated or unnecessary connections to streamline your spreadsheet.
  • Organize your data connections by grouping them together based on their relevance or source. This helps you manage and update them more effectively.
  • Consider using parameters in your queries to make your data connections more dynamic, allowing you to retrieve specific subsets of data based on user input or other criteria.
  • Always test your data connections after setting them up to verify that they are working as expected and that the data is updating correctly.

Using Macros for Automated Tasks

Automating tasks in Excel can greatly improve efficiency and accuracy in your work. One powerful tool for automation is the use of macros. In this tutorial, we will explore how to use macros to automatically update an Excel spreadsheet.

A. Introduction to macros and their role in automating tasks in Excel

Macros are recorded sequences of actions in Excel that can be played back to automate repetitive tasks. This can include anything from formatting cells to complex calculations. Macros can save a significant amount of time and reduce the risk of human error.

B. How to record and run a simple macro for automatic updating

To record a macro in Excel, go to the "View" tab, click on "Macros," and then select "Record Macro." You can then perform the actions you want to automate, such as updating a specific range of cells. Once you have completed the actions, stop recording the macro. To run the macro, simply go to the "View" tab, click on "Macros," and select the macro you want to run.

C. Precautions when working with macros and security considerations

While macros can be incredibly useful, they also come with potential security risks. Malicious macros can be used to infect your computer with malware. It's important to only enable macros from trusted sources and to be cautious when downloading spreadsheets from the internet. Additionally, always keep your Excel software updated to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are patched.

Utilizing Power Query for Data Transformation and Refresh

Power Query is a powerful tool within Excel that allows users to easily transform and manipulate their data for better analysis and reporting. One of its key features is the ability to automatically update your data, saving you time and effort in keeping your spreadsheet current.

A. Overview of Power Query and its capabilities for data transformation

Power Query is an add-in for Excel that provides a seamless experience for data discovery, data transformation, and enrichment. It allows you to connect to various data sources, reshape and transform data, and load it to the worksheet for further analysis. With Power Query, you can easily clean and prepare your data for reporting and visualization.

B. Steps for creating and refreshing a query in Excel

1. Creating a query

  • Open Excel and navigate to the Data tab.
  • Select "Get Data" and choose the appropriate data source for your query.
  • Follow the prompts to connect to your data and apply any necessary transformations.
  • Once your query is set up, it will be displayed in the "Queries & Connections" pane.

2. Refreshing a query

  • After making any changes to your data source, you can refresh your query to automatically update the data in Excel.
  • Simply right-click on the query in the "Queries & Connections" pane and select "Refresh".
  • Your data will be updated based on the latest changes from your data source.

C. Advanced features and tips for maximizing the use of Power Query

1. Optimizing query performance

  • Use the "Applied Steps" pane to review and optimize the steps in your query for better performance.
  • Consider using advanced data transformation techniques such as custom functions and conditional logic.

2. Scheduling automatic refresh

  • If you have a recurring data source, you can schedule automatic refreshes for your queries to keep your data up to date without manual intervention.
  • Go to the "Queries & Connections" pane, right-click on your query, and select "Properties".
  • In the "Query Properties" window, navigate to the "Usage" tab and set the refresh options according to your needs.

By leveraging the capabilities of Power Query, you can streamline your data transformation process and ensure that your Excel spreadsheet is always up to date with the latest information.


As we wrap up this tutorial on how to make an Excel spreadsheet automatically update, let's quickly recap the key points. By using formulas, links, and data connections, you can ensure that your Excel sheet stays up-to-date without manual intervention. Remember to practice and explore advanced techniques to tailor the automatic updating process to your specific needs.

Don't hesitate to experiment and learn more about Excel's capabilities in automatic updating. Lastly, we would love to hear your feedback and suggestions for future Excel tutorial topics. Feel free to reach out and let us know what you'd like to learn next!

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