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How to Use the Watch Function In Excel

written by: MD Weems•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 11/4/2008

What is the watch function in Excel, and why should you care? This Bright Hub article will tell you how to use this special function in Excel, and how it can help you.

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    Special Functions in Excel

    When it comes to Microsoft Excel, many people aren't aware of the multitude of special functions available to use. From stopwatches to automatic adding formulas, graphs to macros, there are many great things that you can do with Excel that will make your spreadsheet creation easier than you could have ever thought possible. And you'll find that they'll make you look like an expert to everyone in the office as well! This article will discuss the watch function in Excel, what it is, why you should care, and what it can do to help you out.

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    What is the Watch Function?

    The watch function is a tool that allows you to keep track of a certain cell (such as where your total for the spreadsheet is) without actually keeping that cell in your window all the time. This can save you much time, as instead of flipping back and forth between worksheets or splitting the screen so your cell will stay on top, you can just turn on the watch function for it and – boom! There it is.

    This can be valuable to many different people, especially those that create lengthy spreadsheets that total long strings of numbers that must balance or that you have to keep an eye on the total.

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    How Do I Use the Watch Function?

    Well, let's go through the steps that you'll need to use to turn it on and put it to use for you. First, find the Formula Auditing Tool bar. Here is where you'll find it: head to the Main Menu and into the View drop down menu. Once you are in the View menu, you simply click on Tool bars and then click on Formula Auditing. Once you click on Formula Auditing, you'll see a little tool bar pop up on your screen, and you can drag it wherever you like it.

    Now that you have your tool bar up and running, find and click on the little button that has a pair of binoculars on it. This will open up the watch function window. Now, you will click on the “Add Watch” button, which should be the only thing that you can click on, and another window will pop up that is titled “Add Watch”. You'll then go to your spreadsheet and highlight the cell(s) that you want to watch while you work on the rest of the document, and then click “Add”. This doesn't always work across spreadsheets, so if you need to keep an eye on a cell in another workbook, you may have to create a cell in your current workbook that will continue to calculate the cell that you need to watch.

    Once you have added that range or cell to your “Add Watch” list, it will return you to the Watch Window. If you need to watch several cells across your spreadsheet, you can add more watches to this list as well so that you can keep an eye on them all with ease. Simply follow the steps that you took to add the first watch to your sheet in the previous paragraph. And that is all there is to using the watch function in Microsoft Excel. When you are done, you can simply click the “X” and close out the “Watch Window”.

    Sound easy? It really is. And, it will help you keep track of long spreadsheets that can easily get jumbled up with numbers and formulas.