Brackets in formulas

Anybody know what this formula means?


You'll see this (and others like it) if you open the built-in template named ExpenseReport found in Excel 2007. 

Presumably, Meals is a range name, but it doesn't turn up in the list of range names for the workbook.

Any what do the brackets mean? The Excel Formulas Book (by John Walkenbach) is a pretty good source for all things formula-related, but he says not a word about it.

Any ideas?


Brackets in formulas

I utilize tables often in excel.  With the correct option checked, Excel automatically names ranges within formulas if I select cell ranges to insert into functions.  When dealing with an entire column of the table, the resulting formula inserted by Excel always utilizes brackets.   For example:

=SUMIF('YTD Actual'!$B$2:$AF$9999,'ACTPROJ Annual'!AC$5&AC$6,Table_Query_from_MS_Access_Database[NetRevenue])+SUMIF('YEnd Proj'!$B$2:$AG$9999,'ACTPROJ Annual'!AC$5&AC$6,Table_Query_from_MS_Access_Database4[NetRevenue])

However, after a quick cursory glance I don't see any formulas in which this is the case without an adjacent table name as in your example.


Hope this helps.

I know one more

Reference to value in table loks like this:


When you take value within the table it looks like this:


Nick's picture

[] brackets

Cyril - I think you're onto something...

[] definitely seem to do something in relation to data tables

I had a look, but couldn't replicate the example.

Can you ?

Here you are

I've made a post about it

Use brackets with data tables

Nick's picture


hi Dennis

There are only 2 places I have seen these brackets before:

1. In referring to a different workbook within a formula:


2. In VBA, you can use [MyRange] as a substitute for Range("MyRange")... but I don't recommend doing that as it actually tells VBA to evaluate what's within the brackets.

SUBTOTAL(109,RANGE)  sums visible cells in that range, but if I enter SUBTOTAL(109,[meals]), I get an error even if meals is defined as a range... local or global.

Does this formula actually work in the template ?

What happens when you bring up the formula box ?



Almir's picture

It is total row formula in Data Table

Hi all,

Third case: bracketed column name can be seen when you choose "Show Total Row" with Data Table. When you right-click on Data Table and choose "Show Total Row" and choose "SUM", this is what you get within a Total cell. "Meal" within brackets refers to column "Meal" within Data Table, not a named range. So, "SUBTOTAL(109,[Meals])" means SUM of 'Meals' column, where "Meals" is a column within Data Table.

Sum cell was probably copied from a Data Table, and that is why it looked strange.

Look at example where I have replicated it: