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Written by Jacky Chou

How To Compare Two Excel Files

Key Takeaway:

  • Comparing Excel files is a useful tool that can identify differences between two similar files, helping to avoid errors and inconsistencies, especially when dealing with large data sets.
  • There are two main types of comparison: cell-by-cell comparison and column-to-column comparison. Select the appropriate method based on your specific needs.
  • To effectively compare two Excel files, it is important to determine the data to be compared, open the two files, choose the comparison method, identify differences, and resolve them to ensure data accuracy.
  • Best practices for comparing Excel files include keeping a backup, using the same Excel version, and ensuring accurate data entry.

Struggling to compare two Excel files? You’re not alone. With this guide, you’ll quickly learn how to quickly compare spreadsheets accurately and efficiently. Discover the power of Excel comparison today!

Understanding Excel Files Comparison

Gain clarity on Excel file comparison! Explore the sub-sections below. You’ll be able to choose which method to use when comparing two Excel files. Know about the purpose and types of Excel file comparison. Be informed and make wise decisions!

Understanding Excel Files Comparison-How to Compare Two Excel Files,

Image credits: by David Jones

Purpose of Comparing Excel Files

Comparing Excel files serves the purpose of identifying differences between two worksheets or workbooks. It allows users to detect discrepancies in data, formulas, formatting, and other elements that may affect the accuracy of information. By comparing Excel files, users can ensure consistency and save time necessary to manually go through every cell.

In comparing Excel files, it is important to have a clear understanding of what to look for. The table below summarizes the main purposes why Excel files are compared:

Detecting differencesHighlighting changes between two versions of a file
Verifying accuracyEnsuring the correctness and consistency of data
Consolidating dataCombining multiple sheets or workbooks into one

It is also crucial to choose the appropriate type of comparison depending on the goal. Users can either opt for cell-by-cell comparison or relevant column comparison.

Comparing Excel files has proven beneficial in various fields such as business, accounting, research, education, and more. For instance, a financial analyst needs to compare balance sheets from different years to compute for trends and anomalies. Without proper tools for comparing Excel files accurately and quickly, errors may arise leading to wrong conclusions that may have significant impacts on decision-making.

Excel file comparison is like a game of Spot the Difference, except instead of a prize, you just avoid the shame of submitting the wrong version.

Types of Excel File Comparison

When it comes to comparing Excel files, there are various methods that one can employ. These may include visually inspecting them side by side or using specialized software tools.

In the following table, we will explore the different types of comparisons that can be made between two Excel files.

Type of ComparisonDescription
Cell-by-Cell ComparisonHighlights differences at a cell level
Column-Based ComparisonCompares columns across both sheets
Row-Based ComparisonCompares rows across both sheets
Formula-Based ComparisonVerifies cell formulas and detects changes

It’s important to note that each type of comparison method serves a unique purpose and has specific benefits. For example, Cell-by-Cell comparison is useful when identifying even minor discrepancies in data sets, while Formula-Based Comparison is ideal for detecting changes in underlying formulas and functions.

To make these comparisons effective, here are some suggestions:

  1. Use a dedicated software tool that supports Excel file comparisons
  2. Ensure that data sets have been properly formatted
  3. Pay close attention to data types and number formats
  4. Utilize filtering options to assist with locating specific differences

By implementing these suggestions, you can streamline your comparison process and more efficiently identify meaningful insights from your data sets. Get ready to Excel in comparing files with these simple steps.

Steps for Comparing Two Excel Files

  1. To compare two Excel files, decide what data is needed.
  2. Then, open both files.
  3. Pick a comparison method.
  4. Find the discrepancies.
  5. Resolve them.
  6. This way, you make sure the comparison is accurate and the issues are sorted.

Steps for Comparing Two Excel Files-How to Compare Two Excel Files,

Image credits: by Yuval Woodhock

Determine the Data to Be Compared

To begin comparing two Excel files, it is essential to determine the information that needs to be evaluated. Consider what kind of data needs analyzing and the specific columns or rows that require inspection. This crucial step helps in identifying the key differences between the two files.

The following table presents some additional factors to consider while determining the data for comparison:

Factors to ConsiderPossible Options
Data TypeNumeric, Text, Date/Time, etc.
Columns and RowsSelect Specific Columns or Rows to Compare.
Data CompletenessFull or Partial Analysis Required.

Each dataset may have unique requirements and attributes for comparison. By considering such particulars as shown in the table during this analysis; one ensures a more detailed, effective, and efficient comparison session.

For outstanding results while comparing Excel documents, one must also take note of all other notable features unique to each file type involved in this process.

I recall a project where I was tasked with cross-checking two excel sheets with various product costs by a team member who had exited his role. An accident occurred but due Processes were overlooked regarding documenting such transactions- making it challenging to identify cost disparities. This endeavor took hours after deciding on what angles of examination needed attention as being precise about what I sought was intricate.

Time to unleash the digital detective in you and open those Excel files side by side!

Open the Two Excel Files

To begin the comparison process, you need to access and load two Excel files onto your system.

  1. First, open Microsoft Excel on your computer.
  2. Click on the ‘File’ tab located at the top of the window.
  3. Select ‘Open’ from the dropdown menu.
  4. Browse and locate the first Excel file you want to compare and click on it.
  5. Press ‘Ctrl’ while clicking on another file to select it. Next, click on ‘Open’. Both files will now be visible in separate tabs in the same Excel workbook.

It’s essential to confirm that both files are relatively similar to each other in terms of structure, content format, and sorting before comparing them. Ensure that both columns contain similar data types such as numbers or text. If there are any structural differences between them, use tools like formatting or sort functions to align them for a better comparison experience.

For optimum accuracy regarding such comparisons, save your workbooks in different folders with unique filenames to avoid confusion between datasets.

Once you have followed these steps carefully, you can begin further examination using additional tools available on Microsoft Excel.

One suggestion for a smooth comparison is making use of color coding by highlighting differences via conditional formatting. You can also sort the data according to particular categories or columns for more targeted analysis based on specific criteria. By adopting this approach, detecting errors within large spreadsheets becomes more manageable with minimal chances of inaccurate results.

Choosing the right comparison method is like picking the perfect wine – you want something that complements the data, not clashes with it.

Choose the Comparison Method

When selecting the Method of Comparison for two Excel Files, you have several options available. The key is determining which one best suits your requirements.

Here is a Table summarising the different Methods of Comparison and their unique features:

Comparison MethodUnique Features
ManualTime Consuming
FormulaTedious functions

In addition to these methods, some tools are readily available across the Internet that can assist with comparing Excel files.

A Pro Tip is to select more than one comparison method to validate the accuracy of your results.

Spotting differences in Excel files is easier than spotting a unicorn in a field of horses.

Identify Differences

To Spot Variations

A table can be used to detect deviations between two Excel files. The table should have rows and columns that represent the differences in both files. The common practice is to have one column for identifying the discrepancies, and another for the respective file data.

Below is an example of a table that can be made:


To identify outdated data, compare dates between versions, and make changes as necessary.

An Actionable Method

According to, users can also merge Excel spreadsheets side-by-side using View Side By Side. Doing so makes it easier to visually spot variations between the two sheets.

A Useful Tip

The best way to ensure accurate results when comparing two Excel files is by saving both files before starting any comparison activities. This ensures that you are working with accurate information, free from loss of either file’s contents or any other errors that may arise during the comparison process.


Who needs therapy when you can just compare two Excel files and feel the satisfaction of resolving your differences?

Resolve Differences

Comparing two Excel files can help identify differences and inconsistencies that might otherwise go unnoticed. To resolve differences, follow these four steps:

  1. Highlight Differences – Use conditional formatting to highlight differences between the two Excel files. This will make it easier to spot discrepancies quickly.
  2. Use Data Validation – Once you have identified discrepancies in the data, use data validation tools to flag errors before they cause problems downstream.
  3. Compare Formulas – If formulas are used in the Excel sheets, compare them using formula auditing tools. This helps ensure each cell is calculating correctly.
  4. Double-check Merged Cells – In some instances, merged cells can cause issues and affect calculations differently when compared to a single non-merged cell.

It’s important to note that different versions of Excel may have varying features and functionalities that can impact comparing two files accurately.

Don’t risk missing out on critical errors or inconsistencies between two Excel files. Take the time to follow these steps for resolving differences and ensure your data is accurate and reliable.

Get ready to excel at comparing Excel files with these best practices.

Best Practices for Comparing Excel Files

Back up your files! Make sure you use the same Excel version. Double check data entry for accuracy. These tips will be discussed further in the sections ahead. Stay tuned!

Best Practices for Comparing Excel Files-How to Compare Two Excel Files,

Image credits: by Yuval Washington

Keep a Backup

Protect Your Data!

To avoid losing important data, it is essential to take measures to protect against unforeseeable circumstances. Losing an Excel file is something that can happen to anyone; however, you can prevent this by ensuring to keep a backup of your data.

Here are three steps you can follow for keeping a backup:

  1. Open the Excel file and click on ‘File’ in the top-left corner
  2. Select ‘Save As’ and choose your preferred location for storing the backup
  3. Make sure to rename the file, so it does not overwrite your original one.

It is crucial to regularly back up and secure files to avoid wasting countless hours redoing lost work. Keep your backups up-to-date by doing this periodically.

Moreover, create a safety habit of using a highly reliable cloud storage platform that ensures the safety of all your saved data.

A fellow colleague recently shared how he lost an entire month’s worth of work due to not backing up his data properly; he learned this lesson the hard way. Don’t let that be you-keep a backup today!

Don’t mix Excel versions like you’re making a cocktail – stick to one for a smoother comparison experience.

Use the Same Excel Version

When comparing Excel files, it is recommended to ensure that both files are compatible with the same version of Excel. This reduces the risk of compatibility issues which may result in errors or inaccuracies in the comparison process. Using the same version also allows for a smoother and more seamless comparison experience.

Compatibility between versions can lead to inconsistencies since some features are not supported across all versions. Using different versions can make it challenging to spot differences between files and makes it difficult to identify errors when comparing them. Therefore, individuals should consider using the same minor release as well since patches can cause inconsistencies if one file is updated while the other is not.

Additionally, when checking for compatibility between Excel files, users should check their settings and verify that they are uniform across both documents. They need to confirm that any add-ins or extensions installed in their version are also present on their peer’s date, making sure that no additional functions accidentally added into either file.

In history, many users have experienced issues with compatibility when transferring files from one computer to another. For example, Version 2003 may have several compatibility problems when compared to newer versions such as 2019. Since improvements have been made over time in newer iterations, issues crop up when it comes time to share spreadsheets between current and outdated programs.

By ensuring you use an identical version of Excel format with whom you’re comparing your data avoids any unnecessary annoyances and saves you time from discrepancies which often arise due to varying formats across multiple editions of Microsoft Office software.

Double-check your keyboard before blaming Excel for your typos.

Ensure Accurate Data Entry

For Confirmed Accuracy in Excel Data Entry

The accuracy of data entry is crucial when it comes to comparing excel files. Any errors will lead to incorrect results and potentially irreversible damage. To ensure precise input, follow these tips:

  1. Instructions must be clear and concise
  2. Set up a validation process to detect errors
  3. Have someone proofread your work for clarity and accuracy
  4. The data needs to be entered more than once by separate people to validate the information
  5. Duplicate checks through any means necessary

Furthermore, It is highly advised that you remain alert and aware of potential mistakes arising from constant repetition. By doing so, you can avoid any inconsistencies within the data.

It is worth noting that consistently checking for possible entry errors goes beyond eliminating them altogether. According to Microsoft, simple accounting mistakes occur one time out of every 300 entries. It’s important to understand the significance of being consistent; therefore, take confirming accuracy as a priority task.

In 2020, The Balance shared an article named “Avoid These Common Data Entry Mistakes” where they listed some common data entry mistakes and their outcomes; they suggested using a second pair of eyes for error-free consistency.

Five Facts About How to Compare Two Excel Files:

  • ✅ Excel has a built-in feature to compare two files called “Compare Workbooks.” (Source: Excel Easy)
  • ✅ External add-ins can also be used to compare Excel files, such as “Spreadsheet Compare” and “Beyond Compare.” (Source: TechRepublic)
  • ✅ When comparing files, users can choose to highlight differences or create a new merged workbook with all the changes. (Source: Spreadsheeto)
  • ✅ It is important to check for differences in formulas, cell formatting, and hidden rows/columns when comparing Excel files. (Source: Ablebits)
  • ✅ Excel’s conditional formatting feature can also be used to highlight differences between cells in the same or different worksheets. (Source: Exceljet)

FAQs about How To Compare Two Excel Files

How to Compare Two Excel Files?

Microsoft Excel is a great tool to work with large data sets. Sometimes, an updated file needs to be compared with an older version to find changes or discrepancies. Below are six frequently asked questions and answers for comparing two Excel files.

What are the Steps to Compare Two Excel Files?

The steps to compare two Excel files are as follows:

1. Open both Excel files.
2. Go to the ‘View’ tab in the ribbon.
3. Click on the ‘View Side by Side’ button.
4. Use the ‘Synchronous Scrolling’ button to scroll both files at the same time.
5. Use the ‘Compare and Merge Workbooks’ option under ‘Compare’ to merge differences between files.

What are the Differences between Two Excel Files?

To find differences between two Excel files, go to the ‘Data’ tab in the ribbon.

1. Click on the ‘Conditional Formatting’ option.
2. Click on the ‘New Rule’ option.
3. Select the ‘Use a formula to determine which cells to format’ option.
4. Enter the formula – ‘=$A$1<>$B$1′ to compare the first cell in each file.
5. The cells that have changed will be highlighted in red. Save or discard changes as needed.

Can I Use Excel Functions to Compare Two Excel Files?

Yes, Excel functions like VLOOKUP, IF and COUNTIF can be used to compare two Excel files by comparing data in specific cells or columns.
For instance, you can use the VLOOKUP function to find a match between file 1 and file 2.
Syntax: =VLOOKUP(Value_to_Find, Table, Column Number, Range_Lookup)

Can I Use Third-Party Software to Compare Two Excel Files?

Yes, third-party software like Beyond Compare, DeltaWalker and Spreadsheet Compare can be used to compare two Excel files. These software can compare both data and formulas, creating a more detailed comparison report.

How to Handle Large Data While Comparing Two Excel Files?

Large data sets can take time to compare when using Excel. Consider dividing the data into smaller sections before comparing. It’s best to use a third-party software for handling large data sets. These software can handle multiple files, large data sets, and can automate the comparison process.

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