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Opening Two Workbooks with the Same Name

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Opening Two Workbooks with the Same Name.

It is not unusual to have two workbooks, located in different folders, that have the same name. For instance, you could have two folders, one named "Year 2011" and another named "Year 2012." Both folders could contain a workbook file named Budget.xls.

Opening one of the Budget files in Excel is easy. If you try to open the second Budget file while the first is already open, Excel will generate an error. It does this because many of the internal functions used by Excel don't rely on a full path name for their operation, but instead look at only the name of the workbook. Having two workbooks open with the same name would cause these internal functions to become confused. The solution—don't let Excel open the second file that has the same name.

There are a couple of ways around this, however. The first (and obvious) workaround is to rename one or both of the workbook files. In the example above, you could name one file Budget2011.xls and the other Budget2012.xls. With different names, the workbooks will open just fine.

The second workaround is to just open a second instance of Excel. In other words, when you want to open the second Budget file, don't do it by choosing Open from within the program. Instead, use the Windows Start menu to start another copy of Excel. Because of the way that memory and programs are handled by Windows, neither copy of Excel is aware of the other. Thus, you could open the different Budget files (each with the same name) in each of the instances of Excel.

There is one potential glitch if you open a second instance of Excel. If there are workbooks that are automatically opened when Excel starts (such as Personal.xls), then you may see a warning or error message when you start the second instance of Excel. In most cases this won't cause any problem—at least it doesn't with Personal.xls. If you have other workbooks that are automatically opened, you will need to do some testing to see if there are any problems evident. (Potential problems can vary, depending on the content and programming inherent in the workbooks being automatically opened.)

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2222) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Opening Two Workbooks with the Same Name.

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Comments for this tip:

Ralph Santiago    25 Feb 2016, 20:58
In Excel 2013:
Just hold the "ALT" key, then right click your mouse on the excel icon on your taskbar and it will ask you if you would like to open a new file. When you have the new spread-sheet then you can open another file with the same name...
kevin    01 Jul 2015, 04:04
Hi there,
I am having this error message when I just try to open any excel workbook.
I mean I am not trying to open same two files. After log on to OS trying to open the first excel and viola. Getting that error too.

Tried to repair Office 2013 but I got same error.

What would be the solution or fix for me?
James Jenkins    30 May 2015, 11:03
With respect to opening and working on two different Excel Workbooks with the same name at the same time, I have a solution that is working for me.

I have multiple versions of Excel installed on my computer. I just open one workbook in one version and one in the other.

Considering that the Excel addin software solutions I develop and market to a niche science community are supposed to function properly with Excel 2007SP3, 2010 & 2013, I have all three Excel versions currently installed on a single computer. This allows for quick compatibility testing when making changes to the VBA Project code.

CAUTION: Running more than one version of Excel on a computer comes with some issues that you have to work around, such as which one opens when you click on a file. But with a little research, you can run multiple Excel Versions at the same time, and keep your preferences in place.
Rob    01 Jul 2014, 13:07
I know it's 2 years later but in response to King Wiemann's comment. That doesn't seem possible. Once you copy something from Excel it's in the windows clipboard so it can be pasted into another copy of Excel.

I just tried it by opening 2 Excels and typing something in a cell. I then copied that cell and pasted it into a cell in the other copy of Excel and it pasted fine.
King Wiemann    16 Jul 2012, 15:06
I haven't tried this lately, but the last time I have attempted this, having 2 separate sessions of Excel means you can't copy and paste between them. You can compare the 2 files side by side, but you can't move content between them.

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