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: Comparing Workbooks.

Comparing Workbooks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 7, 2015)

Krishna asked if there was a way to compare the contents of two Excel workbooks. Unfortunately, there is no built-in comparison feature, as there is in Word to compare two documents. There are third-party programs available that can help you out, and a quick search of the Web can help to locate such programs.

Depending on your needs, there can be an easier way. If the worksheets in each workbook are laid out the same, and you just want to find differences between values in the cells of each worksheet, then you can use formulas to compare worksheets. Try the following steps:

  1. Create a new workbook called Compare.xls.
  2. In cell A1 of the first worksheet in Compare.xls, enter the following formula:
    =IF([WB1.xls]Sheet1!A1<>[WB2.xls]Sheet1!A1,"Different","")
  • Copy the formula from A1 into all the other cells that represent the range you want to compare. For instance, if you want to compare A1:G12 in both worksheets, then you would copy the formula from A1 into the full range of A1:G12.
  • These steps assume that the worksheets you want to compare are both named Sheet1, and they are in WB1.xls and WB2.xls, respectively. If you have other sheets in WB1.xls and WB2.xls to compare, you can use similar formulas in other sheets of Compare.xls.

    When done, any cell that has the word "Different" in it represents a cell that is different in the ranges being compared. Thus, if C7 had "Different" in it, then there is a difference between the cell C7 of Sheet1 in WB1.xls and cell C7 of Sheet1 in WB2.xls.

    If you are comparing only numeric values between the two worksheets, you could use a different formula in step 2, above:

    =[WB1.xls]Sheet1!A1-[WB2.xls]Sheet1!A1
    

    The result is a worksheet that subtracts the values in one workbook from the other, which results in the numeric differences.

    ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2006) 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: Comparing Workbooks.

    Author Bio

    Allen Wyatt

    With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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