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: Synchronizing Lists.

Synchronizing Lists

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 27, 2015)

You may have an occasion when you have two data lists that we want to "line up." For instance, column A might be a customer account number, while column B displays the customer's account balance. In columns C and D you then paste a listing of customer payments, with column C being the customer account number and column D being the payment amount. Both lists (A/B and C/D) are sorted by customer account number.

Since not all customers with balances made payments, the A/B list is not in synch with the C/D list. To get them in synch, you need to insert blank cells where needed in columns C/D (and sometimes columns A/B) so that the customer account number in column C matches the customer account number in column A.

If your goal is to match payments to balances, then there is a relatively easy way to do this, without the need to insert cells in the lists. Follow these steps:

  1. Insert three blank columns between the two lists. When done, you should have the account balances in A/B, blank columns in C/D/E, and the payments in F/G.
  2. Assuming the first account/balance combination is in cells A2:B2, enter the following formula in cell C2:
  3.      =IF(ISNA(VLOOKUP(A2,F:G,2,FALSE)),0,VLOOKUP(A2,F:G,2,FALSE))
    
  4. Copy the formula down through the rest of column C.

This formula looks in the payments columns (F/G) for any cells that match the account number in column A. If found, then the amount of the payment is returned by the formula. If a match is not located, then a zero value is returned.

The approach works well if you know that the payment columns contain only a single payment for each account. If it is possible that some accounts received multiple payments, then you need to change the formula you use in step 2:

=SUMIF(F:F, A2,G:G )

This formula, if it finds a match, adds all the payments together and returns the sum.

Of course, the example first described in this tip is just that—an example of a more pervasive problem. You may have a need to synch lists where there is only text in the lists, or where it is more difficult to do a lookup or you don't need to return a sum. In those instances, it may be best to look for a third-party solution. One ExcelTips subscriber suggested a product called Spinnaker Merges. This Excel add-in is available here:

http://www.spinnakeradd-ins.com/spinnaker_merges.htm

If you have the need to repeatedly merge and synch lists, such a product may be right for you.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2120) 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: Synchronizing Lists.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Rounding to Even and Odd Values

Want to round values so they are always even or odd? You can do it quickly and easily by using the EVEN and ODD worksheet ...

Discover More

Changing Orientations within a Single Printout

Excel allows you to print out information in either portrait or landscape orientation, but what if you need both types of ...

Discover More

Resizing Very Large Tables

When pasting a table into your document, you might discover that it extends beyond the right margin of your page. Here are ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Changing Multiple Cells at Once

Excel includes several different methods of editing information in your cells. If you want to edit multiple cells all at the ...

Discover More

Limiting Choices in a Cell

Want to limit what a person can enter into a particular cell? You can use Excel's data validation feature to help enforce ...

Discover More

Creating Selections

Want a really easy way to create a selection of a group of cells? Discover how to use the Extend key to make this task easier ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is eight minus 3?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.