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: Looking Backward through a Data Table.

Looking Backward through a Data Table

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 14, 2015)

2

Kirk has a large data table in Excel. Each row has a vehicle number, date (the table is sorted by this column), beginning mileage, and ending mileage. He would like to search backwards through the data table to find the ending mileage for the same vehicle number to use as the beginning mileage in the current row—similar to VLOOKUP, but looking bottom to top rather that top to bottom.

There are several ways you can approach this with a formula. Assume, for this example, that the vehicle number is in column A, the date in column B, the starting mileage in column C, and the ending mileage in column D. What you need is a formula you can put in column C that looks up the most recent ending mileage for current vehicle. The following formula provides one approach; you should place it in cell C3:

=LOOKUP(2,1/FIND(A3,A$2:A2,1),D$2:D2)

You can copy the formula down the column as far as you need. If the vehicle number, in column A, has not appeared earlier in the data table, then the formula will return an error such as #VALUE! or #N/A. In that case, you can easily type over the formula with the starting mileage that you want to use for the vehicle.

Here's another formulaic approach, but this one should be entered as an array formula (by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter):

=IF(A3="","",MAX(IF(($A$2:A2=A3)*($D$2:D2),$D$2:D2)))

Again, place the formula in cell C3 and copy it down as far as needed. This one doesn't return an error value if the vehicle hasn't appeared earlier in the data table; it returns a value of 0. You can then type over the formula with the real starting mileage for that vehicle. The following array formula could also be used:

=IF(A3="","",INDIRECT("D"&LARGE(($A$2:A3=A3)*ROW($2:3),2)))

The difference with this array formula is that if the vehicle hasn't appeared earlier in the data table, it returns a #REF! error.

Here are two array formulas that are even shorter that you can use in C3 (and, again, copy down as needed):

=MAX((D$2:D2)*(--(A$2:A2=A3)))
=MAX(IF(A$2:A2=A3,D$2:D2))

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (11744) 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: Looking Backward through a Data Table.

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

Merging to Individual Files

The mail-merge feature in Word is a fast, easy way to create form letters addressed to many different people. Sometimes, ...

Discover More

Importing Multiple Files to a Single Workbook

If you use Excel to work with data exported from another program, you might be interested in a way to import a large number ...

Discover More

Fixing Mismatched Bullets and Numbers

When you format bulleted lists or numbered lists, you may be surprised if some of the bullets or numbers don't match the ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Returning Blanks or Asterisks from a Lookup

Want to return more than a value when doing a lookup? Here's one way to do it by adding an IF clause to your formula.

Discover More

Making VLOOKUP Case Sensitive

The VLOOKUP function, like other lookup functions in Excel, is not case sensitive. In other words, it doesn't matter whether ...

Discover More

Returning Blanks with VLOOKUP

Normally the VLOOKUP function returns a value, and if it can't return a value it returns a zero. Here's how you can use the ...

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 6Mpixels. 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 two more than 4?

2012-05-21 04:40:22

Ben Kelly

Hello,

This is a useful tip specifically for the Find/lookup combo which I can see several uses for.

I would like to fully understand why it works and can see using 2 for Registrations makes excel read from the end of the list but cannot see what using "1/" before Find does. I have replicated the formula in a spreadsheet and tried it with and without "1/" and it seems to make no difference. Can anyone enlighten me on what function the "1/" serves.

Thanks

Ben


2012-05-19 22:44:54

Geoff Robb

What does the double negative sign in the first of the two array formulas do?


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.