Excel: Find Differences In Two Lists

This page is an advertiser-supported excerpt of the book, Power Excel 2010-2013 from MrExcel - 567 Excel Mysteries Solved. If you like this topic, please consider buying the entire e-book.


Problem: I have two lists that should be identical. I need to highlight any cells that are different.

  1. Did anything change between these lists?

    Strategy: Use the Go To Special dialog's Row Differences.

    1. Select B2:B12.
    2. Hold down the Ctrl key while selecting G2:I12.
    3. Choose Home, Find and Select, Go To Special.
    4. In the Go To Special dialog, choose Row Differences. Click OK.

  2. Select Row Differences.

    Gotcha: Highlight row differences can only compare one column to another column. Initially, it will only compare column B to column G and highlight what changed. If you then press the F4 key once for each additional column, the program will redo the compare for the next column and then the next column.

    After step 4, you will have this:

  3. Two customers changed.
    1. Press the F4 key to compare column C to column H.
    2. Press the F4 key to compare column D to column I.
    3. Open the Paint Bucket icon on the Home tab and choose a fill color.

    Result: All of the changed cells will be highlighted, in one list or the other.

  4. Changed cells are highlighted.

    Alternate Strategy: You can use the Formula method of conditional formatting to highlight differences. Follow these steps:

    1. Select G2:I12.
    2. Type Alt+O followed by D. (That is O the letter).
    3. Click New Rule.
    4. Choose Use a Formula to Determine Which Cells to Format.
    5. Type a formula of =G2<>B2.
    6. Click the Format"¦ button.
    7. Click the Fill tab.
    8. Choose a red format.
    9. Click OK. Click OK.

  5. Highlight differences using conditional formatting.

    The changed cells on the right are highlighted.

  6. The highlights only appear in the second data set.

For more resources for Microsoft Excel