Using the Microsoft Spreadsheet Compare Tool to Find Differences in Spreadsheets

Easily compare the differences between 2 spreadsheets

If you work with a lot of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, you might run into a situation where you have two versions of the same file. This can be a problem if it’s a large file with a lot of data because it will be difficult to see the differences between the two spreadsheets so you can figure out which is the one you want to use or keep.

Fortunately, Microsoft has considered this problem and has included a solution with its Office suite of software that you can use to compare your Excel spreadsheets, so you don’t have to try and figure out the differences between them yourself.

As you can see below, these two spreadsheets look very similar and at first glance might even look identical. They also contain a fair amount of formulas in many of the cells which makes them even harder to compare to each other.

Microsoft Spreadsheet Comparison Tool

To use the Spreadsheet Compare tool you will first need to open it from your Microsoft Office Tools program group. Then you will need to click on the Compare Files button and browse to the location of each one of your spreadsheets. You can click on the Swap button to change the order of the files as to which is the new file, and which is the older file.

Microsoft Spreadsheet Comparison Tool

After you click the OK button your files will be opened in the tool and ready to compare.

Microsoft Spreadsheet Comparison Tool

The top two panes will show the cells from each of your spreadsheets with the cell values colored to match the categoriesoptions shown in the lower left pane of the tool. You can have the tool compare your files using the following categories.

  • Entered values
  • Calculated values
  • Formulas
  • SysGen formulas
  • SysGen formulas errors
  • Structural
  • Names
  • SysGen names
  • SysGen error
  • Macros
  • Data connection
  • Cell format
  • Cell protection
  • Sheet/workbook protection
You can check or uncheck any categories you want to use or don’t want to use to change which results are shown. You might want to do one category at a time if you have a large amount of data so its easier to see the differences.

As you click on a result, the cells that the result applies to will be highlighted in the sheet so you can see where the difference is within your file.

Microsoft Spreadsheet Comparison Tool

The pane on the bottom right shows a bar chart of the types and numbers of differences between your two spreadsheets. This is more of an informational area to give you an idea of what’s going on between your two files.

Microsoft Spreadsheet Comparison Tool

The Show Formulas button will show the formulas used in your spreadsheets within the cells to give you a better idea of how many and what types of formulas you are using within your workbooks.

Microsoft Spreadsheet Comparison Tool

The Show Workbook Formatting button will change the view of the sheets to match more closer to what your actual Excel file looks like.

If you would like to save the results of your comparison analysis then you can click the button that says Export Results to have the changes saved to an Excel spreadsheet that you can use to review the changes later or send to someone who might need them. This works better than the Copy Results to Clipboard option because if you use that and paste the results into something like Notepad or Word, it will be very hard to read.

Once you start using the Spreadsheet Comparison tool you will find it easier to use and you will find yourself being able to spot the differences between your files easier as well.

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