How to Evaluate Two Excel Files and Emphasize Discrepancies

Encountering a scenario where your computer houses two Excel files, bearing strikingly similar names yet residing in separate folders, prompts the challenge of deciphering whether these files are mere duplicates or distinct iterations of the same workbook. Embarking on this tutorial, we unveil a method to discern the true nature of these files, a process achievable even in the absence of Excel installation on your system.

Amid this endeavor, the arsenal of comparison tools at your disposal assumes a pivotal role. These sophisticated utilities serve as your guides, adept at unearthing incongruous data, antiquated values, fractured formulas, erroneous computations, and sundry irregularities that may have taken refuge within your Excel spreadsheet. With their aid, the panorama of file differentiation unfolds, illuminating the path toward a clearer comprehension of the data landscape.

Contrast Two Excel Sheets: Display Adjacently

If you wish to effortlessly delve into the contents of your spreadsheet and seamlessly analyze data in a comprehensive manner, there’s a nifty Excel technique that allows for a side-by-side comparison of sheets. This method is particularly handy when dealing with relatively smaller datasets, as it fosters a detailed examination of Excel worksheets.

To embark on this process, launch the Excel file housing the two worksheets you intend to juxtapose. Navigate to the ‘View’ tab situated atop the application’s interface, and from there, opt for the ‘New Window’ feature. A fresh window will materialize, granting you the ability to seamlessly switch between or select the second worksheet that warrants comparison.

In order to refine your analytical experience, you may desire to adjust the dimensions or arrangement of the windows. Manipulate the windows’ sizes or positions to construct a side-by-side display of the two worksheets, ensconcing them within your computer’s screen real estate. Do take heed, though, that this method proves most efficacious when you’re contending with worksheets of limited rows and columns.

Should your predilection lean towards utilizing Excel’s innate comparison tool for the task at hand, navigate once more to the ‘View’ tab, and there you’ll spot the conspicuous ‘View Side by Side’ icon. A single click on this icon will promptly arrange both worksheets horizontally on your screen. Nevertheless, this landscape view may engender some difficulty in terms of seamless comparison. Fret not, for I shall elucidate a stepwise approach to rectify this orientation.

Revisit the ‘View’ tab, and delve into the ‘Arrange All’ option. As the “Arrange” window unfurls before you, select the ‘Vertical’ arrangement and confirm your choice. This will ingeniously cascade both worksheets into a side-by-side alignment on your screen. However, there’s one additional configuration that warrants your attention for a more fluid comparison experience.

Engage the ‘Synchronous Scrolling’ feature by ensuring it is highlighted. This ingenious functionality permits simultaneous scrolling through both worksheets, enabling a harmonious, row-by-row juxtaposition of your dataset.

If the topmost rows of both worksheets are reserved for headers, it is judicious to anchor them in place to prevent their migration as you traverse through the data. Invoke the ‘Freeze Panes’ command and select ‘Freeze Top Row’. Duplicate this process for the second worksheet to ensure uniformity.

When you feel the need to revert to the landscape format, invoke ‘Reset Window Position’. And once your comparative analysis draws to a close, a mere selection of ‘View Side by Side’ will restore the worksheets to their original dimensions.

Thus equipped, you can now fluidly navigate through both worksheets, undertaking a meticulous line-by-line comparison. The beauty of this technique lies in its universality across all iterations of Excel. However, bear in mind that while this tool greatly assists in your comparative endeavor, it still necessitates your discerning eye to detect disparities—be they in cells holding differing values, intricate macros, or intricate formulas.

Utilize Online Resources for Contrasting Two Excel Documents

Web-based tools provide a convenient solution for comparing Excel files, especially if you lack the Microsoft Excel software on your local machine. As an exemplary instance, the Excel Comparison tool developed by Aspose stands out as an effective online utility designed for precisely this purpose.

Using this tool is a straightforward process. Begin by uploading your primary Excel file into the designated first box. The second box allows you to effortlessly drag and drop the secondary file. Once both files are in place, a simple selection of the “Compare Now” button initiates the comparison process.

For cases involving multiple sheets within the files, the tool accommodates this complexity. The user is empowered to indicate the specific sheets they wish to compare through the intuitive Sheets tab. Subsequently, upon conducting the comparison, any divergences between the selected sheets are promptly highlighted in a vibrant shade of yellow, thanks to the proficiency of the Aspose Excel comparison tool.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that while these web-based tools offer substantial utility, they do have their limitations. Notably, their ability is primarily focused on identifying dissimilar values. Regrettably, they do not possess the capability to identify inconsistencies within formulas, calculations, or other intricate aspects of Excel files.

Conduct a Comparison Between Two Excel Files Utilizing the “Spreadsheet Compare” Tool

Spreadsheet Compare stands as a steadfast software solution tailored for the meticulous comparison of two distinct Excel files or worksheets. Regrettably, its accessibility remains confined solely to the realm of Windows devices, currently excluding other platforms. This remarkable tool manifests in two distinct forms: an autonomous, dedicated program, and an integral component seamlessly ingrained within Microsoft Excel itself. The latter integration is reserved exclusively for the elite echelons of Microsoft’s productivity suite, namely the esteemed Office Professional Plus variants spanning the years 2013 and 2016, as well as the contemporary Microsoft 365 offering.

Utilize the “Spreadsheet Compare” function within Excel

If your Excel application is included in the aforementioned suite of Office tools, accessing the Spreadsheet Compare tool can be accomplished through the utilization of the “Inquire” add-in. In case the “Inquire” tab is not visible in your Excel interface, the following steps will guide you in enabling it:

  1. Click on the “File” option located in the menu bar.
  2. Navigate to “Options” within the sidebar.
  3. Choose “Add-ins” from the sidebar, then opt for “COM Add-in” from the “Manage” drop-down menu, and subsequently click on “Go.”
  4. Check the box corresponding to “Inquire” and confirm by clicking “OK.”

Once these steps are completed, proceed as follows:

  1. Open both Excel files that you intend to compare in separate windows.
  2. Head to the “Inquire” tab situated in the Menu bar, and select the “Compare Files” option.
  3. Excel will automatically designate the first and second files into the respective “Compare” and “To” dialog boxes. If needed, you can interchange their positions by selecting “Swap Files,” or initiate the comparison process by clicking “Compare.”

Following these actions, the Spreadsheet Compare tool will launch in a new window, highlighting disparities present within your dataset. Cells containing differing values will be emphasized with a green shading, while cells with formulas will be formatted in a purple hue. Cells housing macros will be distinguishable by a turquoise fill color.

To proceed further:

  1. If required, you can select “Export Results” to generate and save a copy of the comparative results onto your computer, stored as an Excel document.
  2. The generated report will provide insights into the specific sheet(s) and cell references wherein divergent datasets exist. Additionally, it will furnish precise values of both old and new data.

The resulting Excel report can be conveniently shared with your colleagues, team members, or any collaborators involved in the file’s collaborative work.

Utilize Spreadsheet Compare as an Independent Application

In the event that the Spreadsheet Compare add-in is unavailable within your current version of Excel or Office, you have the option to acquire the standalone software directly from the developer’s official website. When initiating the installation of the setup file, it is imperative to ensure that you actively mark the checkbox labeled “Register and activate the add-in in Excel.”

Following the successful installation, proceed to launch the Spreadsheet Compare application. Execute the subsequent steps in order to effectively utilize the program for the purpose of comparing Excel documents.

  1. Navigate to the “Home” tab and opt for the “Compare Files” option.
  2. Adjacent to the dialog box labeled “Compare (older files),” select the folder icon to initiate the inclusion of the initial document you intend to compare. Similarly, add the secondary file into the designated “To (newer files)” section. Confirm your selections by clicking “OK.”

At this point, Spreadsheet Compare will initiate the processing of the files, subsequently highlighting cells containing divergent values with a distinctive green coloration.

Identify the Discrepancies

The “View Side by Side” comparison feature stands out as the optimal choice tailored for Office Home or Students users seeking efficient document comparison. For those employing Excel within Microsoft 365 or the Office Professional Plus suite (versions 2013 or 2016), the integrated “Spreadsheet Compare” tool awaits at your fingertips, ready to facilitate comparisons. However, in instances where the Excel application is absent from your device, rest assured that web-based Excel comparison utilities are readily available to seamlessly accomplish the task at hand. The simplicity of the process truly underscores its user-friendliness.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I compare two Excel files for differences? 

You can utilize various tools like the “View Side by Side” feature, Excel’s built-in “Spreadsheet Compare,” or web-based comparison tools to effectively identify variations between the files.

What is the “View Side by Side” feature?

The “View Side by Side” feature allows you to open two Excel files simultaneously, making it easier to spot and analyze discrepancies between them.

How do I use the “Spreadsheet Compare” tool?

If you’re using Excel for Microsoft 365 or Office Professional Plus (2013 or 2016), you can access the “Spreadsheet Compare” tool from the Office suite, enabling you to compare and highlight differences.

Are there web-based tools for comparing Excel files online? 

Yes, there are web-based Excel comparison tools available that allow you to upload and compare files directly within your web browser.

What are the benefits of using comparison tools? 

Comparison tools streamline the process of identifying differences, ensuring accuracy and efficiency when analyzing data across two Excel files.

Can I customize how differences are highlighted?

Depending on the tool you’re using, you may have options to customize highlighting styles or color codes for differences, enhancing your visual analysis.

Do these tools require advanced Excel skills?

No, most comparison tools are designed with user-friendliness in mind and require only basic Excel skills to effectively use and interpret the results.

Is data alteration possible through these comparison tools?

In general, comparison tools are intended for analysis and identification purposes, and they typically do not facilitate direct data alteration.

Can I compare Excel files with different formats?

 Yes, many comparison tools are versatile and can handle different Excel formats, including .xls, .xlsx, and .csv files.

Are these tools compatible with both Windows and Mac systems?

While compatibility varies by tool, many options are designed to work on both Windows and Mac platforms, ensuring broader accessibility for users.


Comparing two Excel files and highlighting the differences has become an essential task for individuals and professionals alike. Whether you’re an Office Home or Student user, utilizing the “View Side by Side” feature offers a convenient way to visually analyze variations side by side. For those with Excel for Microsoft 365 or Office Professional Plus, the “Spreadsheet Compare” tool provides an integrated solution for comprehensive file comparison.

In cases where the Excel application is not available on your device, web-based Excel comparison tools step in to bridge the gap, enabling seamless analysis regardless of your location. These tools not only simplify the process but also enhance accuracy and efficiency, saving valuable time and effort.

As technology continues to evolve, these comparison tools are designed to cater to users of varying skill levels. You don’t need advanced Excel proficiency to effectively utilize these tools and make informed decisions based on the identified differences. The ability to customize highlighting styles and color codes further empowers users to tailor their analysis to specific requirements.

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