Personal Technology – Excel Tip: Comparing Excel Files

This guest post is by Vinod Kumar. Vinod Kumar has worked with SQL Server extensively since joining the industry over a decade ago. Working on various versionsfrom SQL Server 7.0, Oracle 7.3 and other database technologies – he now works with the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) as a Technology Architect.

Let us read the blog post in Vinod’s own voice.

I have been writing about Excel Tips over my blog and thought it would be great to share one interesting tips here as a guest blog here. Assume a situation where you want to compare multiple excel files. Here is a typical scenario I have encountered as a common activity. Assume you are sending an Excel file with tons of data, formulae and multiple sheets. Now you are requesting your colleague to validate the file and if required change content for correctness. After receiving the file from your colleague, now you want to know what changes were made by this person to your document. Now here is a cool new addition to Excel 2013 that can help you achieve this task.

To get to this option, click the INQUIRE Tab. Incase you don’t have the INQUIRE Tab, check Options using INQUIRE blog. In that post, we discuss all the other options of INQUIRE tab.

Once you are on the INQUIRE Tab, select “Compare Files” button as shown in the figure above. This brings a dialog as below.

If you are on Windows 8 or Windows 7 OS, search for an application called “Spreadsheet Compare 2013”. Ultimately both the options lead us to the same application. If you are using the stand alone app, once the App initializes, click the “Compare files” options from the toolbar. Make sure to give two different Excel files as shown in the figure above.

After selecting the Excel Sheets, you can see the Compare tool has a number of other options to play from. We will talk about some of them later in this post.

Just below our toolbar is a colorful side-by-side comparison of both our excel sheets. We can also see the various Tab’s from each file. There is a meaning for each of our color coding which will be discussed next.

As you saw above, the color coding has a meaning. For example the bottom pane lists each of the color coding and most importantly each of the changes as compared side-by-side. The detailed information shown below can be exported using the “Export Results” options from the toolbar as a separate Excel Workbook or can be copied to clipboard to be used later.

The final piece of the puzzle is to show a graphical view of these differences results based on each category. We cannot drill down per se, but this is a great way to know that the maximum changes seem to be based on “Cell Formats” and then few “Calculated Values” have changed.

The INQUIRE option and Spreadsheet Compare 2013 tool is part of Excel 2013. So as you explore using the new version of Excel, there are many such hidden features that are worth exploring. Do let us know if you enjoyed learning a new feature today and I hope you will play around with this feature in your day-today challenges when working with Excel files.

Reference: Pinal Dave (

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