Look up values with VLOOKUP, INDEX, or MATCH

Suppose that you have a list of office location numbers, and you need to know which employees are in each office. The spreadsheet is huge, so you might think it is challenging task. It's actually quite easy to do with a lookup function.

The VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP functions, together with INDEX and MATCH, are some of the most useful functions in Excel.

Note: The Lookup Wizard feature is no longer available in Excel.

Here's an example of how to use VLOOKUP.

=VLOOKUP(B2,C2:E7,3,TRUE)

In this example, B2 is the first argument—an element of data that the function needs to work. For VLOOKUP, this first argument is the value that you want to find. This argument can be a cell reference, or a fixed value such as "smith" or 21,000. The second argument is the range of cells, C2-:E7, in which to search for the value you want to find. The third argument is the column in that range of cells that contains the value that you seek.

The fourth argument is optional. Enter either TRUE or FALSE. If you enter TRUE, or leave the argument blank, the function returns an approximate match of the value you specify in the first argument. If you enter FALSE, the function will match the value provide by the first argument. In other words, leaving the fourth argument blank—or entering TRUE—gives you more flexibility.

This example shows you how the function works. When you enter a value in cell B2 (the first argument), VLOOKUP searches the cells in the range C2:E7 (2nd argument) and returns the closest approximate match from the third column in the range, column E (3rd argument).

A typical use of the VLOOKUP function

The fourth argument is empty, so the function returns an approximate match. If it didn't, you'd have to enter one of the values in columns C or D to get a result at all.

When you're comfortable with VLOOKUP, the HLOOKUP function is equally easy to use. You enter the same arguments, but it searches in rows instead of columns.`

Give it a try

If you want to experiment with lookup functions before you try them out with your own data, here's some sample data. Some Excel users like using VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP; others prefer using INDEX and MATCH together. Try each method and see which ones you like best.

VLOOKUP Example at work

Copy the following data into a blank spreadsheet..

TIP:    Before you paste the data into Excel, set the column widths for columns A through C to 250 pixels, and click Wrap Text (Home tab, Alignment group).

Density

Viscosity

Temperature

0.457

3.55

500

0.525

3.25

400

0.606

2.93

300

0.675

2.75

250

0.746

2.57

200

0.835

2.38

150

0.946

2.17

100

1.09

1.95

50

1.29

1.71

0

Formula

Description

Result

=VLOOKUP(1,A2:C10,2)

Using an approximate match, searches for the value 1 in column A, finds the largest value less than or equal to 1 in column A which is 0.946, and then returns the value from column B in the same row.

2.17

=VLOOKUP(1,A2:C10,3,TRUE)

Using an approximate match, searches for the value 1 in column A, finds the largest value less than or equal to 1 in column A, which is 0.946, and then returns the value from column C in the same row.

100

=VLOOKUP(0.7,A2:C10,3,FALSE)

Using an exact match, searches for the value 0.7 in column A. Because there is no exact match in column A, an error is returned.

#N/A

=VLOOKUP(0.1,A2:C10,2,TRUE)

Using an approximate match, searches for the value 0.1 in column A. Because 0.1 is less than the smallest value in column A, an error is returned.

#N/A

=VLOOKUP(2,A2:C10,2,TRUE)

Using an approximate match, searches for the value 2 in column A, finds the largest value less than or equal to 2 in column A, which is 1.29, and then returns the value from column B in the same row.

1.71

HLOOKUP Example

Copy all the cells in this table and paste it into cell A1 on a blank worksheet in Excel.

TIP:    Before you paste the data into Excel, set the column widths for columns A through C to 250 pixels, and click Wrap Text (Home tab, Alignment group).

Axles

Bearings

Bolts

4

4

9

5

7

10

6

8

11

Formula

Description

Result

=HLOOKUP("Axles", A1:C4, 2, TRUE)

Looks up "Axles" in row 1, and returns the value from row 2 that's in the same column (column A).

4

=HLOOKUP("Bearings", A1:C4, 3, FALSE)

Looks up "Bearings" in row 1, and returns the value from row 3 that's in the same column (column B).

7

=HLOOKUP("B", A1:C4, 3, TRUE)

Looks up "B" in row 1, and returns the value from row 3 that's in the same column. Because an exact match for "B" is not found, the largest value in row 1 that is less than "B" is used: "Axles," in column A.

5

=HLOOKUP("Bolts", A1:C4, 4)

Looks up "Bolts" in row 1, and returns the value from row 4 that's in the same column (column C).

11

=HLOOKUP(3, {1,2,3;"a","b","c";"d","e","f"}, 2, TRUE)

Looks up the number 3 in the three-row array constant, and returns the value from row 2 in the same (in this case, third) column. There are three rows of values in the array constant, each row separated by a semicolon (;). Because "c" is found in row 2 and in the same column as 3, "c" is returned.

c

INDEX and MATCH Examples

This last example employs the INDEX and MATCH functions together to return the earliest invoice number and its corresponding date for each of five cities. Because the date is returned as a number, we use the TEXT function to format it as a date. The INDEX function actually uses the result of the MATCH function as its argument. The combination of the INDEX and MATCH functions are used twice in each formula – first, to return the invoice number, and then to return the date.

Copy all the cells in this table and paste it into cell A1 on a blank worksheet in Excel.

TIP:     Before you paste the data into Excel, set the column widths for columns A through D to 250 pixels, and click Wrap Text (Home tab, Alignment group).

Invoice

City

Invoice Date

Earliest invoice by city, with date

3115

Atlanta

4/7/12

="Atlanta = "&INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Atlanta",$B$2:$B$33,0),1)& ", Invoice date: " & TEXT(INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Atlanta",$B$2:$B$33,0),3),"m/d/yy")

3137

Atlanta

4/9/12

="Austin = "&INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Austin",$B$2:$B$33,0),1)& ", Invoice date: " & TEXT(INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Austin",$B$2:$B$33,0),3),"m/d/yy")

3154

Atlanta

4/11/12

="Dallas = "&INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Dallas",$B$2:$B$33,0),1)& ", Invoice date: " & TEXT(INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Dallas",$B$2:$B$33,0),3),"m/d/yy")

3191

Atlanta

4/21/12

="New Orleans = "&INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("New Orleans",$B$2:$B$33,0),1)& ", Invoice date: " & TEXT(INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("New Orleans",$B$2:$B$33,0),3),"m/d/yy")

3293

Atlanta

4/25/12

="Tampa = "&INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Tampa",$B$2:$B$33,0),1)& ", Invoice date: " & TEXT(INDEX($A$2:$C$33,MATCH("Tampa",$B$2:$B$33,0),3),"m/d/yy")

3331

Atlanta

4/27/12

3350

Atlanta

4/28/12

3390

Atlanta

5/1/12

3441

Atlanta

5/2/12

3517

Atlanta

5/8/12

3124

Austin

4/9/12

3155

Austin

4/11/12

3177

Austin

4/19/12

3357

Austin

4/28/12

3492

Austin

5/6/12

3316

Dallas

4/25/12

3346

Dallas

4/28/12

3372

Dallas

5/1/12

3414

Dallas

5/1/12

3451

Dallas

5/2/12

3467

Dallas

5/2/12

3474

Dallas

5/4/12

3490

Dallas

5/5/12

3503

Dallas

5/8/12

3151

New Orleans

4/9/12

3438

New Orleans

5/2/12

3471

New Orleans

5/4/12

3160

Tampa

4/18/12

3328

Tampa

4/26/12

3368

Tampa

4/29/12

3420

Tampa

5/1/12

3501

Tampa

5/6/12

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