Excel: Spreadsheet Compare

Has this happened to you? You create an Excel spreadsheet that you share with your coworker. She edits the document, sends it back to you, and you are left scanning through a long list of entries to try to determine what changes she made…

In our Word Advanced sessions, we talk about the nifty Compare feature in Word. This feature is absent in Excel, but there is a similar option for Excel users via a Microsoft Add In called Spreadsheet Compare. This Add In comes with PC versions of Microsoft Office 2013, 2016, and 365… in other words, you probably already have it…

Compare Files button in ribbon

Before we jump in, thank you so much to Hannah and Jamie for inspiring this Byte!

Exercise Files

If you would like to follow along, below are a couple of Exercise Files. Save these to a place where you can easily find them for the next step (e.g. Desktop).

This is a fictional class list of students. We are going to assume that the FictionalClass download is the original and the FictionalClassEdited is what your coworker altered and sent back to you.

Spreadsheet Compare Add In

To access the Spreadsheet Compare Add In, click on the Windows icon in the lower left of your task bar, and search for Spreadsheet Compare.

Windows button searching for Spreadsheet Compare

You will be taken to a sort of mission control for comparing spreadsheets. You haven’t loaded anything in here yet, so there is not much to see.

Spreadsheet Compare program with no files loaded

Compare Files

1. In the upper left, click on the first button called Compare Files.

Compare files button in the ribbon

2. A pop up screen will appear. Notice it is asking you to select an “older” file and a “newer” file.

3. Click on the folder to the right of each of these fields, and browse to find the FictionalClass (older) and the FictionalClassEdited (newer) that you downloaded from the exercise files above.

Compare files pop up with folder icons circled

4. The two workbooks will load into the left (older) and right (newer) panes. Notice that changed cells are highlighted in green. Click on one of these cells, and it will select the corresponding cell in the other sheet.

two spreadsheets next to each other with changed cells highlighted.

5. Look at the bottom of the screen for an outline of the various changes that were made. This list notes all sorts of changes that were made, including the contents of cells and the formatting of cells. You can also click on any of these to be taken to the change in the worksheet on the panes above.

Changes lined out underneath

6. Try double clicking on one of the changes highlighted in the bottom pane. You can also access this feature by clicking on Show Details in the ribbon.

Details of the changes that were made to a cell.

It is a little disorienting. This popup screen is showing you what was in the original document, and the change that was made in the second sheet, in kind of a strange format. Simply click on the X in the upper right to go back to the main Spreadsheet Compare screen.

Export Results

It is possible to export all the results from this comparison. in the Export group is a button called Export Results.

Export Results button circled in the ribbon.

This will create an Excel file of all the differences between the two workbooks.

Differences exported in a new Excel document.


While this is a nifty way to quickly see changes between two Excel files, it lacks some of the handiness of the Word Compare feature…

  • You can’t accept or reject the alterations/differences, you can only see them displayed and highlighted. Any desired changes will still have to be made by hand in the source document.
  • There is not a way to save a combined document containing both the original and changed document.

Other than that, a pretty cool tool!


Do you think you will find a use for Spreadsheet Compare? Do tell!

100th Power User Certificate Awarded!

This is a most exciting week in Power User history! We have a three way tie for 100th WSU Microsoft Office Power User. Big congratulations to:

  • Tiffany Morgan
  • Matt Stiles
  • Lauren Wilson
Lauren Wilson, Tiffany Morgan, and Matt Stiles on a poster titled "Congratulations, Power Users!"

For more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, visit wichita.edu/poweruser

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