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Highlighting row differences in Excel

Published by | Monday, August 20th, 2012

Curt Frye is the author of over a dozen courses and more than 20 books on Microsoft Excel, including Microsoft Excel 2010 Step by Step for Microsoft Press. He is also a popular speaker, presenting his Improspectives® keynote addresses and workshops for corporate clients.


Recognizing when your numbers don’t add up is key to successful operations management, which is why organizations of all types and sizes use the Excel spreadsheet program to manage their operations and inventory. A real-world example of this might be conducting a monthly inventory analysis that compares the number of products in your system with the units counted in your warehouse.

In Excel 2007 and 2010, you can quickly check for differences between these two inventory numbers. First, you select the numbers in your worksheet. 

Excel spreadsheet with two rows selected

Next, go to the Home tab on the ribbon, click the Find & Select button, and then click Go To Special.

Selecting row differences in the Go To Special dialog box in Excel

Your Excel data is laid out in two columns, so you want to look for differences between the two cells within each row (A2 compared to B2, A3 compared to B3, and so on). To do this, select the Row differences radio button in the Go To Special dialogue box and click OK.

When you click OK, Excel examines the selected cell range for differences between cells in the same row and highlights cells in the right-hand column that are different from their mates in the left-hand column.

 Excel spreadsheet highlighting the rows where cells contain different values

In this case, cells B4 and B7 contain values that differ from their mates in cells A4 and A7.

If your data were arranged in rows, you could highlight cells with different values by selecting the data cells in the worksheet and clicking the Column differences radio button in the Go To Special dialog box.

The Go To Special dialog box is often overlooked by even advanced Excel users, but it’s worth exploring all its useful options.


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