Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Synchronizing Lists.

Synchronizing Lists

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 4, 2016)

4

You may have an occasion when you have two data lists that we want to "line up." For instance, column A might be a customer account number, while column B displays the customer's account balance. In columns C and D you then paste a listing of customer payments, with column C being the customer account number and column D being the payment amount. Both lists (A/B and C/D) are sorted by customer account number.

Since not all customers with balances made payments, the A/B list is not in synch with the C/D list. To get them in synch, you need to insert blank cells where needed in columns C/D (and sometimes columns A/B) so that the customer account number in column C matches the customer account number in column A.

If your goal is to match payments to balances, then there is a relatively easy way to do this, without the need to insert cells in the lists. Follow these steps:

  1. Insert three blank columns between the two lists. When done, you should have the account balances in A/B, blank columns in C/D/E, and the payments in F/G.
  2. Assuming the first account/balance combination is in cells A2:B2, enter the following formula in cell C2:
  3.      =IF(ISNA(VLOOKUP(A2,F:G,2,FALSE)),0,VLOOKUP(A2,F:G,2,FALSE))
    
  4. Copy the formula down through the rest of column C.

This formula looks in the payments columns (F/G) for any cells that match the account number in column A. If found, then the amount of the payment is returned by the formula. If a match is not located, then a zero value is returned.

The approach works well if you know that the payment columns contain only a single payment for each account. If it is possible that some accounts received multiple payments, then you need to change the formula you use in step 2:

=SUMIF(F:F, A2,G:G )

This formula, if it finds a match, adds all the payments together and returns the sum.

Of course, the example first described in this tip is just that—an example of a more pervasive problem. You may have a need to synch lists where there is only text in the lists, or where it is more difficult to do a lookup or you don't need to return a sum. In those instances, it may be best to look for a third-party solution.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8316) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Synchronizing Lists.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is two less than 2?

2016-10-13 11:40:57

Victor

If the payment columns contain only a single payment for each account, there is a simpler way to align with the full list in columns A-B using the "Remove Duplicates" button.
(1) To the bottom of column C append ALL the account numbers from column A.
(2) Select columns C & D, Data->Remove Duplicates->Columns [x] "Account Number", OK
(3) Select columns C & D, Sort by Column C "Account Number"


2016-10-04 13:49:04

John

grreenbottle -- Nice simplification. BTW, I use blank columns to separate discrete data tables to guard against autofiltering them as one and possibly sorting data that I don't mean to sort.


2016-10-04 08:57:12

greenbottle

Equation can be simplified a little:
=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A2,F:G,2,FALSE),0)

Not sure why it's necessary to add three blank columns? Surely just one would do?


2015-05-14 19:21:10

David

Excellent work Allen!!


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