Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 June 8, 2018)

You may have an occasion when you have two data lists that you 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, 2013, and 2016. 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. ...

##### MORE FROM ALLEN

Understanding and Creating Lists

There are two types of common lists you can use in a document: bulleted lists and numbered lists. This tip explains the ...

Discover More

Make your money last longer by using your head when printing labels. Here's a great example of how you can double the ...

Discover More

Page Ranges in a TOC

It is easy to generate a table of contents for a document, and that TOC can contain page number references for each ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

##### More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Highlighting the Rows of Selected Cells

If you lose your place on the screen quite often, you might find it helpful to have not just a single cell highlighted, ...

Discover More

Copying Cells to Fill a Range

Excel provides two really helpful shortcuts you can use to fill a range of cells, either horizontally or vertically. ...

Discover More

Setting a Default for Shifting when Inserting

When you insert cells into a worksheet, Excel needs to know which direction it should shift the displaced cells. If you ...

Discover More
##### Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. Youâ€™ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 9 + 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!!

##### This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.