Being Microsoft Excel experts, the Cogniview team are often being emailed with tricky spreadsheet questions. A particularly interesting puzzle came through recently that we thought we would share with you here:
"Each month I have to compare two spreadsheets of products, each with the same header rows and same number of column. The number of rows are different each time.
Is it possible using Excel to compare these two lists and show only the differences? I would love it if we could create a macro to solve this??"
Seems like a cool challenge, and I would love to say I had a hand in coming up with the solution but I am afraid it was the programming boffins at Cogniview who solved it!
Several ideas were suggested and considered, including going through each sheet line by line using VB code. The problem always came when either or both sheets were really long and contained tons of data. Even on the fastest machine it could be seen to grind to a halt.
The answer was to use Excel's built-in function RemoveDuplicates to handle this. Unfortunately that makes it a solution not available to users of older versions.
We need two source spreadsheets to compare, then a target spreadsheet for the results, as shown below.
Basically, this process requires our macro to perform two steps.
Step one, we copy the first sheet's data to a new sheet and put the second's data after it, then we use the RemoveDuplicates function which removes the items from the second sheet that appear in the first.
In the second step we do the same again in reverse order - copy the second sheet's data and then the first, and use RemoveDuplicates again. The left over data in each case is the difference we need to display.
All we need to do then is present the results.
For each row we state where the data was found.
Most of the first routine sets everything up, copying the range of data as described above. The last two lines call our custom function LeaveOnlyDifferent.
Sub CompareSheets() ' Merge into the current sheet Dim sheetResult As Worksheet, Sheet1 As Worksheet, Sheet2 As Worksheet Set sheetResult = ActiveSheet ' Clean merge sheet so we can work with it If (MsgBox("This will erase all the data on the current sheet." & vbCrLf & "Do you wish to continue?", vbYesNo Or vbQuestion) <> vbYes) Then Exit Sub End If sheetResult.UsedRange.Delete ' Ask for two sheets to compare SelectSheet.SheetNames.Clear For i = 1 To Worksheets.Count SelectSheet.SheetNames.AddItem Worksheets(i).Name Next sFirstSheet = AskSheet If (sFirstSheet = "") Then Exit Sub End If Set Sheet1 = Sheets(sFirstSheet) SelectSheetStart: sSecondSheet = AskSheet If (sSecondSheet = "") Then Exit Sub End If If (sSecondSheet = sFirstSheet) Then MsgBox "Please select different first and second sheets" GoTo SelectSheetStart End If Set Sheet2 = Sheets(sSecondSheet) ' Find the column to use for marking Dim sFromColumn As String Dim nLastColumn As Integer sTemp = Sheet1.UsedRange.Offset(1, 1).Address(True, True, 1) sTemp = Mid(sTemp, InStr(sTemp, ":") + 1) sFromColumn = Mid(sTemp, 2, InStrRev(sTemp, "$") - 2) nLastColumn = Sheet1.UsedRange.Columns.Count ' Copy header Sheet1.Range("A1:" & sFromColumn & "1").Copy sheetResult.Range("A1") sheetResult.Range(sFromColumn & "1").Formula = "From Sheet" ' Compare stuff LeaveOnlyDifferent Sheet2, Sheet1, sheetResult, sFromColumn, nLastColumn, 2 LeaveOnlyDifferent Sheet1, Sheet2, sheetResult, sFromColumn, nLastColumn, sheetResult.UsedRange.Rows.Count End Sub
This function is where the real solution lies, comparing and presenting the result. It accepts the sheets to compare and the destination, the columns and the first row. After copying the cells and removing duplicates it copies the result to the top of the destination sheet.
Function LeaveOnlyDifferent(Sheet1 As Worksheet, Sheet2 As Worksheet, sheetResult As Worksheet, sFromColumn As String, nLastColumn As Integer, nFirstCompareRow As Integer) ' Copy first sheet data nFirstDataRowCount = Sheet1.UsedRange.Rows.Count - 1 Sheet1.Range("A2:" & sFromColumn & (nFirstDataRowCount + 1)).Copy sheetResult.Range("A" & nFirstCompareRow) ' Copy second sheet data below the first nStartOfSecondData = nFirstCompareRow + nFirstDataRowCount Sheet2.Range("A2:" & sFromColumn & Sheet2.UsedRange.Rows.Count).Copy sheetResult.Range("A" & nStartOfSecondData) ' Remove duplicates Dim arColumns() As Variant ReDim arColumns(0 To nLastColumn - 1) For i = 0 To nLastColumn - 1 arColumns(i) = CVar(i + 1) Next sheetResult.Range("A" & nFirstCompareRow & ":" & sFromColumn & sheetResult.UsedRange.Rows.Count).RemoveDuplicates arColumns, xlYes ' Mark the different data as coming from the proper sheet nDiffRowCount = sheetResult.UsedRange.Rows.Count - nStartOfSecondData + 1 If (nDiffRowCount > 0) Then sheetResult.Range(sFromColumn & nStartOfSecondData & ":" & sFromColumn & sheetResult.UsedRange.Rows.Count).Formula = "Found only on " & Sheet2.Name ' Copy it to the top sheetResult.Range("A" & nStartOfSecondData & ":" & sFromColumn & sheetResult.UsedRange.Rows.Count).Copy sheetResult.Range("A" & nFirstCompareRow) End If ' Delete all the rest sheetResult.Range("A" & (nFirstCompareRow + nDiffRowCount) & ":" & sFromColumn & sheetResult.UsedRange.Rows.Count).Delete End Function
Over to You
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to solve this particular Excel challenge - how would you solve it? Could you see this solution as being useful? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us on Facebook or Twitter.
About the author
This article was written by Yoav Ezer, the CEO of a company that creates PDF to XLS conversion software, called Cogniview.
Prior to that, cwas the CEO of Nocturnus, a technology-centered software solution company.