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If you work with databases on Excel, then you have probably experienced sharing data between different sheets or workbooks. The VLOOKUP function in Excel saves you from having to use the traditional copy/paste method to transfer data between multiple worksheets or workbooks.

How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel?

Let’s first break down the syntax of the VLOOKUP function in Excel.

VLOOKUP Syntax

VLOOKUP(lookup_value, Sheet!range, col_index_num, [range_lookup])
  • lookup_value: the first data cell you will look up.
  • table_array: the range of cells you want to retrieve. You need to indicate the name of the sheet or tab, followed by an exclamation point, and then the range of cells (e.g. Sheet 1!A1:D4).
  • col_index_num: the column you want to retrieve the data from. You need to indicate the position of the column with a numeric value - 1, 2, 3, etc.
  • [range_lookup]: the parameter that will ensure you look up an exact match, by entering the value “FALSE”.

Imagine that you are a car salesperson and you have distributed your car-related data in an Excel spreadsheet across various tabs; for example, each tab includes monthly data. You can select the data you wish from different tabs and import it into one Excel sheet.

  1. 1. Start in the sheet where you want your VLOOKUP results to be located. In this example, I want to add them to my '2021 ALL' worksheet next to the 'VIN' column.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Look up cell
  1. 2. Click on the cell where you will enter the VLOOKUP formula. Start typing VLOOKUP. See how Excel prompts you with the formula as soon as you start typing.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Enter formula
  1. 3. Now you can either type in the formula yourself, or avoid syntax errors by simply selecting the sheets and cells. Click on the cell you want as your lookup_value. In my example, this is the first cell in my ‘VIN’ column.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel lookup value
  1. 4. Place a comma or semicolon (check your computer’s regional settings to check), followed by the table_array value which can be obtained simply by selecting the dataset you want to look up. Note that we have moved to the ‘JANUARY’ sheet.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Table array
  1. 5. For the col_index_num, you need to manually enter the position of the column you want to import data from. In this case, we want the prices, so ‘4’.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Column index

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  1. 6. The range lookup refers to a true-false value. If you want to lookup an exact match, then you need to select ‘FALSE - Exact match’.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Range lookup
  1. 7. As soon as you press Enter, you can go back to your original sheet and check that the first cell shows the price value corresponding to the first ‘VIN’ cell we used to VLOOKUP.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel VLOOKUP Result
  1. 8. Retrieve the rest of the column value by dragging down from the bottom-right corner of the cell.
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Drag down
  1. 9. Since we want to keep the data as currency values, go to the drop-down arrow in the currency icon and select the US dollar sign ($).
How to do a VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Currency data
  1. 10. And there you have it. Your first VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel.
How to VLOOKUP between two sheets in Excel Currency Result

So far, you have seen how to do a VLOOKUP in Excel between two sheets within one same spreadsheet. Excel also allows you to use VLOOKUP across multiple sheets in case you want to apply the formula to several sheets simultaneously. We perform this action in combination with the IFERROR formula.

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(lookup_value,Sheet!range, col_index_num, [range_lookup])
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How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel?

Continuing with the use case of this article, let’s say that I now want to add the car owners’ email address to the ‘CAR REGISTRATION’ file, which is kept in another Excel workbook, i.e. ‘CLIENT INFO’. This is how to VLOOKUP data between two workbooks in Excel.

  1. 1. Open the two Excel workbooks and click on the cell where you want your VLOOKUP results located. Here is my example dataset below containing the car owners’ email addresses.
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel Client workbook
  1. 2. Enter the VLOOKUP formula in a cell in your original file. I will locate this in my ‘CAR REGISTRATION’ file, where I will obtain the email address data.
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel VLOOKUP formula
  1. 3. Click on the first cell you want as your lookup_value. Here, I will click on the first ‘VIN’ cell (A2).
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel Email cell
  1. 4. For the table_array values, go to the other workbook and select the dataset you want to use to VLOOKUP. See how this parameter is now expressed between squared brackets.
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel table array

Make sure to also include the workbook name between quotation marks if it contains spaces or special characters (‘[CLIENT INFO.xlsx]2021 ALL!$A$1). Use the dollar sign ($) to lock the range to prevent any changes when transferring the formula between cells, worksheets, or workbooks.

  1. 5. Enter the position of the column you want to import data from as the col_index_num. Here, I will add the number of the ‘EMAIL’ column (‘4’).
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel Column index
  1. 6. Select “FALSE - Exact match’ for the last parameter to return the exact match.

How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel Exact match
  1. 7. Close parenthesis and press Enter.
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel Press enter
  1. 8. Drag down to apply the formula to the remaining cells and obtain all your clients’ email addresses.
How to VLOOKUP between two workbooks in Excel Drag down

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Conclusion

Now that you know how to do VLOOKUP in Excel with two different spreadsheets, you understand why it’s one of the most sought-after formulas by those working with data on a daily basis. You can transfer data from one Excel worksheet to another automatically while preventing any changes in the data. To learn more about automatic data transfer between Excel files, why not take a look at our article on how to transfer data from one Excel worksheet to another automatically.

Please note that if you prefer to work online, VLOOKUP does not work between Excel spreadsheets online. This is why you should use Layer - it allows you to upload your spreadsheet to our platform and adapt resourceful functions, such as VLOOKUP, between your original Excel workbooks.

If you want to learn more about Layer, you can start by reading a short guide.

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Feb 4 2022, Updated Sep 23 2022