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When working with large datasets, the information tends to be spread out among different spreadsheets. In how to do VLOOKUP in Excel with two spreadsheets we explain the many benefits of using the VLOOKUP function to easily transfer information between sheets and workbooks in Excel.

However, did you know that Google Sheets also allows you to use the VLOOKUP function to find data between different sheets or spreadsheet files? This article will show you how to use the VLOOKUP function effectively in your Google Sheets to quickly identify and move your data.

How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet?

VLOOKUP formula is an abbreviation for “vertical lookup”. This means that the formula is used to search for a key in the first column of a specified range. It then returns the value of the specified cell with the range’s row.

Just like in Excel, Google Sheets also allows you to VLOOKUP from another spreadsheet within a file, or even another Google Sheet file altogether. First, let’s break down the formula for Google Sheets.

Google Sheets VLOOKUP Syntax

VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted])
  • search_key: refers to the key or value you perform the search for.
  • range: is the data considered for the search. The first column of the selected range is searched for to find the search_key.
  • index: refers to the first column in the range where the search_key will be searched for. The index refers to the column position - 1, 2, 3, etc.
  • [is_sorted]: is used to indicate whether the first column to be searched is sorted. Since it is set to “true” by default, which returns the closest match, you need to specify “false” in order to search for an exact match.

Let's see how the VLOOKUP formula works in Google Sheets with a practical example.

Let’s say I am responsible for an international internship program. For this, I need to collect, structure, and update data for students, universities, and companies where the internship takes place. I am currently updating the ‘STUDENT INFO’ sheet in my Google Sheets file. Here, I have distributed the student-related data among three different tabs or sheets titled ‘MAIN’, ‘FILE’, and ‘PROGRAM’.

Since I will be using the first tab for most daily tasks, I want to keep the basic student information here; student ID, student’s university, and student’s email address. Let’s see how I can VLOOKUP the email address in Google Sheets from my other ‘FILE’ tab.

  1. 1. Start on the Google Sheet where you wish to add your VLOOKUP results. In this example, I will add my data to the 'STUDENT INFO' file, under a column called 'Email'.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Enter formula name
  1. 2. The ‘Student ID’ will be the search_key, so you simply need to click on cell A2 to include it as the first argument of the VLOOKUP formula.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Search key
  1. 3. To select your range, head to the tab where your data is located and select a range of cells that include your search_key and target_value. In this example, I need to head to my 'FILE' tab and select a range of cells that includes the ‘Student ID’ and ‘Email’ columns.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Range
  1. 4. Type in the index, which refers to the number position of the column where the target value is located. Since we want the ‘Email’, we need to type in ‘5’.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Index
  1. 5. As it is case sensitive, we want to VLOOKUP the Google Sheets for an exact match, so we place ‘false’ in the [is_sorted] parameter.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Sorted to false
  1. 6. Once all the arguments are included, press Enter and it will automatically return the first value.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Press Enter
  1. 7. To apply the VLOOKUP formula in the rest of the cells, select the bottom-right corner of the cell and drag it down to complete.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another sheet Drag down

Here, we have seen the VLOOKUP in Google Sheets with a single-criteria example. However, Google Sheets allows you to VLOOKUP multiple columns by using multiple criteria. You can retrieve several values distributed in various columns. Its most common use is for first and last names to be joined in one single column.

Another excellent way to save time is to use the VLOOKUP function to transfer data from another spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Let’s explore how to do this method now.

How to VLOOKUP in Excel with Two Spreadsheets
How to VLOOKUP in Excel with Two Spreadsheets?

Sometimes our data may be spread out among different Excel sheets or workbooks. Here's how to do VLOOKUP in Excel with two spreadsheets

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How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook?

Let’s say that I now want to add data related to the company in the ‘STUDENT INFO’ spreadsheet. However, all the company-related information is on a separate one, entitled ‘INTERNSHIP INFO’. You can easily VLOOKUP data from a different spreadsheet by simply combining it with the IMPORTRANGE formula. We recommend that you read more about this formula in our post on How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets before getting started with the next steps.

Google Sheets IMPORTRANGE Formula Syntax

IMPORTRANGE(spreadsheet_url, range_string)
  • spreadsheet_url: refers to the URL of the Google Sheet from where data will be imported. It should appear enclosed in quotation marks or be a reference to a cell containing the URL of a spreadsheet.
  • range_string: corresponds to the range of the sheet to be imported and should also be placed within quotation marks followed by an exclamation point. It either be enclosed in quotation marks or appear as a referenced cell.

Let’s see it more clearly in the example.

  1. 1. Go to your original file and start typing the VLOOKUP formula where you want your data to be located. In this example, I will open my ‘STUDENT INFO’ file and type in the formula in the cell under my new ‘Company’ column.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Enter VLOOKUP
  1. 2. Now click on the cell that will be your search_key. In this case, it’s the first cell (A2) under the ‘Student ID’ column.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Search key
  1. 3. After the comma, include the IMPORTRANGE formula. Google Sheets will prompt the formula as before, so you can directly continue to click on it to include.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Enter IMPORTRANGE
  1. 4. Open quotation marks.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook
  1. 5. Include the spreadsheet_url by copying the link from “...d/” until “/edit…”.
Alt tag How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Copy URL
  1. 6. Close quotation marks and then open again to include the range_string. Here, you need to include the sheet name followed by an exclamation point and cell range (“MAIN!$A$2:$B$101”) and set the dollar sign before the cell index to prevent the cell contents from undergoing any changes.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Range string

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  1. 7. Close parenthesis to complete the IMPORTRANGE syntax, include a comma, and then type in the index. In this case, it’s the number of the ‘Company’ column in the other spreadsheet (2).
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Column index
  1. 8. Once you include the index, you then include the [is_sorted] argument by typing in ‘false’, as we want the exact match. Press Enter.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook REF
  1. 9. It is common to get a “#REF” if you forgot to share or do not have permission access to the other worksheet. If you are not given the option to “Allow access” when clicking on “REF”, then make sure that the file is saved as a Google Sheet and not as a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Save as Excel
  1. 10. Once saved as a Google Sheet, you can press Enter and you will be given the option to “Allow Access”.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Allow Access
  1. 11. When allowed, the VLOOKUP and IMPORTRANGE formulas work and return the value you were trying to import in the C2 cell.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Single cell result
  1. 12. To apply the formulas to the remaining cells, simply drag them down from the bottom-right corner of the cell.
How to use Google Sheets to VLOOKUP data from another workbook Drag down

How to manage your Google Sheets data with Layer?

Layer is a spreadsheet platform that works on top of Excel and Google Sheets. It allows you to easily manage and automate spreadsheet workflows. Using Layer, you can:

  • Upload or connect your existing Excel or Google Sheets-based budget.
  • Share different sheets or even cell ranges of your spreadsheet with various stakeholders or departments involved in the budgeting process.
  • Automate your communication flows and keep track of your data submissions, contributors, and deadlines.
  • Review every single change made and decide which ones to merge with your spreadsheet or discard.
  • Eliminate errors in your budget or manually copying and pasting data across files.

Sign up and schedule an onboarding call to get started with Layer right now.

Conclusion

Now that you have seen the benefits of transferring data in Google Sheets with the VLOOKUP function within a worksheet, or used in combination with the IMPORTRANGE function between different worksheets, you can continue to collect data online without worrying about having to include it manually. There are two main aspects to remember to benefit from its full potential:

  • You need a shared value to use the VLOOKUP function within a Google Sheet and between spreadsheets.
  • Check the sharing permissions of the Google Sheets you will be using the VLOOKUP and IMPORTRANGE formulas on.

If you’re interested in learning about more methods to transfer data within Excel files automatically, visit our blog section for Excel and check how to transfer data from one Excel worksheet to another automatically.

Use Excel as your main tool for data management? Discover how to use the Excel VLOOKUP formula to search data from another sheet.

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 7 2022, Updated Feb 20 2022