Google Sheets: How to Compare Two Columns for Differences

Comparing two columns in Google Sheets can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple once you know the steps. Whether you’re looking to find duplicates, mismatches, or just see how two lists stack up against each other, Google Sheets has got you covered with a few built-in formulas and functions. Let’s dive into how you can become a pro at comparing columns in no time.

Step by Step Tutorial on Comparing Two Columns in Google Sheets

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty, let’s understand what we’re trying to achieve here. By comparing two columns, we can check for similarities, differences, and unique entries. This can be especially useful for tasks like reconciling lists, cleaning up data, or even finding out who’s on the naughty or nice list this holiday season!

Step 1: Set up your Google Sheets document

Open a new or existing Google Sheets document and ensure the two columns you want to compare are on the same sheet.

This might seem like an obvious step, but you’d be surprised how often folks try to compare columns from different sheets or even different documents. Make sure all your data is in one place to avoid any unnecessary headaches.

Step 2: Use the ‘Sort’ function if necessary

If your data isn’t already organized, consider sorting it alphabetically or numerically to make comparison easier.

You don’t have to do this, but sorting your data can sometimes make patterns or issues stand out more clearly. Plus, who doesn’t love a well-organized list?

Step 3: Use the ‘IF’ function to compare the columns

Enter the formula “=IF(A2=B2,”Match”,”No Match”)” into a new column, replacing “A2” and “B2” with the appropriate cell references for your columns.

Ah, the ‘IF’ function – a true classic in the spreadsheet world. This nifty formula will let you quickly see which entries match and which ones don’t without having to scroll through endless rows of data.

Step 4: Drag the fill handle down

Click and drag the fill handle of the cell with the formula down to fill the rest of the cells in the column.

Don’t waste time copying and pasting the formula over and over again – use the fill handle! It’s that little square at the bottom-right corner of your selected cell. Just click, drag, and let Google Sheets work its magic.

Step 5: Analyze the results

Review the ‘Match’ and ‘No Match’ results to understand the similarities and differences between the two columns.

Now that you have all your results, take a moment to bask in the glory of your spreadsheet expertise. You’ve just compared two columns like a pro!

After completing these steps, you’ll have a clear and concise column indicating which entries in your two columns match and which ones don’t. This can be incredibly useful for a variety of tasks and will save you the headache of manual comparison.

Tips for Comparing Two Columns in Google Sheets

  • If you’re dealing with large datasets, consider using the ‘FILTER’ or ‘SORTN’ functions to manage your data more efficiently.
  • Remember that Google Sheets is case-sensitive. If you need to compare text data without considering case, use the ‘LOWER’ or ‘UPPER’ functions before comparison.
  • You can also use conditional formatting to highlight matches or differences visually, making them easier to spot.
  • If you need to find duplicates across two columns, the ‘UNIQUE’ function can be a lifesaver.
  • Don’t forget to check for extra spaces or other hidden characters that might affect your comparison results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I compare more than two columns at once?

Yes, you can compare multiple columns by adjusting the ‘IF’ function or using other more complex formulas.

How can I find unique values in one column that aren’t in another?

You can use the ‘FILTER’ function combined with the ‘MATCH’ function to find unique values that only appear in one of the columns.

Can I use Google Sheets to compare two lists of different lengths?

Absolutely! Google Sheets can handle lists of different lengths. Just be sure to account for any blank cells in your formulas.

How do I compare two columns for exact row match?

If you want to ensure that each row matches exactly, you can still use the ‘IF’ function and carefully check your results.

What if I want to compare two columns and return the value from another column?

In this case, you’d use a combination of ‘IF’ and ‘VLOOKUP’ or ‘INDEX’ and ‘MATCH’ functions to return values from a different column based on your comparison.


  1. Set up your Google Sheets document with the two columns you want to compare.
  2. Sort your data if necessary for easier comparison.
  3. Use the ‘IF’ function to compare the columns.
  4. Drag the fill handle down to apply the formula to the entire column.
  5. Analyze the ‘Match’ and ‘No Match’ results to understand the data comparison.


Comparing two columns in Google Sheets is a fundamental skill that can save you time and prevent errors in your data analysis. Whether you’re a seasoned spreadsheet guru or a budding data enthusiast, mastering this function will undoubtedly come in handy. With the simple steps outlined above, you’ll be able to efficiently compare lists, find duplicates, and highlight discrepancies in no time. And remember, practice makes perfect – so don’t shy away from experimenting with different functions and formulas to optimize your Google Sheets experience. So go ahead, give it a try, and watch as your data management skills reach new heights!