This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at depictdatastudio.com.

Vlookup is my all-time favorite function in Excel!

(Well, the entire lookup family—vlookup, hlookup, index-match, and xlookup.)

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

- What vlookup is used for;
- Why vlookup can be tricky; and
- How to fill in the four pieces of the formula.

# What Vlookup Is Used for in Excel

*Vlookup* helps us merge data from various tables, sheets, and files into a single table that we can use for our analyses.

# Why Vlookup is Tricky for Novices

Sometimes Excel novices are hesitant to try *vlookup* because it requires that you fill in four different pieces of information.

Learning the Excel lingo here is truly like learning a new language. Stick with it and keep practicing, and you’ll be a fluent *vlookup* user in no time!

Here’s the information that we’ll need to complete: =vlookup(lookup_value,table_array,col_index_num,[range_lookup])

Let’s walk through each of the four segments of the vlookup function.

# Our Fictional Scenario

I’ve got five people: *Ann, Isaac, Tony, Keely, *and* Dan*. I’ve also got two different tables of data: *Favorite Color* and *Favorite Food*.

Let’s pretend I want to create a single dataset that contains both the colors and the foods together.

In a perfect world, I’d be able to copy and paste the colors and foods together.

But in the real world, we’ve typically got different numbers of people in each of the original tables. For example, we’ve got information about *Ann, Isaac, Tony, *and *Dan* in our *Favorite Color* table, but we’ve only got information about *Ann, Keely, *and *Isaac* in our *Favorite Food* table, so a simple copy and paste isn’t possible.

Sure, with just five people, we could fill in this information by hand. But what if our dataset contains information about 50 people? Or 50,000 people? Copying and pasting could take all day, and we’d probably make a million mistakes along the way.* Vlookup* to the rescue!

# How to Use =Vlookup() in Microsoft Excel

Here’s how to fill in each of the four pieces of the vlookup formula.

## Step 1: Fill in the lookup_value

First, let’s fill in the ** lookup_value**, which is the first piece of the

*vlookup*function.

**The lookup_value is the cell that contains the person’s name or ID number that we’re interested in**. These names or ID numbers are the links that connect all the tables together.

**The names or ID numbers must be located in the first column of each table**–in the first column of your new combined dataset and in the first column of every single table from which you’re pulling data.

In this example, watch as I type *=vlookup(* into cell *B8*. Next, click on the cell that contains the name or ID number that you want to look up in one of your other tables. Then, insert a comma, which moves us on to the second section of the function.

So far, my function reads: *=vlookup(A8,*

## Step 2: Fill in the table_array

Second, we have to indicate the ** table_array**.

**The table array is the table or dataset from which we’re pulling data**.

In this example, we want to get information from the *Favorite Color* table into our master table down below. The *table_array* for the *Favorite Color* table is *A1:B5*. In other words, that table begins in cell *A1* and ends in cell *B5*.

My function reads: *=vlookup(A8,A1:B5,*

## Step 3: Fill in the col_index_num

Third, we have to indicate the *col_index_num*.

**This column index number is the number of the column we care about**. Just type in the number of the column you’re interested in.

For example, we want to know favorite colors, which are located in the second column of our *Favorite Color* table, so we type a *2* into the *vlookup* function. As usual, conclude with a comma to move on to the fourth and final segment of our function.

My function reads: *=vlookup(A8,A1:B5,2,*

## Step 4: Fill in the range_lookup

Fourth, we need to indicate the ** range_lookup**..

**We have to type the word true or false** into the fourth and final section of our

*vlookup*function.

A *true* will give us an approximate match and a *false* will give us the exact information we’re looking for. We obviously want precise information, so type *false* into the function and end with a closing parenthesis.

My completed function reads: *=vlookup(A8,A1:B5,2,false)*

We can see that Ann’s favorite color is blue.

# A Second Vlookup Example

Let’s go through a second vlookup example to make sure the four pieces of the function make sense.

We’ll continue creating a master table that combines content from both the *Favorite Color* and *Favorite Food* tables into a single table.

First, in cell *C8*, type *=vlookup(A8,* to set the *lookup_value* as *Ann*.

Second, indicate the boundaries of the *Favorite Food* table that we want to pay attention to. My function now reads *=vlookup(A8,D1:E4*

Third, tell Excel which column of the *Favorite Food* table to focus on. The foods are listed in the second column of that mini-table, so enter a *2* into the *vlookup *function. My function says *=vlookup(A8,D1:E4,2*

Finally, type *false* into the function and close your parentheses. The completed function says *=vlookup(A8,D1:E4,2,false)* and tells us that Ann’s favorite food is pizza.

Vlookup takes time to sink in, so go easy on yourself if you don’t “get it” right away. I promise that the time-savings from vlookup are worth the learning curve.