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Looking Up Data In Tables
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As you become more proficient in Excel, you will find that a
very common task is looking up values in tables. For example, you may have a
table of part numbers and unit prices. A simple lookup function, such
as
VLOOKUP
or
HLOOKUP can return the unit price for a specific part number.
These functions are well documented in the online help files, and won't be
discussed here.
This page will describe more advanced techniques of looking up data, especially looking up data by two key values, instead of one. We'll begin with the following example.



In this example, both column F and row 8 have the 'key' values for the data values in G9:K13. 



Double Lookups You can't use the VLOOKUP function to do a double lookup  that is, a lookup based on both the row headers (column F) and the column headers (row 8). Suppose we want to return the value with a row header value of c and a column header value of 44. We can't use either VLOOKUP or HLOOKUP in this situation, because each of these functions can search only in one direction. Instead we use the MATCH and OFFSET functions. =OFFSET($F$8,MATCH(F16,$F$9:$F$13,0),MATCH(G16,$G$8:$K$8,0)) In this example, cell F16 contains the desired row header (c) and cell G16 contains the desired column header (44). This function uses OFFSET to return a cell reference a specified number of row and columns from a particular cell  in the example this "base" cell is F8. The two MATCH functions return the row and column offsets of the data. Here, the formula MATCH(F16,$F$9:$F$13,0) returns 3, because the value c is the third value in the range $F$9:$F$13. Similarly, the function MATCH(G16,$G$8:$K$8,0) returns 4, because 44 is the fourth value in the range $G$8:$K$8 . When these values are passed into OFFSET, it returns the cell that is 3 rows and 4 columns from F8.


Left Lookups 

Another limitation of both the
VLOOKUP
and
HLOOKUP
functions is that you can only lookup a value to the right of the key value.
For example, in the range shown to the left, you can retrieve the value "c" by
using
VLOOKUP
to search for a 3. However, the reverse is not true. It is not possible
to use
VLOOKUP
to search for "c" and return the value 3. This sort of operation
is called a left lookup, and is possible only by using the
MATCH
and OFFSET
functions.
=OFFSET(G32,MATCH(I32,$G$32:$G$38,0)1,1,1,1) The MATCH function tells us where in the list $G$32:$G$38 the value of I32 is, and then the OFFSET function goes to the left ( 1) to retrieve the value. 

Arbitrary Lookups 


If your list has unsorted duplicate values in it,
VLOOKUP
will always return its result based on the first match found. While
this is usually useful, you may want to be able to choose which occurrence
should be returned. For example, you may want to return the second or
third occurrence, or perhaps the last occurrence. The following array formula will return the value from column C corresponding to a specified value in column B. That value is named in cell B21, and the occurrence is specified in cell C21. =INDEX(B5:C19,SMALL(IF(B5:B19=B21,ROW(B5:B19)ROW(B5)+1,ROW(B19)+1),C21),2) In the example on the left, the data to search is in
the range B5:C19.
The value in column B to search for, Chip, is specified in cell
B21,
and the occurrence of that value, 3, is specified in cell
C21.
The result of this formula is 120, because 120 corresponds to the 3rd
occurrence of Chip in column B. =INDEX(B5:C19,SMALL(IF(B5:B19=B21,ROW(B5:B19)ROW(B5)+1,ROW(B19)+1),COUNTIF(B5:B19,B21)),2)
This is the same formula as above, but the reference to
C21 has been replaced by the function
COUNTIF(B5:B19,B21),
which will count the number of values equal to
B21
in the range B5:B19.


Closest Match Lookups 


The
MATCH function is an important tool when
working with lists of data. However,
MATCH
requires that the data be in sorted order unless you are searching for an
exact match. If you want to find the closest value in a list to a
value, the data must be sorted. You can use the
INDEX
and
MATCH functions together to get around this
limitation.
The following formula will return the value from cells
F2:F6
that is closest to, but not less than, the value in
F8.
For example, in the list shown to the left, the formula will return 8,
because 8 is closest to the value 7, in
F8,
without exceeding it.



The formulas shown above can be modified to find the two
values in a list that come closest to a given value. Again, the data
does not need to be in sorted order. For example, using the example to
the left, the following formula will return 24 and 21, because these two
values are closest to 23. =INDEX(B2:B11,MATCH(SMALL(ABS(B2:B11B13), {1,2}),ABS(B2:B11B13),0)) Since this formula returns two values, you must enter it into an array of two cells. First select the two cells which you want to contain the results, and then type the formula. Be sure to press Ctrl+Shift+Enter rather than just Enter when you enter the formula. Because this formula is in an array of cells, you won't be able to edit each cell independently. To change the formula, you must select both cells, edit the formula, and then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter when you're done. As written, the formula returns its results in to two cells in the same row, say B14:C14. If you want to return the values to two cells in the same column, say B16:B17, use the formula below. =INDEX(B2:B11,MATCH(SMALL(ABS(B2:B11B13), {1;2}),ABS(B2:B11B13),0)) This is the same formula as the previous formula, but the row array {1,2} is changed to a column array {1;2}. Notice that these are enclosed in curly braces {}, not parentheses. 


Created By Chip Pearson and
Pearson Software Consulting, LLC
This Page:
Updated: November 06, 2013
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© Copyright 19972007 Charles H. Pearson