Top 5 Differences Between VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP in Google Sheets

XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP are both handy tools that help find specific information in a dataset.  While VLOOKUP has been widely used for years, XLOOKUP, introduced in 2022, stands as a more advanced version. We'll explain how XLOOKUP is more flexible, works faster, and finds data more accurately than VLOOKUP.

Top 5 Differences Between VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP in Google Sheets

Throughout this article, we'll show you the limitations of the current VLOOKUP function and highlight 5 advantages that XLOOKUP brings to the table. By the end, you'll understand better when to use each function in your spreadsheets.

Exploring Lookup Functions in Google Sheets

Here's a breakdown of various lookup functions in Google Sheets, each with its slightly different features: 

VLOOKUP: Searches for a value in the leftmost column of a table and returns a related value from the same row in another column. Good for vertical searches.

HLOOKUP: Performs a similar function to VLOOKUP but searches horizontally in a row instead of vertically in a column.

LOOKUP: Searches for a value in a range and returns a value from the same position in a second range. It’s a flexible function for approximate matches.

XLOOKUP: Provides more features than VLOOKUP, allowing more flexible searches and returning results from any column.

MATCH: Searches for a specified item in a range and returns the relative position of that item.

INDEX: Returns the value of a cell in a specified row and column of a table or range.

Our focus, however, narrows to contrasting the VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP functions in Google Sheets, highlighting their distinct features and applications.

Understanding VLOOKUP

VLOOKUP, an essential function in Google Sheets and Excel, stands for "Vertical Lookup" and is designed to search for a specific value in a table's first column, and then return a corresponding value in the same row from another column.

How VLOOKUP Works

Let’s say that on one sheet “Lookup table” you have order IDs and statuses. And in another sheet “Main table” you also have order IDs with item names and their amounts.

If you want to pull the status for item 1001 from the “Lookup table” you use this formula for VLOOKUP:

=VLOOKUP(B3, 'Lookup table'!$B$3:$C$8, 2, FALSE)

In this formula:

  • B3 is the value you're looking for in the first column of the range.

  • 'Lookup table'!$B$3:$C$8 represents the table range where Google Sheets will search for the value.

  • 2 indicates that the function should return the value from the second column in the range.

  • FALSE specifies an exact match.

Now you can drag the formula down to fill the rest of the cells in column E to get the status of every item in this table.

Common Use Cases for VLOOKUP

  • Data management: Finding and extracting specific information from a large dataset.

  • Inventory or pricing: Quickly retrieving the price or availability of an item.

  • Finance: Matching transaction details with corresponding accounts.

  • Lookup tables: Using reference tables for various data.

  • Comparing data sets: Comparing 2 sets of data for similarities or differences.

Limitations of VLOOKUP

  • Firstly, it takes data only from the right side of the search column and cannot pull data exclusively from the left of the search column.

  • Additionally, VLOOKUP is not case-sensitive, treating uppercase and lowercase letters identically, and potentially causing mismatches.

  • Besides, it requires an exact match; if it fails to find an exact match, it returns an error, which is inconvenient.

When using VLOOKUP, you might notice slower performance when dealing with datasets ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of rows. As the dataset gets bigger, VLOOKUP may become less efficient, leading to slower response times.

Dive deeper with this read

Everything about VLOOKUP in Google Sheets

Image for article: Everything about VLOOKUP in Google Sheets

Exploring XLOOKUP as a Modern Alternative to VLOOKUP

Fortunately, there is another function that overcomes those limitations. XLOOKUP easily handles two-way searches and manages large data without any difficulty. It simplifies complex tasks, making your work hassle-free.

How XLOOKUP Works

The XLOOKUP formula is the following:

=XLOOKUP(search_key, lookup_range, result_range, [missing_value], [match_mode], [search_mode])

  • search_key: The value you want to search for in the lookup_range.

  • lookup_range: The range where the search_key will be located.

  • result_range: The range where the related result is found.

  • missing_value (optional): Specifies the value or action if no match is found.

  • match_mode (optional): Determines the match type - exact match, partial match, etc.

  • search_mode (optional): Defines how to handle different types of matches.

Exploring the Advantages of Using XLOOKUP

  • Bidirectional lookup: XLOOKUP can search both horizontally and vertically within a table, offering greater flexibility in searching.

  • Handling errors: It handles errors more effectively than VLOOKUP, providing an alternative value or message when a lookup fails.

  • Multiple criteria: It supports multiple criteria, enabling more complex search operations than VLOOKUP.

  • Flexibility: Returns an exact match, the next smaller item, or the next larger item when an exact match isn’t found.

  • No need for sorting: Unlike VLOOKUP, XLOOKUP doesn’t require the data to be sorted, making it more convenient to use in various scenarios.

Practical Examples Showcasing XLOOKUP

Example 1:

Let's say you have a list of items and their order IDs. You want to find the quantity sold for a particular item using XLOOKUP. Cell G2 contains the order ID you're searching for in this example. To find the amount, you'd use the formula:

=XLOOKUP(G2, B3:B8, D3:D8)

Example 2:

To get both the Item name and Amount based on the Order ID, you'd use the formula:

=XLOOKUP(B3, B6:A11, C6:C11)

By dragging this function horizontally into the next cell, you can get the amount of bananas under the ID 1003.

5 Key Differences Between XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP

Differences Between XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP

#1: Lookup Directions

  • XLOOKUP works for both vertical and horizontal searches. For instance, it can look up values across rows or columns.
    =XLOOKUP(search_key, lookup_range, result_range)

  • VLOOKUP is used for vertical lookups and might need data rearrangement for horizontal searches.
    =VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted])

#2: Return Results

  • XLOOKUP: Finds an entire range of values, providing full data retrieval.
    =XLOOKUP(search_key, lookup_range, result_range)

  • VLOOKUP: Gets only 1 value from a specified column in the table.
    =VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted])

#3: Exact Match Searches

  • XLOOKUP defaults to an exact match, so there is no need to set the exact match parameter.
    =XLOOKUP(search_key, lookup_range, result_range)

  • VLOOKUP requires stating exact matches; otherwise, it uses approximate matches by default.
    =VLOOKUP(search_key, range, result_range, FALSE)

#4: Column Index Numbers

  • XLOOKUP doesn't require a column index number, simplifying the formula structure by using the lookup and return arrays.
    =XLOOKUP(search_key, lookup_range, result_range)

  • VLOOKUP needs a column index number to identify the column from which to find data.
    =VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted])

#5: Error Handling

  • XLOOKUP provides more advanced error handling options, offering several ways to manage errors, like if the value isn't found.
    =XLOOKUP(search_key, lookup_range, result_range, [missing_value], [match_mode], [search_mode])

  • VLOOKUP often shows #N/A errors if a match isn't found, which might require additional error handling.
    =VLOOKUP(search_key, range, index, [is_sorted])

Boost your data tasks with XLOOKUP template!

Get a ready-to-use template featuring every function covered in this article. Download now, start practicing, and streamline your work in no time!

Choosing Between XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP for Your Data Needs

When deciding between XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP, think about how complex your tasks are. Here are a couple of points for making the right choice between XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP:

Assess Your Data Lookup Needs

Evaluate your data structure and consider if your data needs to be retrieved vertically, horizontally, or both. If it's a mix of both, XLOOKUP might offer more flexibility due to its capability for bidirectional searches.

Consider the Complexity of Your Spreadsheet Tasks

For simpler and traditional vertical data arrangements, where exact matching isn't the priority, and you're comfortable with the column index format, VLOOKUP might be enough. However, for more complex data structures or a need for exact matches, use XLOOKUP.

XLOOKUP is handy for finding data in spreadsheets, but it involves a lot of manual work. That can lead to mistakes, especially when handling a lot of data. If you're finding this process too tedious, it might be time to try a tool that automates data finding. That way, you can skip the hassles of the usual Google Sheet formulas, making data handling and analysis smoother and more reliable.

Enhance Google Sheets Data Analysis with OWOX BI

If you're often dealing with Google Sheets and want better control over your data, consider using OWOX BI. This tool lets you easily create reports and graphs in Google Sheets by accessing data from Google BigQuery. With OWOX BI's free BigQuery Reports add-on, managing queries and transferring query results straight to Google Sheets is a breeze. It simplifies data handling, making your tasks smoother and more efficient.

pipeline

Install OWOX BI Extension

Try OWOX BI BigQuery Report Extension to manage data and create reports in Google Sheets!

Install extension now

FAQ

Expand all Close all
  • Is XLOOKUP better than VLOOKUP?

    In many cases, XLOOKUP is better as it's more flexible and has more features than VLOOKUP
  • What are the benefits of XLOOKUP?

    XLOOKUP finds data in both rows and columns, shows multiple results, and handles errors better
  • When is XLOOKUP good for?

    XLOOKUP is good when you need to do advanced searches across both rows and columns, look for multiple results, avoid specifying exact match parameters, and handle errors more effectively
  • Is it possible to substitute all of my VLOOKUP formulas with XLOOKUP?

    Yes, in most cases, XLOOKUP can replace VLOOKUP formulas. However, this might depend on specific situations and requirements. Transitioning to XLOOKUP can improve your spreadsheet functionality
  • Why would you use a VLOOKUP over XLOOKUP?

    If you're used to VLOOKUP or need to keep things simple, VLOOKUP might still be a good choice for basic searches