Compare Two Files for Differences in Excel & Google Sheets

Written by

Mel Jenkins

Reviewed by

Laura Tsitlidze

Last updated on December 30, 2022

This tutorial demonstrates how to compare two files for differences in Excel and Google Sheets.


CompareFiles SideBySide


Compare Files Side by Side

One option to compare is to look at the files on the same screen.

  1. Open two files you want to compare, then in the Ribbon, select View > Window > View Side by Side.


CompareFiles Ribbon


If you have more than two files open, a dialog box will appear asking which file you wish to compare your active file to.


CompareFiles DialogBox


  1. Select the file you wish to compare your active file to, and click OK.
    If you only have two files open, the dialog box will not appear, and your files are shown side by side on the screen immediately.


CompareFiles SideBySide H


  1. Compare the two files visually.

Synchronous Scrolling

If you scroll down in one file, you will notice that the other file also scrolls down. This is because Synchronous Scrolling is automatically switched on.


CompareFiles SynchronousScrolling


This allows you to look at the data in one file and compare it to the data in the other file in the same cell. If you do not want both files to move at the same time when you click the scroll bar, click the Synchronous Scrolling button in the Ribbon to switch this option off.

Arrange All

The default window position for two files is one underneath each other, as shown in the graphic above.

  1. To view the files next to each other on the screen instead, select Arrange All from the Window group.


CompareFiles ArrangeAll


  1. Select Vertical, then click OK.


CompareFiles ArrangeAll Veritcal


The two files will now be displayed vertically beside each other on your screen.


CompareFiles SideBySide


Reset Window Position

Click Reset Window Position to put the files back to their default (Horizontal) positions on the screen.


CompareFiles ResetWindowPosition


With the two files open on the screen, you can now compare the differences between the two.

Use the Inquire Add-In

Excel provides a COM add-in that will compare two files for you.

To activate this add-in, you need to have the Developer tab visible in the Ribbon. If you don’t see the Developer Ribbon, you’ll need to enable it.

Enable the Developer Ribbon

  1. Click on the File tab in the Ribbon, and go down to Options. In the Customize Ribbon options, tick the Developer check box. (This is switched off by default so you will need to switch it on to see the tab on the Ribbon.)


vba vbe developer


  1. Click OK.
  1. The Developer tab will appear on the main ribbon. In the Ribbon, select Developer > Add-ins > COM Add-ins.


CompareFiles Developer Com AddIns


  1. Make sure the check box next to Inquire is checked, then click OK.


CompareFiles EnableAddIn


A new tab is added to the Ribbon called Inquire.


CompareFiles Inquire


  1. To compare two files, make sure they are both open, and then in the Ribbon, select Inquire > Compare > Compare Files.


CompareFiles Inquire Compare


  1. Select the file you wish to compare against the active file and then click Compare.


CompareFiles Inquire CompareDialog


A new window will open with the differences between the two files highlighted.


CompareFiles Inquire_Result


Compare Files in Google Sheets

The only way to compare two files side by side in Google Files is to open each file in a separate copy of your browser. You can then drag each window into a relevant position on your screen which will then enable you to see the data in both files at the same time, and thus enable comparison.


CompareFiles GoogleSheets

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