Looking for free utility/add-on/software tool to compare 2 excel files for differences

Posted on 2011-03-11
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I'm looking for free utility/add-on/software tool to compare 2 excel files for differences.
Ideally this would work with any version of Excel, but I absolutely need it to work with Excel 2007 files.

Oh... and did I mention... it must be free?!
Question by:sah18
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LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 35110300
We could probably write one here for you, but since a generic compare tool would take a long time to write/test, it would help if you scale down the task.

For example, if you're looking for two workbooks to be identical in every way, you can use any windows tool to compare them.  Beyond that, what are you expecting to find in your differences?

If all the book names are the same, is that enough?  if all the cell values are the same, is that a match? what if all the formulas are the same but the sheet names are different?  how about if some cells have colors or borders or attached notes but the values and formulas are the same?

So to generate a report of all differences could be a massive task, especially for free.
If you're just looking to see if the sheets have different values (ignoring formulas), one simple way is to export the data as a CSV and then compare them in any of the many free compare tools available.

Expert Comment

ID: 35110911
Check out this program, 4TOPS. It compares excel sheets and outputs HTML. Free download from CNET:


Author Comment

ID: 35113284
McOz - Still hoping to find a free option for this (4TOPS has a free trial, but is $69).

rspahitz - and yes, I really do need what I asked for -- something to compare excel files, not merely cell values.  I already have Notepad++ which has a very nice text compare addin, but that won't help me in this case.
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LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 35113372
open a DOS window (enter cmd in the start menu's Run/search box)
Then enter FC followed by the path to the two files:

fc "C:\My documents\File1.xls" "C:\My Documents\File2.xls"

If they are they same, you will see no differences.

Author Comment

ID: 35113698
That is another text solution, rspahitz -- it produces nothing readable for non-text file (excel files, for example) differences.
LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 35113755
that's why I asked you what differences you are expecting.  If you only want to know if there are differences, FC handles it.  Otherwise you need to define what differences you want.  Among the chocies are:

Application-level differences (Excel settings)
Workbook-level differences (name of file, number of sheets, comments added to workbook)
Worksheet-level differences (name on tab, location of last cell, location of cursor, sequence within the book, protection, password)
Column.Row-level differences (width, height)
Cell-level differences (value, formula, notes, conditional format, colors, borders, "number" format, word wrap, indents, locked, etc etc.)

If everything is the same except for the location of the cursor on a single page, do you want it reported as a difference?

All of those are defined as differences by Excel.  This is an overwhelming task to ask of a free tool.  That's why I said you need to refine your request down to what differences you are seeking.

Accepted Solution

McOz earned 500 total points
ID: 35115830
Sorry, did not catch that my other link was just a free trial!
Another option which IS free, but does not have quite the same functionality as 4TOPS (it just highlights differences instead of spitting out a report), is here:

This is a VBA add-in for excel, works for excell 2000 and later.

Hope it helps!

Author Closing Comment

ID: 35117183
This looks perfect!  Thanks very much for your help.

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