An avid Excel user must look for ways to upgrade their workflow and produce efficient results in the shortest possible time with the minimum hassle.
VLOOKUP is one such function in Excel that enables you to achieve that. But after the introduction of XLOOKUP into the field, you may want to reconsider your preference on the matter.
Both of these functions are competent enough in their own way and carry resemblances in many different aspects.
That said, their differences are what set them apart from one another, thus you need to fully comprehend the depth of XLOOKUP vs VLOOKUP to choose between them.
In this article, I’ve gone to the extent of highlighting their main differences and provided a verdict on why one of these is bound to replace the other in due time.
Know More: XLOOKUP & VLOOKUP
Before diving into the duel of XLOOKUP vs VLOOKUP, let’s learn some basic information about them briefly to fully comprehend what we’ll be dealing with shortly.
XLOOKUP was introduced in Excel back in 2019 in the beta versions until it was made public in the Excel 2021 version for complete use. It searches for data from large sets with precision that was made possible due to the way it’s allowed to interact in Excel.
This function was developed to overcome the shortcomings of its predecessors to make lives of data sorting or analyzing individuals more effortless. It’s flexible, easy to use and generates results in larger quantities in a minimum amount of time!
Excel VLOOKUP was first introduced back in 1985 with the goal of data organizing and searching much easier than having to perform such tasks manually. Even after the inclusion of newer functions, it remains as the 3rd most frequently used function in Excel till date.
VLOOKUP searches across countless columns in a data set and finds out exactly what you need upon immediate implementation. There are certain adjustments that you can make with this function to find results catering to your specific demands!
The Duel: XLOOKUP vs VLOOKUP
I’ve broken down this battle between XLOOKUP and VLOOKUP in 10 fronts considering these are the 10 key points that’ll help you decide who’s the winner among the two.
You may already know, the V in VLOOKUP stands for Vertical. Which implies that Excel will perform the search only vertically and not horizontally.
Added to that, VLOOKUP goes only one way, that’s either top to bottom or bottom to top. So it’s often demanded of you to sort your data out to receive appropriate results.
That’s not all! VLOOKUP takes one column at a time starting from the first and goes onward. It means that you can design your searches where Excel should look for data moving toward the left. It always goes to the right in terms of finding and shows error if you place your input otherwise.
On the other hand, XLOOKUP can not only move vertically, but also horizontally – making its functionality enough to replace both the VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP with only one feature.
Unlike VLOOKUP, XLOOKUP doesn’t move like a one-way street, rather it has the capacity to go above and beyond with either ascending or descending order in binary. The best part is, you can dictate this behavior with your formula line.
Lastly, XLOOKUP’s movement isn’t restricted by column sequence as it can move from both left to right or right to left during the data search. You can begin the finding from any column you like and XLOOKUP will draw out the target data for you no matter where it’s placed in the sheet!
Starting with the syntax, VLOOKUP and XLOOKUP are quite different in terms of nature and number of arguments they hold within.
VLOOKUP’s syntax contains a total of 4 arguments – 3 mandatory and 1 optional. The syntax line looks like this:
=VLOOKUP(lookup_value, table_array, column_index_num, [range_lookup])
On the other hand, XLOOKUP’s syntax is a little lengthy and more precise compared to VLOOKUP’s. XLOOKUP syntax holds 6 arguments with 3 mandatory and 3 optional ones.
These arguments are precise and enhance your work in a more neat manner over VLOOKUP. The XLOOKUP syntax line is the one that follows:
=XLOOKUP(lookup, lookup_array, return_array, [not_found], [match_mode], [search_mode])
With these differences in arguments, XLOOKUP presents opportunities for utmost precision in data finding and deriving.
Table Array vs Lookup Array & Return Array
If you look closely at the arguments for both of these formulas, you’ll find that VLOOKUP contains a table array while XLOOKUP has replaced it with two separate arguments: lookup array and return array.
In hindsight, it may not seem like much of a difference, but it’s anything but. For VLOOKUP, the table array dictates both the search target area as well as the output target area.
This is the reason VLOOKUP can’t shift backward while conducting its search. But for XLOOKUP, no matter where my target data resides, I can easily mention that array.
And then, using the return array argument, I can guide Excel into searching only the necessary column(s) to efficiently figure out the result!
Default Match Settings
If you’re working under heavy stress and don’t really have time for touching down on every optional argument, this is where the default match setting spares you a lot of trouble.
VLOOKUP performs an approximate match by default and you’ll have to manually change it at each instance. It’s set to TRUE if you don’t type in anything in the formula line, and for an exact match you’ll have to input FALSE which isn’t really a pleasing thing to do every time.
XLOOKUP match setting is set to exact match by default, so you won’t necessarily have to touch the settings in order to get an accurate outcome.
And, even if you have to change it, you won’t really have to type in a text string like TRUE or FALSE, rather you can simply type in 0 or 1.
It goes even further in terms of performing Wildcard searches because XLOOKUP has a separate match setting command for that. But in VLOOKUP, you’ll have to settle for either approximate search or exact even in Wildcard matching scenarios.
#N/A Error Treatment
VLOOKUP is lagging behind in many ways when we place XLOOKUP as the benchmark lookup function. One such instance is the way each of them treat the #N/A error.
If you perform a lookup task and Excel fails to find anything based on your search criteria, it’ll give you a #N/A error. Professionally speaking, it looks bad and generates a sense of incompetent data set.
This can be amended for VLOOKUP but not natively. It requires nesting with IFNA function to create something like a “Not Found” output if the target data is non-existent.
But XLOOKUP has a built-in argument for that. It’s named as not_found where it asks you to input your not found text string within “ ”. If your search fails to bring out what you’re looking for, the text string will be returned to render your data set more neat and professional-looking.
Multiple Column Spill
There’s a grand XLOOKUP aspect that many users don’t know about, that’s performing searches on multiple columns of data and spilling them across multiple cells in a row.
VLOOKUP falls shy living up to this standard as it works on columns individually and interacts with only one cell each time.
For instance, if you have multiple columns of data on numerous employees and want one of their multi-column information to be drawn out, XLOOKUP is your guy who can do it with one command line.
If you want to generate a similar data set with VLOOKUP, you’ll have to manually set formulas for each of the column data and trust me, it’s going to bore your mind and take a long time to complete.
XLOOKUP Can Perform Both VLOOKUP & HLOOKUP
One major difference between these two is actually a very basic one: VLOOKUP’s search properties are restricted only across columns, thus the name vertical holds prominence.
XLOOKUP on the other hand doesn’t only do what VLOOKUP can do in a much better manner, but it also can perform the same tasks that HLOOKUP is able to do.
This is a lifesaver in the sense that you won’t be needing to include two functions as there’s one superior feature which can perform both of their jobs.
So mastering XLOOKUP will literally make you forget that VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP exist in Excel, and just think how big of a feat that is for a function!
Scrapping The Column Index
One of many things about VLOOKUP that’s always made me feel confined is the use of column index. It tends to slow down your workflow, restrict your search movement and even confuses you to some extent.
With XLOOKUP, you can literally throw away this hassle with column index into the trash bin and perform in modern style.
This has been made possible due to the unique distribution of lookup array and return array as it isolates your areas of searching and finding.
Also, the flexibility that XLOOKUP can move back and forth in columns reinforces this ability. So, gone are the days where you’ll have to calculate column index and place it in your formula!
Room For Adding Columns
Due to the column index conflict, XLOOKUP has been made adaptive as it can include new columns even after you’ve done your calculations and Excel will recalibrate the inclusion to update accurate data.
On the other hand, VLOOKUP relies heavily on column index, thus adding a new column filled with data messes up the calculation process. This results in non-adaptive, altered outcome and renders VLOOKUP as a very rigid function against XLOOKUP.
From the examples that are shown above, you can clearly realize how flexible XLOOKUP is and the level of convenience it provides the users for data alteration.
Excel Version Compatibility
Among the 10 different grounds on which the XLOOKUP vs VLOOKUP battle takes place, XLOOKUP has outclassed the latter in all of the occasions, except for this one.
VLOOKUP existed in Excel since the days it was a program used in Macintosh PCs and it still exists now, so you can understand the number of users who are familiar with it and are using it on a daily basis due to that habit.
XLOOKUP is a very recent addition to the Excel family, thus it doesn’t exist in most of the Excel variants. You’ll find XLOOKUP only in MS Excel 2021, Office Suite 365 and Excel Online.
There are still ways you can use XLOOKUP features in older Excel versions and you’ll be able to learn all about it and more on XLOOKUP in our specialized Excel XLOOKUP article!
Is VLOOKUP Redundant Right Now?
After witnessing all the miracles that XLOOKUP can perform, you may ask yourself: is VLOOKUP out of use now as XLOOKUP is set to replace it in every aspect?
The answer may surprise you, because it’s: NO! VLOOKUP is still very relevant in terms of Excel usage, and the main reason behind it is our aforementioned aspect: VLOOKUP is present in every version of Excel.
It’s still going to take a lot of time to have everyone upgrade to the latest version of office. And even then, there will still remain a challenge of breaking the habit of being used to VLOOKUP for lookup purposes.
As it’s the concluding mark of this article, a winner announcement is demanded of me from the XLOOKUP vs VLOOKUP extensive battle.
I really don’t have to say it out loud because it’s a no brainer regarding who the victor is among the two. I’ll still articulate it though, and it’s the XLOOKUP function that I’m siding with.
XLOOKUP is more modern, advanced and gives room for diversity while looking up data in a data sheet.
I can move across the sheet in all directions, specific optional arguments let me manipulate the search criteria in a more liberating way than ever before.
XLOOKUP is going to be the new function that everyone becomes highly reliable in. So, I’ll urge you to pick it up as soon as you can because then you’ll be ahead of everyone in terms of skill and familiarity.