=VLOOKUP (uhh…now what?)



Today’s post is brought to you by Anneliese Wirth, a writer on Office.com.

On Office.com, the term “VLOOKUP” frequently bubbles up in our list of high-volume search queries. My job is to figure out why this is and what specific information people are actually looking for when they type “VLOOKUP” into the search box in Help or on our web site.

The “VLOOKUP” query appears to represent a bunch of different questions. Certainly, one of the main ones has to do with the function arguments—a.k.a., “the stuff between the parentheses.” The bottom line is this: If you don’t use VLOOKUP regularly, it’s hard to remember off the top of your head what the different arguments mean, or how to use them correctly.

From personal experience, I can really relate. I use VLOOKUP infrequently, usually when I need to run a particular type of report for my writing team. The report requires me to pull data from my content management system, and then match topic ID numbers in one worksheet to corresponding titles in another worksheet. To make things work, I invariably end up in Help, poring over our VLOOKUP topic.

In particular, as an occasional user of VLOOKUP, I wonder about the following:

· What pieces of the formula do I need, and in what order?

· What’s the secret handshake for referencing lookup tables on other sheets?

· Is TRUE the right argument for exact matches? Or is it FALSE? Which one is the default? Which is the one that requires me to sort the first column in the lookup table in A to Z order?

· When counting columns, do I start at 0 or at 1?

· Why am I seeing the wrong results when I copy the formula?

To help address questions like these, I created a dedicated VLOOKUP Refresher. Feel free to print a copy of this card or save it for later, whenever you need it.




Of course, anyone who uses VLOOKUP will eventually want to know THIS, too:

· Why am I getting #N/A errors?

That last bullet is a whole ‘nuther ball of wax. I’m currently working on a card of troubleshooting tips and techniques for circumventing #N/A, but in the meantime, check out Greg Truby’s recent post, Solutions to three common problems when using VLOOKUP().

If you have comments about the VLOOKUP Refresher card, tips or resources of your own, or suggestions for future posts, please leave a comment.