← Back

How to use the XLOOKUP Function

2023-09-01 // Nick End, Founder

XLOOKUP flights

The XLOOKUP function is a powerful tool that allows users to search for a specific value within a range of cells and retrieve a related value from another corresponding range. This function is particularly useful when dealing with large datasets where manual search and retrieval would be time-consuming and prone to errors. Continue reading to learn how to use XLOOKUP or skip directly to a specific section with the table of contents.

  1. What is XLOOKUP?
  2. XLOOKUP Examples
  3. Understanding the XLOOKUP function
  4. Preparing your data for XLOOKUP
  5. Organizing your data for XLOOKUP
  6. Cleaning and formatting data for XLOOKUP
  7. Step-by-step guide to using XLOOKUP
  8. Advanced XLOOKUP techniques
  9. XLOOKUP crashes Excel and Google Sheets
  10. Tips for maximizing efficiency with XLOOKUp
  11. Avoiding common XLOOKUP mistakes
  12. Key points to consider with XLOOKUP
  13. When to use the XLOOKUP function
  14. Conclusion

What is XLOOKUP?

The XLOOKUP function is used to search a range and to perform exact and approximate matches, search in reverse, and handle errors. It offers enhanced capabilities compared to traditional lookup functions like VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP. The XLOOKUP function uses the following syntax:

=XLOOKUP(lookup_value, lookup_array, return_array, [if_not_found], [match_mode], [search_mode])

  • lookup_value is the value you want to find.
  • lookup_array is the range of cells where you want to perform the lookup.
  • return_array is the range of cells containing the corresponding values you want to retrieve.
  • if_not_found [optional] specifies the value to return if no match is found (optional).
  • match_mode [optional] specifies how to match the lookup value (optional).
    • 0 - Exact match. If none found, return #N/A. This is the default.
    • 1 - Exact match. If none found, return the next larger item.
    • -1 - Exact match. If none found, return the next smaller item.
  • search_mode [optional] _Binary search is typically used to improve performance on large datasets. To make it work, your data must be sorted. Row Zero implements an advanced algorithm that allows the normal search modes to work quickly on unsorted data, so modes 1 and -1 should be used, unlike Excel, which offers additional options 2 and -2.
    • 1 - Perform a search starting at the first item. This is the default.
    • -1 - Perform a reverse search starting at the last item.

XLOOKUP Examples

Basic Lookup

Suppose you have a dataset with employee names in column A and their corresponding salaries in column B. To find the salary of an employee named "John," use the following formula:

=XLOOKUP("John", A1:A10, B1:B10)

Handling Errors

Imagine you have a dataset with product names in column C and their prices in column D. If you want to find the price of a product named "Widget," but display "Not Found" if no match is found, use this formula:

=XLOOKUP("Widget", C1:C20, D1:D20, "Not Found")

Approximate Match

Suppose you have a dataset with exam scores in column E and corresponding grade boundaries in column F. To determine the grade for a score of 85, considering approximate match, use this formula:

=XLOOKUP(85, E1:E10, F1:F10, "Not Found", -1, 1)

Understanding the XLOOKUP Function

When using the XLOOKUP function, it's important to note that it can perform both vertical and horizontal lookups. This means that you can search for a value in a column and retrieve a value from the same row, or you can search for a value in a row and retrieve a value from the same column. This versatility makes XLOOKUP highly flexible and adaptable to various data analysis scenarios.

Another key feature of the XLOOKUP function is its ability to handle multiple criteria. This means that you can search for a value based on multiple conditions and retrieve the corresponding value. For example, you can search for a product in a specific category and retrieve its price and quantity.

In addition to its flexibility and ability to handle multiple criteria, the XLOOKUP function also offers advanced search options. These options include approximate match and exact match. With the approximate match option, XLOOKUP can find the closest match to the specified value within the range. On the other hand, the exact match option allows XLOOKUP to find an exact match to the specified value.

Furthermore, the XLOOKUP function can handle errors gracefully. It has built-in error handling capabilities, such as returning a default value when a match is not found or when there are errors in the formula. This ensures that your data analysis remains accurate and reliable.

Overall, the XLOOKUP function is a powerful tool that simplifies data analysis by providing an efficient way to search for and retrieve related information. Its flexibility, ability to handle multiple criteria, advanced search options, and error handling capabilities make it a valuable asset for anyone working with large datasets.

The XLOOKUP function is a powerful tool in Excel that can greatly simplify the process of searching for and retrieving specific information from a large dataset. In this article, we'll explore the various aspects of the XLOOKUP function and learn how to effectively utilize it in your data analysis tasks. In order to make the most of the XLOOKUP function, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of its basic principles. Let's start by examining the fundamental concepts behind XLOOKUP.

Preparing Your Data for XLOOKUP

Before you can start using the XLOOKUP function, it's important to ensure that your data is properly organized and formatted. Let's explore some essential steps you can take to prepare your data for XLOOKUP.

Organizing Your Spreadsheet for XLOOKUP

First and foremost, make sure your data is organized in a logical manner. This includes using clear column and row headings, as well as arranging the data in a consistent and orderly fashion. A well-organized spreadsheet will make it easier for you to locate and retrieve the desired information using XLOOKUP.

Consider grouping related data together to enhance the clarity and readability of your spreadsheet. For example, if you are working with sales data, you can group the columns related to product information, customer details, and sales figures. This logical grouping can help you navigate through the data more efficiently when using XLOOKUP.

Furthermore, it is beneficial to assign meaningful names to your data ranges. By doing so, you can easily refer to specific ranges in your XLOOKUP formulas, making them more understandable and maintainable.

Cleaning and Formatting Data for XLOOKUP

In addition to organizing your data, it's crucial to clean and format it appropriately. This involves removing any duplicate entries, fixing formatting inconsistencies, and ensuring that your data is in the correct format for the intended analysis. By cleaning and formatting your data before using XLOOKUP, you can minimize errors and obtain more accurate results.

When cleaning your data, be on the lookout for any missing values or outliers that may affect the reliability of your analysis. Consider using data validation techniques to identify and handle any inconsistencies or errors in your data. This can involve setting up validation rules to restrict input values or using conditional formatting to highlight potential issues.

Formatting your data properly is also essential. Ensure that dates are in the correct date format, numbers are formatted consistently, and text is standardized. This will not only improve the accuracy of your XLOOKUP results but also enhance the overall visual appeal of your spreadsheet.

Additionally, consider applying appropriate data types to your columns. For example, if you have a column containing numerical data, format it as a number rather than text. This will enable XLOOKUP to perform calculations accurately and efficiently.

By following these steps to organize, clean, and format your data, you can set yourself up for success when using XLOOKUP. Remember, the quality of your data directly impacts the reliability and effectiveness of your XLOOKUP analysis.

Step-by-Step Guide to Using XLOOKUP

Now that your data is ready, let's dive into a step-by-step guide on how to use the XLOOKUP function effectively. We'll explore each stage of the process, from inputting the lookup value to handling errors and missing values.

=XLOOKUP(lookup_value, lookup_array, return_array, [if_not_found], [match_mode], [search_mode])

Inputting the Lookup Value

The first step in using XLOOKUP is to input the value you want to search for. This can be a specific number, text, or even a cell reference that contains the desired value. By providing the correct lookup value, XLOOKUP will be able to match it with the corresponding value in the lookup array.

For example, let's say you have a dataset of customer names and their corresponding email addresses. To find the email address of a specific customer, you would input their name as the lookup value.

XLOOKUP will then search through the lookup array, which contains all the customer names, and find the matching name. Once the match is found, XLOOKUP will retrieve the email address from the return array.

Defining the Lookup Array

Once the lookup value is specified, it's important to define the lookup array. This is the range of cells in which XLOOKUP will search for the lookup value. You can choose a single column or row, or you can select multiple columns or rows to expand the search scope.

For instance, if your dataset has customer names in column A and email addresses in column B, you would select both columns as the lookup array. This ensures that XLOOKUP searches through both columns to find the desired value.

Remember to adjust the lookup array according to the size and location of your data. If your dataset is located in a different sheet or workbook, you can also specify the sheet or workbook name along with the range.

Specifying the Return Array

After defining the lookup array, the next step is to specify the return array. This is the range of cells from which XLOOKUP will retrieve the desired value once the lookup value is found. Similarly to the lookup array, you can select a single column or row, or multiple columns or rows depending on the data you wish to retrieve.

Continuing with the previous example, if you want to retrieve the email address of the customer, you would select column B as the return array. This ensures that XLOOKUP retrieves the email address corresponding to the matched customer name.

Just like the lookup array, you can adjust the return array based on the size and location of your data. If the return array is located in a different sheet or workbook, you can specify the sheet or workbook name along with the range.

Handling Errors and Missing Values

When using XLOOKUP, it's important to consider potential errors and missing values that may occur. XLOOKUP offers various error-handling features, such as returning a specific value if the lookup value is not found, or returning the closest approximate match if an exact match cannot be achieved.

For example, if you are searching for a customer name that does not exist in the lookup array, you can specify a default value to be returned instead of an error message. This ensures that your formula does not break and provides a more user-friendly experience.

Additionally, if you are looking for an exact match but the lookup array contains approximate matches, you can use the "exact match" option to return an error if no exact match is found. This helps maintain data accuracy and prevents unintended results.

By understanding these error-handling options, you can effectively handle any unforeseen issues that may arise while using XLOOKUP.

Advanced XLOOKUP Techniques

Once you have mastered the basics of XLOOKUP, you can explore more advanced techniques to further enhance your data analysis capabilities. Let's dive into some advanced uses of XLOOKUP.

Using XLOOKUP with Other Functions

XLOOKUP can be combined with other Excel functions to perform complex calculations and analysis. For example, you can use XLOOKUP in conjunction with the SUM function to retrieve and sum multiple values based on specific criteria. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for data analysis and manipulation.

Troubleshooting Common XLOOKUP Issues

While XLOOKUP is a powerful tool, it's not immune to certain challenges that may arise during usage. Common issues include incorrect arguments, mismatched data types, and improper use of reference ranges. By familiarizing yourself with these common issues and their solutions, you can troubleshoot XLOOKUP problems effectively and save valuable time in your data analysis tasks.

XLOOKUP Crashes Excel and Google Sheets

XLOOKUP is a memory intensive function. When running a XLOOKUP over large data sets of 100k rows in Excel or 10k rows Google sheets, the spreadsheet can freeze or crash. The cause of poor performance with XLOOKUP is due to the function's design. XLOOKUP searches every row in the data set looking for a match. As the data set grows, there are more pieces of data to look through, thus increasing the memory requirement on the computer. If XLOOKUP is crashing your Excel file or Google Sheets workbook, try using Row Zero, a powerful spreadsheet designed for big data sets.

Tips for Maximizing Efficiency with XLOOKUP

To help you make the most of the XLOOKUP function, here are some valuable tips and tricks to maximize your efficiency and productivity.

Keyboard Shortcuts for XLOOKUP

Learning keyboard shortcuts can significantly speed up your workflow when using XLOOKUP. Excel offers various keyboard shortcuts for common XLOOKUP functions, such as copying the formula to adjacent cells, navigating between argument fields, and activating the XLOOKUP dialog box. By memorizing these shortcuts, you can streamline your data analysis tasks and save time in the long run.

Avoiding Common XLOOKUP Mistakes

Finally, it's important to be aware of common mistakes that can occur when using XLOOKUP. These include incorrect reference ranges, forgetting to lock cell references, and overlooking potential errors in the data. By paying attention to these common pitfalls and taking preventive measures, you can further enhance the accuracy and reliability of your XLOOKUP analyses.

Key Points to Consider with XLOOKUP

  • The XLOOKUP function provides advanced lookup capabilities, including exact and approximate matches, reverse searches, and better error handling.
  • It's a versatile tool for retrieving data from large datasets efficiently.
  • The function simplifies complex lookup scenarios that were challenging with VLOOKUP.

When to Use the XLOOKUP Function

  • When performing lookups that require exact or approximate matches.
  • When searching for values in reverse (searching in the return array and returning values from the lookup array).
  • When dealing with datasets where traditional lookup functions are limited or error-prone.


In conclusion, the XLOOKUP function is a powerful tool for searching and retrieving specific information from large datasets in Excel. By understanding its basic principles, properly preparing your data, and following a step-by-step guide, you can effectively use XLOOKUP to streamline your data analysis tasks. With advanced techniques, troubleshooting knowledge, and efficiency-boosting tips, you'll be well-equipped to harness the full potential of XLOOKUP and take your data analysis skills to the next level. If you are trying to run XLOOKUP over a large data-set, a better spreadsheet option may be Row Zero, a spreadsheet designed for big data.