When you have spreadsheets with tons of data, finding just what you need can be daunting. Using a lookup function, like VLOOKUP, can be a huge time-saver.

The VLOOKUP function looks up information in a worksheet. It searches vertically down the left most column of a cell range until it finds the value you specify. When it finds the specified value, it then looks across the row and returns the value in column you specify. The VLOOKUP function works a lot like looking up a number in a phonebook: first you look down the phonebook until you find the person’s name, then you look across to retrieve the person’s phone number.

Insert a VLOOKUP Function

  1. Click in the cell where you want to type a search value.
  2. Enter a value to search for.

    This can be any value from the first column. It’s only being used to test the formula and will be changed later. It’s best to pick a value in view so you can quickly see if you’ve entered the formula correctly.

  3. Click or press Enter.
    Insert a VLOOKUP Function 02

    Before inserting a VLOOKUP function, the data in the first column must be sorted in ascending order.

  4. Click the Insert Function button.
    Insert a VLOOKUP Function

    The Insert Function dialog box opens.

  5. Select the VLOOKUP function.

    If you don’t see VLOOKUP in the list, select Lookup & Reference in the menu below the search field and scroll to VLOOKUP in the list.

  6. Click OK.
    Insert a VLOOKUP Function

    The Function Arguments dialog box displays, where you’ll enter all the information needed to return the correct value. The VLOOKUP function has three required arguments.

  7. Fill in the function arguments.
    • Lookup_value:The value to be found in the first column. It can be a value, a reference, or a text string.
    • Table_array:The entire cell range or table from which data will be retrieved.
    • Col_index_num:The column number in the table_array from which a matching value should be returned. The first column in the table or range is column 1.
    • Range_lookup:This is an optional argument. Add “True” to find the closest match to the lookup value, or “False” to only find an exact match.
  8. Click OK.
    Insert a VLOOKUP Function

    The VLOOKUP function is added in the selected cell. It will use the value you entered in step 2. Check to make sure the right value is being returned.

  9. Click the cell with the lookup value.
  10. Enter a new lookup value to search for in the first column of data.
  11. Click or press Enter.
    Insert a VLOOKUP Function

The cell containing the VLOOKUP function updates to return a value for the new lookup value you’ve entered.

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