Compare differences in two Excel files

Have you been in the position where you're juggling multiple versions of an Excel file, trying to find the differences?  Spend hours painstakingly pouring through one cell after another looking for any differences?

This happens all the time, and the solution is quite simple (short of using a document management tool like SharePoint, which is not always an option).  This uses the latest version of Microsoft Excel, so you'll need to upgrade to 2013 if you haven't already.

First, open both files.  For the example, I'm using two relatively simple files, and only changing the data.  The Compare functionality will look for differences in data, but also in formulas and metadata - very important if you can't figure out why your totals aren't quite adding up.  The files are below - you can see that in June, we changed Edna's salary, added a termination date for Bart, and added a new row for Moe:



After you have your two files open, on the ribbon in Excel, click on the 'Inquire' tab, and then on the 'Compare Files' icon:

A pop-up dialog box will appear, asking you to choose which files you want to compare:

Click the 'Compare' button, watch the wizard run, and the output highlights all of the differences in your two files.  In the example below, you can see each of the differences highlighted: in the results pane:

Imagine how much time you can save if you have thousands of rows, hundreds of columns, and embedded formulas galore, and your grand total just doesn't agree based on one fat-fingered value!