What is VLOOKUP(), INDEX() And MATCH()?

What is VLOOKUP(), INDEX() And MATCH()?

If you are an Excel user or heard about these Excel formulas, you must know about these Excel Functions. VLOOKUP(), MATCH(), INDEX(), and INDEX MATCH are all essential functions in Microsoft Excel used for looking up and retrieving data from different parts of a spreadsheet. While they can achieve similar results, each function has strengths and weaknesses.

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What is the VLOOKUP() Function?

VLOOKUP is a function in Microsoft Excel used to search for a specific value in a table and return a corresponding value from a different column within the same row. It stands for “Vertical Lookup” because it searches down a column of data.

Now, You can use the VLOOKUP function to return the price related to the part number. 

It increases your efficiency by saving time by looking up and searching for the values related to the required row.   

Here are some of the best ways to use the VLOOKUP function effectively:

  1. Look up information based on a unique identifier: VLOOKUP is most efficient when the first column of your data table contains unique identifiers, like product codes, customer IDs, or employee IDs. This ensures that VLOOKUP finds the exact match and avoids any ambiguity.
  1. Use relative cell references: Instead of hardcoding cell ranges in the formula, use relative references. This allows you to copy the formula to other cells without manually adjusting the ranges. For example, instead of B2:E21, use B2:E to reference the entire table regardless of where the formula is placed.
  1. Use VLOOKUP with other functions: The VLOOKUP function can be used with other functions for more complicated tasks. For instance, you can use IFERROR to handle errors if the lookup value is not found or INDEX and MATCH for more flexible lookups.
  2. Ensure data is appropriately organized: VLOOKUP works best when the data table is well-organized, with the lookup column in the leftmost position and the data you want to retrieve in subsequent columns.

What is INDEX() Function?

INDEX() is also an inbuilt function that fetches a value from the table within the specific range of cells based on column and row number. 

The syntax of the INDEX function is:

INDEX(array, row_num, [column_num])


  • array: The range of cells or arrays from which you want to retrieve the data.
  • row_num: The row number within the array you want to extract the data.
  • [column_num]: The column number within the array. If omitted, the INDEX function will return the entire row specified by row_num.

Here are the two Best ways to use the INDEX function: 

  • Entire Rows or Columns
  • Single Values

Using INDEX for Single Values: If you want to extract a single value from a specific row and column in your array.

Using INDEX for Entire Rows or Columns: If you write the [column_num] argument, INDEX will return the entire row specified by row_num. Similarly, if you write the row_num, it will return the whole column specified by column_num.

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What is the Match() Function?


The MATCH function in MS Excel helps you find the position of a value within a range. It’s useful when you need to know where something is arranged in a list or an array.

The syntax of the MATCH function is:

MATCH(lookup_value, lookup_array, [match_type])

  • lookup_value: The value you want to find.
  • lookup_array: The range of cells or array where you want to search for the value.
  • [match_type]: Specifies the type of match:
  1. 0 or omitted: Exact match.
  2. 1: Finds the largest value less than or equal to the lookup value.
  3. -1: Finds the smallest value which is greater than or equal to the lookup value.

Sometimes, most people were aware of the Vlookup and needed to be made aware of the index() and match combo.

How Do You Use Index Match Instead of VLOOKUP?

VLOOKUP in Excel is a useful function used for lookup and reference. It looks for the desired values from the row and column to find a match. We can perform the same operations as VLOOKUP using a combination of INDEX and MATCH. INDEX function gives the value of a cell based on the column and row number. Whereas the MATCH function gives the position of a cell in a row or column. Combining these two functions, we can look up a horizontal and vertical value.

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What is the Difference Between Index and Match? 

Are you wondering what is the difference between vlookup and index match in sheets?

Now, we’ll be looking for the difference between these two. 

What is more beneficial to use? 

Many MS Excel professionals prefer using INDEX MATCH instead of VLOOKUP. The thing is, the VLOOKUP function has many disadvantages. You can overcome these limitations by using the INDEX MATCH functions. For example, you may use VLOOKUP when the dataset is small, and the columns will not be inserted or deleted. However, in other cases, it would be better to use a combination of INDEX and MATCH functions. 

Let’s get into the main advantages of using INDEX MATCH rather than VLOOKUP.

Dynamic Column Reference: 

VLOOKUP requires a static column reference, whereas INDEX MATCH requires a dynamic one. For VLOOKUP, you must manually enter a number referencing the column from which you want to return the value. Adding a new column to the table breaks the VLOOKUP formula since you use static reference. Using INDEX MATCH allows you to select which particular column you want to pull the value from. 


You have to find the price from the Product ID. You select the cell G2, and assign the formula =VLOOKUP(F2,$A$2:$D$9,3, FALSE)



Insert/Delete Columns

VLOOKUP uses a static column reference. Therefore, it breaks the formula each time you add or delete a new column. You can set the formula to refer to the correct column manually. But it is a lot of work, especially with a large data set. Using INDEX MATCH functions can solve this problem with a dynamic column reference.

Lookup Value Size Limit

You need to ensure the total length of your lookup criteria does not exceed 255 characters; otherwise, you will have the #VALUE! error. But INDEX MATCH can look up values more than 255 characters in length. This is also why index matches are used more.

If you have a new column QR Code containing the 380-character QR Codes for the products, you must use Index Match rather than Vlookup.

Higher processing speed

The difference between VLOOKUP and INDEX/MATCH will be negligible if your table_array is small. However, if your worksheets have many rows and formulas, INDEX MATCH functions will work much faster than VLOOKUP. This is because MS Excel will process only the lookup. It will give columns rather than the entire table array in the output.

Lookup Value Position

VLOOKUP function will only work if the lookup value is in the first column. VLOOKUP cannot look to its left. However, INDEX MATCH solves this problem by performing the lookup horizontally and vertically. So, it doesn’t require the lookup value in the first column. It can be anywhere. 

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