HLookup vs VLookup-Which is a More Useful Built-in Function to Analyze Large Excel Data Sets


Excel users often have to accomplish the hectic task of identifying a Look up data in spreadsheet tables. In particular, the task becomes tedious while handling tables containing large databases. For this, excel uses many functions to analyze large data sets. In particular, the two commonly used built-in functions are VLookup and HLookup. However, the question is which is the frequently used function in spreadsheets. For this, you should know the basic overview of the functions, and HLookup vs VLookup based on many criteria, as shared here.

Overview of HLookup

The HLookup function is the short form of the Horizontal Lookup function, and it is a demanding lookup function used in Excel. It looks for values horizontally across a set of table rows. It searches for any value in the table’s top row and checks other rows in the same table to return a corresponding value. HLookup function uses four different arguments named Table_Array, Lookup, Range_Lookup, and Row_Index. Moreover, it uses two function arguments for returning a value in the spreadsheet table and considers both numbers and strings as arguments. Accordingly, True indicates an approximate match to any lookup value while False indicates the exact match.

Points to Consider Using HLookup

  • HLookup is a case insensitive function, because of which it will consider tap and TAP as the same.
  • The Lookup value in this function must be the topmost row of the argument Table_Array. However, if you have to look anywhere else, you should use alternate Excel formula.
  • HLookup provides support to ‘?’, ‘*’ and other wildcard characters within the argument Lookup_Value in your value is plain text.
  • The horizontal lookup function will show a #N/A error if Range_Lookup highlights FALSE and the function fails to search for the Lookup value in a specific range.
  • You should keep in mind that HLookup built-in Excel function returns a single value, and it would be the first value that matches your lookup value.

Overview of VLookup

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VLookup function is the acronym for Vertical Lookup. It is the oldest and most popular lookup Excel formula used mainly to search specific data or information in a spreadsheet. For instance, you may look for the price of different items from a list of products mentioned with their prices. VLookup searches for any value present in the leftmost column in a spreadsheet and returns a value to give an approximate match. The value may be either False or True.

Points to Consider Using VLookup

  • Like the case of HLookup, the value any user wants to look up refers to the lookup value.
  • VLookup function is not case-sensitive.
  • The range in vertical lookup refers to the location of your lookup value. You should remember that any lookup value should stay in the first column and within the VLookup range to perform functions appropriately. For instance, your range will start from C if your lookup value is in the C3 cell.
  • The column number will stay in the range containing the respective return value. For instance, if you mention B1:D10 as your range, you must count B as your first column, C as the second and goes on.
  • You may optimally specify TRUE if you are looking for an approximate match.
  • In contrast, you should specify FALSE while searching for the exact match of your return value.
  • If you do not mention anything, the function will consider TRUE as the default value and highlights an approximate match there.
  • VLookup function will search for the first match only if you have duplicate matching values in your Lookup.
  • The function also supports wildcards to conduct a partial match on every lookup value.
  • Like HLookup, VLookup also highlights the #N/A error if it fails to find the Lookup value in your highlighted range.

Categories to Differentiate HLookup and VLookup Functions in Excel

Excel users who want to analyze HLookup vs VLookup may do so based on the following criteria or categories.

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Usability of the Function

Users should use VLookup while finding specific data or groups of data from vertical spreadsheets. On the other hand, the HLookup function finds data from any horizontal Excel sheet.

Frequency of Usage

Individuals use both HLookup and VLookup functions while performing their daily tasks. However, VLookup is the frequently used function while HLookup is a seldom used function in Microsoft Excel.

Searched Data

Both functions look for an exact match in the lookup values while returning an approximate matched value if they fail to find the right match. However, the process or searched data will be different in both functions. The HLookup function searches any value horizontally in the spreadsheet table’s top row and returns the respective value from the second row of the same table. Here, the function creates a horizontal lookup. In contrast, the VLookup function searches for any value present vertically in the extreme left column of the spreadsheet table. It also returns an adjacent value from any other column associated with the lookup value.


One can use both HLookup and VLookup functions in Excel to search and retrieve accurate values from any lookup table based on the entered values. However, HLookup vs VLookup highlights that they are not equivalent and work well only for specific circumstances. Accordingly, VLookup is an Excel formula to perform vertical lookups via a table column. In contrast, you may use the HLookup function when you have data listed in Excel rows, as it searches any value horizontally via rows. Each of the two Excel Lookup functions uses four pieces of data or arguments to find data in a large set of data efficiently. As information often remains arranged in columns, VLookup is a more frequently used function by modelers than its counterpart HLookup function. Nevertheless, individuals willing to gain expertise in handling large data sets in a spreadsheet should dedicate time to learning both sincerely.


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