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How to compare two strings for similarity or highlight differences in Excel?

Author: Siluvia Last Modified: 2020-04-28

In some cases, you may only need to compare two adjacent cells of strings and mark their similarities or differences in Excel. This article provides two methods for you to achieve it.

Compare two strings with formula
Compare two strings for similarity or highlight differences with VBA code


Compare two strings with formula

As below screenshot shown, if you just want to know whether the compared strings are matched or not, you can apply the following formula.

1. Select a blank cell C2, enter formula =EXACT(A2, B2) into the Formula Bar, and then press the Enter key. See screenshot:

Note: In the formula, A2 and B2 are the cells containing the comparing strings.

2. Keep selecting the result cell, then drag the Fill Handle to the cells until getting all compared results.

The FALSE result means that the compared strings are different, and the TRUE result indicates the two compared strings are matched. See screenshot:


Compare two strings for similarity or highlight differences with VBA code

If you want to compare two strings and highlight the similarities or differences between them. The following VBA code can help you.

1. Press Alt + F11 keys simultaneously to open the Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications window.

2. In the Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications window, click Insert > Module. Then copy and paste the following code into the Code window.

VBA code: Compare two column strings for similarity or highlight differences

Sub highlight()
    Dim xRg1 As Range
    Dim xRg2 As Range
    Dim xTxt As String
    Dim xCell1 As Range
    Dim xCell2 As Range
    Dim I As Long
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim xLen As Integer
    Dim xDiffs As Boolean
    On Error Resume Next
    If ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.Count > 1 Then
      xTxt = ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.AddressLocal
    Else
      xTxt = ActiveSheet.UsedRange.AddressLocal
    End If
lOne:
    Set xRg1 = Application.InputBox("Range A:", "Kutools for Excel", xTxt, , , , , 8)
    If xRg1 Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
    If xRg1.Columns.Count > 1 Or xRg1.Areas.Count > 1 Then
        MsgBox "Multiple ranges or columns have been selected ", vbInformation, "Kutools for Excel"
        GoTo lOne
    End If
lTwo:
    Set xRg2 = Application.InputBox("Range B:", "Kutools for Excel", "", , , , , 8)
    If xRg2 Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
    If xRg2.Columns.Count > 1 Or xRg2.Areas.Count > 1 Then
        MsgBox "Multiple ranges or columns have been selected ", vbInformation, "Kutools for Excel"
        GoTo lTwo
    End If
    If xRg1.CountLarge <> xRg2.CountLarge Then
       MsgBox "Two selected ranges must have the same numbers of cells ", vbInformation, "Kutools for Excel"
       GoTo lTwo
    End If
    xDiffs = (MsgBox("Click Yes to highlight similarities, click No to highlight differences ", vbYesNo + vbQuestion, "Kutools for Excel") = vbNo)
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    xRg2.Font.ColorIndex = xlAutomatic
    For I = 1 To xRg1.Count
        Set xCell1 = xRg1.Cells(I)
        Set xCell2 = xRg2.Cells(I)
        If xCell1.Value2 = xCell2.Value2 Then
            If Not xDiffs Then xCell2.Font.Color = vbRed
        Else
            xLen = Len(xCell1.Value2)
            For J = 1 To xLen
                If Not xCell1.Characters(J, 1).Text = xCell2.Characters(J, 1).Text Then Exit For
            Next J
            If Not xDiffs Then
                If J <= Len(xCell2.Value2) And J > 1 Then
                    xCell2.Characters(1, J - 1).Font.Color = vbRed
                End If
            Else
                If J <= Len(xCell2.Value2) Then
                    xCell2.Characters(J, Len(xCell2.Value2) - J + 1).Font.Color = vbRed
                End If
            End If
        End If
    Next
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

3. Press the F5 key to run the code. In the first Kutools for Excel dialog box, select the first column of text strings you need to compare, and then click the OK button.

4. Then the second Kutools for Excel dialog box pops up, please select the second column strings, and click the OK button.

5. In the last Kutools for Excel dialog box, if you want to compare strings for similarity, click the Yes button. And to highlight the differences of the compared strings, click the No button. See screenshot:

Then you can see the compared results as below screenshot shown.


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Comments (21)
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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Is there an idiot's guide to Kutools anywhere?
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Hi Sandy,

You can find the guide for each Kutools feature on this page: Kutools for Excel All Features Tutorial
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Hi,
How can i edit the code such that it will compare 2 columns and highlight the differences in both columns?
Eg:
Column 1
A1,A2,A3,A4: Highlight A1 & A3
Column 2
A2,A4,A5,A6,A7: Highlight A5,A6,A7
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Hi Lala,
It would be nice if you could upload a screenshot of your data and the result you want to get.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Confrontando la cella VIA ROMA 1 con la cella VIA RROMA 1 il programma evidenzia in rosso sia RROMA che 1. Non si può fare in modo che evidenzi solo la lettera diversa e quindi R? Grazie
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
in your example, words "lets try" is similar but your code can't highlight it.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
To avoid any trouble of this code with the spaces which should be in ASCII value 32 or 160 (especially if the string comes from HTML) you need to include the test line 46 in a if endif loop as below:
If Not ((Asc(xCell1.Characters(J, 1).Text) = 32 Or Asc(xCell1.Characters(J, 1).Text) = 160) And (Asc(xCell2.Characters(J, 1).Text) = 32 Or Asc(xCell2.Characters(J, 1).Text) = 160)) Then
( line 46 If Not xCell1.Characters(J, 1).Text = xCell2.Characters(J, 1).Text Then Exit For)
End If

Nevertheless thanks for the code.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
How do I add this properly? I am getting an error when I tried to replace line 46. Thank you
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
THANK YOU! this is just what i needed!
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
I was so hoping this would work. It appears to compare whole cells and not characters within the cells. Simply comparing Candy in one cell to Andy in another finds no similarities. And when I compare for differences the entire name Andy is highlighted in red.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
First off..THANKS Extend Office folks for the good code!!

Try this modification. It simply expands the per character checking loop to include the font color formatting, adds a default "Black", and also compares characters out to the longest of the two cells being compared.

Sub highlight()
    Dim xRg1 As Range
    Dim xRg2 As Range
    Dim xTxt As String
    Dim xCell1 As Range
    Dim xCell2 As Range
    Dim I As Long
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim xLen As Integer
    Dim xDiffs As Boolean
    On Error Resume Next
    If ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.Count > 1 Then
      xTxt = ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.AddressLocal
    Else
      xTxt = ActiveSheet.UsedRange.AddressLocal
    End If
lOne:
    Set xRg1 = Application.InputBox("Range A:", "Kutools for Excel", xTxt, , , , , 8)
    If xRg1 Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
    If xRg1.Columns.Count > 1 Or xRg1.Areas.Count > 1 Then
        MsgBox "Multiple ranges or columns have been selected ", vbInformation, "Kutools for Excel"
        GoTo lOne
    End If
lTwo:
    Set xRg2 = Application.InputBox("Range B:", "Kutools for Excel", "", , , , , 8)
    If xRg2 Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
    If xRg2.Columns.Count > 1 Or xRg2.Areas.Count > 1 Then
        MsgBox "Multiple ranges or columns have been selected ", vbInformation, "Kutools for Excel"
        GoTo lTwo
    End If
    If xRg1.CountLarge <> xRg2.CountLarge Then
       MsgBox "Two selected ranges must have the same numbers of cells ", vbInformation, "Kutools for Excel"
       GoTo lTwo
    End If
    xDiffs = (MsgBox("Click Yes to highlight similarities, click No to highlight differences ", vbYesNo + vbQuestion, "Kutools for Excel") = vbNo)
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    xRg2.Font.ColorIndex = xlAutomatic
    For I = 1 To xRg1.Count
        Set xCell1 = xRg1.Cells(I)
        Set xCell2 = xRg2.Cells(I)
        If xCell1.Value2 = xCell2.Value2 Then
            If Not xDiffs Then xCell2.Font.Color = vbRed
        Else
            xLen = Application.WorksheetFunction.Max(Len(xCell1.Value2), Len(xCell2.Value2))
            For J = 1 To xLen
                xCell2.Characters(J, Len(xCell2.Value2) - J + 1).Font.Color = vbBlack
                If Not xCell1.Characters(J, 1).Text = xCell2.Characters(J, 1).Text Then
                    If Not xDiffs Then
                        If J <= Len(xCell2.Value2) And J > 1 Then
                            xCell2.Characters(1, J - 1).Font.Color = vbRed
                        End If
                    Else
                        If J <= Len(xCell2.Value2) Then
                            xCell2.Characters(J, Len(xCell2.Value2) - J + 1).Font.Color = vbRed
                        End If
                    End If
                End If
            Next J
        End If
    Next
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
just want to say thanks!
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
How can I get difference number between two strings?

Example: "123456" and "213456" ==> 2 difference
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Very useful script! thanks
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