You’re looking at a spreadsheet and you want to compare it to another one. In Word, it’s easy to line up two separate documents side by side to look at them both. In Excel – not so easy. This article explains how you can view two Excel spreadsheets next to each other on your screen and compare the two spreadsheets easily (or more, if you want!). Next week, we’re looking at how to view two sheets from the same workbook side by side, too! This article is valid for Excel 2007, Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 to some extent. The problem doesn’t exist in Excel 2013 as you can move spreadsheets around just like you can in Word, however the options still exist for arranging your multiple views (thanks to Alison Lees for pointing out the resolution of the problem).
Why can’t I view two Excel files on the same screen?
If you’re used to working with Word, you’ll know that if you have two Word documents open in any version of Word, you can pick them both up by the top bar (I usually do it near to the name of the document), slide them across to the left and right until they ping back and fill half of the screen …
… and end up with two documents next to each other (you can, of course, move the boundary between them to make one bigger and one smaller):
But, if you’ve ever tried to do this with two Excel spreadsheets, you’ll have found that you move one over …
… and the other one moves to sit underneath it, inaccessible and impossible to view at the same time as, say, Spreadsheet 1:
Move Spreadsheet 2 across to the right and Spreadsheet 1 will follow it. Grrr!
I’m going to show you how you can view both (or even lots of) spreadsheets on the same screen, in various arrangements, and then return to viewing only one. And next week I’ll show you how you can view two sheets from one workbook side by side.
The quick way to view two spreadsheets side by side
We’re going to look at the View tab here. In the View tab, you’ll find a button labelled View Side by Side.
If you have two spreadsheets open in, say, Excel 2010 (from which these screenshots are taken, but the process is the same for Excel 2007, 2010 and 2013), pressing this button will show you both spreadsheets, one above the other (this always reminds me of playing competitive driving games on the games console):
You can see that the Synchronous Scrolling button is highlighted in the image above. This is a really useful function – if you have both spreadsheets lined up to start with (i.e. you can see Column A and Line 1 at the top left of both), if this button is showing in yellow, scrolling in one spreadsheet (the active one has the scroll bar) will move the other spreadsheet up and down or left and right at the same time:
However, if you don’t want to use this feature, you can click on the Synchronous Scrolling button to turn it white, and then your two spreadsheets can be scrolled independently (the scroll bar still displays on the active spreadsheet, i.e. the one you’ve clicked on):
Note that synchronous scrolling only works in this View Side by Side option, so if that’s important to you, choose this option.
But what if you want to view the sheets side by side, or more than two in a tiled layout (I’ve got a widescreen monitor so I always want to view side by side)? Read on for that option …
How do I view two spreadsheets next to each other or in a tiled layout?
To view your multiple spreadsheets arranged next to each other, to swap to the horizontal view we just looked at, or to use the cascade option, stay in the View tab and the same area but click on the Arrange All button:
This will give you a range of options for displaying the spreadsheets that you currently have open:
Let’s look at these in turn …
Arrange all – Tiled
If you have two spreadsheets open, the Tiled option in Arrange All will simply show them arranged vertically, i.e. next to each other. All of my other examples feature two spreadsheets, but to demonstrate the Tiled option, here are four spreadsheets:
Note that the spreadsheets arrange themselves in the order in which you have them open, so if Spreadsheet 4 is the last one you looked at, that will appear top left. You can expand and move the individual spreadsheets, then return to Arrange All – Tiled to click them back into position again.
Arrange all – Horizontal
If you choose the Horizontal option in Arrange All, your spreadsheets will appear on top of each other, with the split between them horizontal:
Note here that I had Spreadsheet 2 active (visible) when I chose this option, so it appears at the top. To choose which one appears at the top, have that particular spreadsheet visible and active when you click on the Arrange All button.
Arrange All – Vertical
Choosing the Vertical option in Arrange All gives you the two (or more) spreadsheets arranged next to each other, with the split between them vertical:
This is how I prefer to view them.
Arrange All – Cascade
I find this one a bit odd. When you choose the Cascade option in Arrange All, the windows containing the individual spreadsheets all appear on top of each other, with a little bit of one poking out from underneath the active one. Here, Spreadsheet 1 is just showing at the top, but if I click on Spreadsheet 1, Spreadsheet 2 will be sticking out at the bottom. It’s odd, but there must be a reason for it, or Excel wouldn’t offer it:
How do I get back to viewing only one spreadsheet at a time?
If you want to return to a full-screen view of a particular spreadsheet, simply double-click on the title bar of your spreadsheet (by its name) and it will expand and be the only one visible:
In this article, we’ve learned how to view two or more Excel spreadsheets on the screen at the same time, and how to return to a single spreadsheet view.
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Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Excel currently in use – Excel 2007, Excel 2010 and Excel 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Excel should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!