Here’s a question I got from one of my Excel classes subscribers, Joseph: ‘Sohail, can you kindly explain how best to use the Excel HLOOKUP?’
Yes, Joseph, here’s my explanation, although it may not be very kind:
‘Never use HLOOKUPs. Never ever.’
Is that, okay Joseph? Did I cover all the points you wanted me to?
Wouldn’t life be easier if I was a bit nicer and just explained the HLOOKUP to poor Joseph and to you? Then we could all skip merrily along to work as we whistle: ‘Hi ho, it’s off to work we go’ in unison.
No. It wouldn’t be.
I would be complicating your life a bit more and bringing you a step closer to mediocrity in your thinking. Then I wouldn’t able to sleep at night, and I’m driven by two things in life:
- Stamping out mediocrity
- Sleep quality
My Excel classes avoid singing the praises of HLOOKUP because, well, it’s far from the most valuable thing you could learn in any Excel class.
What is the HLOOKUP?
Let’s be honest, it’s the VLOOKUP’s uglier, bucked-tooth cousin. Instead of operating vertically to find data like the sexy VLOOKUP does, it prefers to go horizontally.
I can hear you cringing at my first world Excel problems.
So why do I have no love for the HLOOKUP?
Well, the Excel HLOOKUP was invented by the Microsoft team to give people another way to do something. In their focus groups and feedback, they look for where people struggle, and they attempt to solve these ‘problems’ by adding functionality.
They could see in some cases that people needed a horizontal approach to finding data, so they invented a function thinking that they solved a problem. But in reality, they created a bigger problem for professionals, because really what they should have done was to encourage people to store their data properly. This encouragement is exactly what you will find in any of my Excel tutorials and instruction materials. If you store your data properly, which is vertically into what I call ‘Long Boring Lists’ then, like me, you won’t ever use HLOOKUP.
The thinking by Microsoft that lead to the creation of the HLOOKUP is classic ‘painting over the cracks’ which gives the user only a very short-term benefit since it discourages professionals from properly storing data, which makes life way easier in the long term. Also, Microsoft is always trying to add to the number of formulas because lots of Excel formulas means more functionality which is, of course, a selling point, especially for an iteratively developing tool.
Why Avoiding HLOOKUP Matters in the Grand Scheme
There are few things I hate more than overcomplicating. In fact, I am the anti “let’s add more stuff and learn everything guy”! You will discover this about me as you continue with my online Excel training.
What?! Am I saying I am against acquiring more and more knowledge?
Not exactly. Let me explain it to you like this: One of the most important books I’ve read in the last 10 years is called ‘The Paradox of Choice’ and in it psychologist Barry Schwarz explains how more choice in reality actually leads to more stress, overwhelm and inaction.
As professionals, especially one’s with more than a shred of ambition, we can’t afford inaction. But it’s very real.
So ideally, we want to reduce, reduce, reduce as many possible things in our life including the number of tools we need in our toolbox to solve problems.
Now that I’ve given the Excel HLOOKUP a jolly good thrashing, there are other sacred techniques that are overkill that I’m going to take to task. How to go about getting my insights?
Well, a good start is to go through my (free) E-Book ‘The Only 27 Excel Formulas a Professional Needs.’ It’s a great way to dip in to my Excel training.
Good Excel Classes Trim Away the Useless Stuff to Teach Better Skills
HLOOKUP might sound like a great idea, but in my experience, this is far from the truth. In my Excel classes we will cover Excel tutorials to help you understand the importance of storing your data properly in the first place. Once you have a solid understanding of this concept, the rest of the online Excel training will come to you easier.