So important is Microsoft Excel to the world's data that the smallest difference between datasets can have consequences that ripple outward like a stone thrown in a calm pond. DiffEngineX is a powerful tool that identifies the differences between two Excel workbooks or individual worksheets, even thousands at a time. But unlike standard difference analysis, it takes into account any new or blank rows, cells, and columns. It's not something you can just fire up and run, but the payoff for a little prep is accurate identification of actual differences in huge amounts of data in minutes or seconds. We tried the fully functional 30-day trial of DiffEngineX with Excel 2010.
DiffEngineX's user interface is all business, with identical entry fields and worksheet displays for Workbook #1 and Workbook #2 and controls to select whether to compare whole workbooks or selected sheets, align rows and columns, and color differences at the cell level and highlight character-level differences (the last two are selected by default). Clicking Options brought up a detailed sheet of options covering Reports, Formulae, Cell and Numeric Value Comparisons, and other areas. An Extras button let us choose colors and hide rows in various ways, among other preferences. The Help file includes a tutorial that we'd highly recommend following.
Our quick-and-easy test consisted of comparing a finished workbook with its unfilled template. We simply browsed to each and pressed Start Comparison. The job finished quickly and included a summary report detailing the differences. The sheets themselves opened, both color-coded and highlighted for the quickest possible identification of differences. While all that sounds simple, DiffEngineX isn't totally automatic: even Excel experts will need to spend some time making sure everything's ready. But it will be time well spent when DiffEngineX does in minutes what might have taken many hours manually.
DiffEngineX is a utility that reports on the differences between the formulae, constants, defined names, cell comments and Visual Basic (VBA) macros contained in either two whole Excel workbooks or selected worksheets. As Excel workbooks get modified over time new rows and columns can be inserted in between existing rows and columns. This can confuse a straightforward difference analysis where identical cells are only recognized as such if they have the same row and column numbers in both of the sheets being compared. DiffEngineX can align both similar rows and columns between the worksheets being compared by the insertion of blank rows and columns. As such this problem is avoided. Conventional reports listing each cell difference are difficult to understand given the lack of context. This is why there is an option to automatically create copies of the workbooks being compared and then modify them such that the differences are highlighted in color. The options available allow users a choice between comparing formulae directly or by their calculated values. For example if two cells containing =2*6 and =3*4 are compared directly they will reported as different. If they are compared by their calculated values they will be reported as identical. It is common in workbooks modeling certain financial scenarios to have blocks of tens to hundreds of equivalent formulae that only differ from their neighbors in terms of their inputs. The absolute coordinates of these inputs change from one cell to the next, but the relative coordinates do not. If a later version of such a workbook is compared to an earlier one, hundreds of changes can potentially be reported. This makes a difference report tedious to inspect. DiffEngineX has a powerful feature to group equivalent changes made to contiguous cells into just one reported change made to a range of cells. It can be used from its user interface or the command prompt.
What's new in this version:
- This is the next major release of DiffEngineX.
- Better error handling of problematic text.