Are you wondering what the Google Sheets not equal operator is and how it works? Don’t worry, because you’re not the only one. As useful as Google Sheets is for spreadsheets and data analysis, some of its more advanced functionality can seem confusing at first, even for basic tasks like comparing values.
This article will explain the ins and outs of the Google Sheets not equal operator. Whether you’re completely new to Google Sheets or have never used this particular operator before, this guide will walk you through what the not-equal-to operator does, when you would use it, and how to apply it in Google Sheets step-by-step.
We’ll also provide several practical examples of the not equal to operator so you can see exactly how it works in real spreadsheet scenarios.
Let’s kick things off by exploring what Google Sheets not equal operator is.
Google Sheets Not Equal Operator: What is It?
Imagine you have a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, and in two different cells, you have some information. The “Not Equal To” tool is like a detective that compares these two pieces of information to see if they are not exactly the same.
Let’s say you’re comparing numbers, like 5 and 8. The tool will tell you “TRUE” because 5 is not equal to 8. But if you’re comparing two identical numbers, like 6 and 6, it will tell you “FALSE” because they are equal.
This tool isn’t just for numbers. You can use it for other things, too, like words or formulas. So, whether you’re dealing with numbers or words, the “Not Equal To” tool helps you figure out if the stuff in your cells are different or not.
Understanding Comparison Operators in Google Sheets
As we mentioned earlier, comparison operators are tools you use to compare the content of one cell with another in Google Sheets. These operators help you analyze and make decisions based on the values in your cells. Whether you’re comparing numbers, text, or dates, comparison operators are handy tools for working with data.
What’s exciting about using comparison operators in Google Sheets is that you don’t need to be tech-savvy to make the most of this handy tool. Regardless of your experience, you should be able to easily employ these operators in different ways—either on their own or combined with other operators.
Think of them like the rules that allow you to check if one value is greater than, less than, equal to, or not equal to another. It’s like having a set of instructions to help you understand the relationships between different pieces of information in your spreadsheet.
Examples of Comparison Operators
To fully grasp how Google Sheets comparison operators work, it’s important to know a couple of these operators. To this end, we have put together some common operators you should know.
Here, check them out:
- Greater Than (>): Checks if one value is larger than another.
- Less Than (<): This comparison operator checks if one value is smaller than another.
- Equal To (=): Checks if two values are the same.
- Not Equal To (<>): Checks if two values are different.
By using these operators, you can create powerful formulas and conditions in Google Sheets to highlight, filter, or manipulate data based on specific comparisons.
Google Sheets Not Equal Syntax
Before we dive into how to practically use the Google Sheets not equal operator, let’s first understand the simple instructions for it.
For starters, there are basically two easy ways to tell Google Sheets you want to see if things are not the same. The first way uses a special function with a formula. It looks like this:
Here, “val1” is like telling Sheets, “Hey, look at this cell,” and “val2” is saying, “Now, see if it’s not the same as this other cell or value.”
The second way is even simpler. Instead of using a fancy function, you just type this:
It’s like saying, “Is this cell different from that cell or value?”
For today’s guide, we’ll stick to the second way, using the “<>” sign. But hey, both methods work the same way.
Copy Sample Sheet
If you want to follow along with today’s tutorial on Google Sheets not equal operator, feel free to copy our sample data.
Google Sheets Not Equal Operator: How To Use It
Now that you know what Google Sheets not equal operator is, it’s time to demonstrate how to use the not equal to operator. In this section, we’ll walk you through an example using some sample sales data.
Imagine we have a Google Sheet with data on monthly revenue numbers across different sales regions.
It looks something like this:
We want to add a column that compares each region’s January and February revenue to identify cases where the two months were not equal.
Here are the step-by-step directions:
Step 1: Insert a New Column
First things first, we need to update our spreadsheet by inserting a new column. This column will come immediately after the column for February Revenue. We will label this column as “Revenue Change.”
Step 2: Choose A Blank Cell
Now that we have updated our spreadsheet to include a new column, we also need to choose an empty cell in our spreadsheet. Basically, this is where we want the result of our comparison to show up. For this example, we will go with cell D2.
Step 3: Enter Not Equal To Formula
With the cell where we want our comparison result generated chosen, let’s quickly enter our comparison formula.
To do that, navigate to the formula bar and type in the following:
The formula used in the above step compares the January revenue in B2 and the February revenue in C2, outputting TRUE if they are not equal.
Step 4: Press Enter
After entering the formula like we showed you in the previous step, all that is left to do is hit the Enter button on your keyboard. This action authorizes Google Sheets to generate the comparison result in the selected cell.
If you did exactly as we explained above, you should have something like this:
Step 5: Generate Comparison Results for the Other Cells
From the previous step, we only generated comparison results for the East Coast region. Now, we need to repeat the process for the other regions. But instead of doing it manually, you can use the Google Sheets auto-fill feature to save time.
Here is how to go about it:
- Click on cell D2 with the formula you just created. See the small blue square in the bottom right corner? Hover over it until your cursor changes to a + symbol.
- Now, click and drag the blue square down through the cells below. This action will copy the formula to the other regions automatically.
The video below provides better insight.
And that’s it. The Not Equal To operator outputs TRUE/FALSE if the compared values are different or the same. Now, we easily see where revenue changed month-over-month in our data set.
You can follow this same process of comparing across columns to check for inequality as needed in your own Google Sheets.
Comparing Summations with Not Equal To
In addition to comparing numeric values like sales data, the not equal to formula can also be used to compare summations and we will show you how to go about that in this section.
Let’s look at an example of using the not equal to formula to compare summed values for different data sets. For this particular example, we will use the following sample data.
Now that we have our sample data prepared, let’s get down to business.
Step 1: Add New Column
Before we show you how to compare summations with not equal to, we need to update our spreadsheet. The goal here is to include a column for Sum Unequal. So, let’s head back to our sample sheet and include a column for “Sum Unequal.”
Step 2: Choose An Empty Cell
Like we did in the first example, we need to choose a blank cell. This is where the result of our comparison will be generated. For this particular example, we will go with cell D2. If you’re following along with this tutorial, go ahead and select that cell in your spreadsheet.
Step 3: Enter the Not Equal To Formula
Now that we have chosen the cell where we want the comparison result to be generated, it’s time to apply our formula.
To do that, navigate to the formula bar and type in the following formula:
Note: This directly compares the January Apple summation to the January Orange summation using Not Equal To.
By comparing summation with not equal to, we can check if the sum of Apples differs from the sum of Oranges for any monthly period. Trust us when we say this is much easier than manually calculating all summation results first before comparing.
Not Equal To Comparisons with =NE()
In the previous examples, we showed you how to use the not equal to operator <> to compare values in Google Sheets for inequality. We particularly applied this operator to our sales data and summation example to demonstrate how you can easily compare data in Google Sheets.
But guess what? That is not the only way to go about it. In this section, we will show you how to use the built-in =NE() function to evaluate whether two inputs are not equal.
To demonstrate how this works, we will be using the following sample data for monthly website traffic, which depicts different site sections.
Here are the steps we need to take to compare traffic between months with =NE():
Step 1: Update Spreadsheet
As always, we need to update our spreadsheet to include a new column where we want our comparison result to be generated. So, let’s head back to our sample sheet and add a new column next to February. For this guide, we will call this new column Traffic Change.
Step 2: Choose A Blank Cell
After adding a new column to your spreadsheet, like we showed you in the previous step, the next thing we need to do is choose a blank cell in our spreadsheet. Basically, this cell is going to be where our comparison result will be generated.
For this particular example, we will select cell D2.
Step 3: Enter the Not Equal To Function
Having selected a blank cell where you want the comparison result to be generated, let’s quickly enter the formula.
To do that, navigate to the formula bar and type in the following formula:
Note: This compares the Homepage January traffic to February.
Step 4: Press Enter
With the not equal to function formula entered as we showed you, proceed to press the Enter button on your keyboard. This action authorizes Google Sheets to generate the comparison result in the selected cell.
If you followed the steps exactly as we detailed above, your spreadsheet should look something like this:
Step 5: Generating Comparison Results for the Other Cells
Once you enter your first =NE() formula that compares two data values in the same row, you can use Google Sheets’ auto-fill shortcut to quickly copy it to all subsequent rows. Here’s how auto-fill works:
- Start by clicking on the cell with the =NE() formula you just created to select it.
- In the bottom right corner, you’ll see a small blue square appear. Hover your mouse over that corner until your pointer changes shape to a + symbol.
- When you see that + pointer, click and keep holding your mouse while you drag down over all empty cells in that column where you want the formula copied.
- Once your range is selected all the way down your data set rows, let go of the mouse. Voila. Google Sheets instantly fills =NE() into all those cells by applying the formula pattern from your original across every row.
The video below provides better clarification on how to execute these steps.
Note: The =NE() function compares the monthly values for each section separately, outputting whether changes occurred, similar to the <> operator. This gives you an additional tool for Not Equal To tests in Google Sheets.
If you made it this far, congratulations. We covered a lot of ground explaining the ins and outs of the Google Sheets not equal operator. Let’s recap the key takeaways:
- The Not Equal To operator compares two values and returns TRUE if they are different in any way. Use it to easily spot mismatches.
- You can compare numbers, text, formulas – practically anything in Sheets. It’s a great tool for data analysis.
- The operator works either as “<>” between values or the =NE() function. Both work the same.
- To compare data across rows, use the handy auto-fill shortcut to copy your not equal formula down the sheet.
The examples we covered in today’s guide showed practical uses for the Google Sheets not equal operator. Whether it’s in sales data, web stats, summation comparisons, and more, leveraging this tool will make your task easy.
By taking advantage of this tool, you can seamlessly visualize changes and inconsistencies in your data.