by Natalia Sharashova, updated on
Merging duplicate rows in your spreadsheets may turn into one of the most intricate tasks. Let's see what Google formulas can help and get to know one smart add-on that does all the job for you.
You didn't think Google Sheets would lack functions for this kind of task, did you? ;) Here are the formulas you will need to consolidate rows and remove duplicate cells in spreadsheets.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of not simply removing duplicates but bringing duplicate rows together is Google Sheets CONCATENATE function and an ampersand (&) – a special concatenation operator.
Suppose you have a list of movies to watch and you'd like to group them by genre:
=CONCATENATE(B2," ",C2," ",B8," ",C8)
=B2&" "&C2&" "&B8&" "&C8
=CONCATENATE(A3,": ",B3," (",C3,"), ",B6," (",C6,") ")
=A3&": "&B3&" ("&C3&"), "&B6&" ("&C6&") "
Once the rows are merged, you can get rid of formulas and keep only the text by the example of this tutorial: Convert formulas to values in Google Sheets
As simple as this way may seem, it is obviously far from ideal. It requires for you to know the exact positions of duplicates, and it's you who should point them out to the formula. So, this can work for small datasets, but what to do when they get bigger?
This tandem of formulas finds duplicates in Google Sheets (and merges cells with unique records) for you. However, you are still in charge and have to show the formulas where to look. Let's see how it works on the same to-watch list.
The formula returns the list of all genres no matter if they repeat or don't repeat themselves in the original list. In other words, it removes duplicates from column A.
Tip. UNIQUE is case-sensitive, so make sure to bring the same records to the same text case. This tutorial will help you do that quickly in bulk.
Tip. Should you add more values to column A, the formula will expand the list automatically with unique records.
How do the elements of this formula work?
Copy the formula down and you'll get all the titles sorted by genre.
Note. In case you need years as well, you'll have to create the formula in the neighboring column since JOIN works with one column at a time:
So, this option equips Google Sheets with a few functions to combine multiple rows into one based on duplicates. And it happens automatically. Well, almost. I intend to hold the perfect solution back to the very end of the article. But feel free to hop to it right away ;)
There is one more function that helps operate huge tables – QUERY. It may seem a bit tricky at first, but once you learn how to use it, it will become your true companion in spreadsheets.
Here's the QUERY function itself:
How does it work:
Tip. You can get a full list of all commands here.
To put it simply, Google Sheets QUERY returns some sets of values based on the conditions you specify.
I want to get only comic book movies I am yet to watch:
=QUERY(A1:C,"select * where A='Comic Book'")
The formula processes my entire source table (A1:C) and returns all columns (select *) for comic book movies (where A='Comic Book').
Tip. I don't specify the last row of my table (A1:C) intentionally – to keep the formula flexible and return new records in case other rows are added to the table.
As you can see, it works similar to a filter. But on practice, your data can be much bigger – with numbers you may need to calculate.
Tip. Check out other ways to find duplicates in your Google Sheets table in this article.
Suppose I'm doing a little research and keeping track of the weekend box office for the newest movies in theaters:
I use Google Sheets QUERY to remove duplicates and count the total sum of money earned per movie for all weekends. I also alphabetize them by genre:
=QUERY(B1:D, "select B,C, SUM(D) group by B,C")
Note. For the group by command, you must enumerate all columns after select, otherwise, the formula won't work.
To sort records by movie instead, I can simply change the order of columns for the group by:
=QUERY(B1:D, "select B,C, SUM(D) group by C,B")
Let's assume you successfully run a bookstore and you keep track of all books that are in stock all over your branches. The list goes up to hundreds of books:
=QUERY('Copy of In stock'!A1:D,"select A,B,C,D where A='Rowling'")
=QUERY('In stock'!A1:D,"select A,B,C,D where (A='Rowling' and C contains 'Harry Potter')")
=QUERY('In stock'!A1:D,"select A,B, sum(D) where (A='Rowling' and C contains 'Harry Potter') group by A,B")
I guess for now you've got an idea of how the QUERY function "removes duplicates" in Google Sheets. Though it's an available-to-all option, for me, it's more like a roundabout way of combining duplicate rows.
Tip. QUERY is so powerful, it can merge not only duplicates within a sheet — it can match & merge the whole tables together.
What's more, until you learn the queries it uses and the rules of applying them, the function won't be much of a help.
When you give up all hope to find a simple solution to combine multiple rows based on duplicates, our add-on for Google Sheets makes a great entrance. :)
Tip. You can read more about this add-on in this article... or look through it below, of course :)
Combine Duplicate Rows scans a column with repeated records, merges corresponding cells from other columns, separates these records with delimiters, and consolidates numbers. All at the same time and in a matter of a few mouse clicks!
Remember my list of books in-store with a few hundred rows? Let's see how the tool will manage it.
Tip. Since the utility is part of Power Tools, please install it first and go directly to the Merge & Combine group:
Then click the add-on icon to open it:
For me, I'd like to have all books belonging to one author brought to one cell and separated by break lines. If any titles repeat themselves, the add-on will show them only once.
As for the quantity, I'm okay with totaling all books per author. The numbers for duplicate titles, if there are any, will be added together.
The tool has combined duplicate rows in my list of books. Here's a part of how my data looks now:
Tip. Alternatively, you can split one sheet to multiple sheets so there's a separate table with all books per author, or highlight duplicate rows in Google Sheets.
Tip. Have a quick look at how I used the add-on:
Or watch a short video introducing the tool:
Another possibility Combine Duplicate Rows offers is to semi-automate its use.
If you often go through the steps and select the same options, you can save them into scenarios. Scenarios let you reuse the same settings effortlessly on the same or different datasets.
You will need to give your scenario a name & specify a sheet and a range it should process:
The settings you save here can be quickly called for from the Google Sheets menu. The add-on will start combining duplicate rows right away, sparing you some extra time:
I truly encourage you to get to know the tool and its options better, for Google Sheets is "dark and full of terrors" if you know what I mean ;)
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