How to combine ranges / arrays in Excel with VSTACK & HSTACK functions

The tutorial shows how to merge multiple arrays in Excel 365 vertically and horizontally using VSTACK and HSTACK functions.

Combining two or more ranges has traditionally been a daunting task in Excel. Not any longer! The two functions recently introduced in Excel 365, VSTACK and HSTACK, have made the job incredibly easy. Now, merging ranges and arrays, even dynamic ones whose sources are variable in size, is as easy as supplying a couple of range references to a formula.

Excel VSTACK function

The VSTACK function in Excel combines multiple arrays or ranges vertically into a single array. Each subsequent array is appended to the first blank cell at the bottom of the previous array.

Syntax

The VSTACK function takes the following arguments:

VSTACK(array1, [array2], …)

Where arrays are cell ranges or arrays to join. Array1 is required; array2 and subsequent ones are optional.

Result

The output of VSTACK is a single array that has as many columns as the largest of the source arrays and as many rows as all of the source arrays combined.

For example, to combine two ranges vertically, the formula is:

=VSTACK(B5:D9, B14:D18) Excel VSTACK function

Excel HSTACK function

The HSTACK function in Excel merges multiple ranges or arrays horizontally into a single array. Each subsequent array is added to the right of the preceding array.

Syntax

The HSTACK function takes the following arguments:

HSTACK(array1, [array2], …)

Where arrays are cell ranges or arrays to join. Only array1 is required; additional arrays are optional.

Result

As an output, the HSTACK function returns a single array that has as many columns as all of the source arrays combined and as many rows as the tallest of the source arrays.

For example, to combine two ranges horizontally, the formula is:

=HSTACK(C4:F6, I4:L6) Excel HSTACK function

VSTACK and HSTACK availability

Currently, both functions are only available in the Office Insider Beta channel of Excel 365.

VSTACK and HSTACK functions - things to remember

To effectively use the VSTACK and HSTACK functions in your worksheets, here are some key facts to take note of:

  • The functions can merge ranges of cells, named ranges, array constants, and dynamic arrays returned by other formulas.
  • The formula should be entered just in one cell - the leftmost cell of the destination range. The resulting array automatically spills into as may cells as needed.
  • The output is fully dynamic. As soon as any change the original arrays occurs, the returned array is updated at once.
  • To have new data included in the resulting array automatically without updating the formula, you can use Excel tables for source arrays or refer to dynamic arrays as explained in the above-linked examples.

How to combine arrays in Excel - formula examples

With the VSTACK and HSTACK functions, combining ranges in Excel is really easy and straightforward. The below examples will give you some inspiration to get started and show best practices approaches.

Stack arrays horizontally or vertically

Depending on the structure of your original arrays and the layout of your worksheet, you can prefer combining ranges vertically or horizontally.

To merge multiple ranges into a single horizontal stack, use the HSTACK function. In this case, the ranges are stacked next to each other. For instance:

=HSTACK(B3:B7, B12:B16, B21:B25)

To combine multiple ranges into a single vertical stack, utilize the VSTACK function. In this case, the ranges are placed below each other. For example:

=VSTACK(B3:B7, B12:B16, B21:B25)

For better visualization, we are combining ranges including their headers. In real worksheets, you would normally join only data without column headers. Stack Excel arrays horizontally or vertically.

Merge ranges and array constants

In situations when column headers or some values are missing the original ranges, you can supply the missing data in an array constant directly to the VSTACK or HSTACK function. For example:

=VSTACK({"Item","Color","Size"}, A2:C6, A10:C14)

As a result, you'll get one array and two ranges stacked vertically below each other. Merging ranges and array constants together

Combine multiple Excel tables into one

Aside from arrays and ranges, the VSTACK and HSTACK functions can also merge multiple Excel tables into one. Given that Excel tables automatically expand to include new data, this is a perfect solution for data sets of variable size. Simply, supply table references to VSTACK and HSTACK, and you won't have to worry about updating your formulas no matter how many new row/columns of data are added to the source tables.

=VSTACK(Table1, Table2) Combining multiple Excel tables into one

Merge dynamic arrays

If the arrays you are combining are dynamic, i.e. returned by dynamic array formulas, you can join such arrays by using the spill range operator, which is a hash tag (#) appended to the address of the upper left cell in the range.

For example, to combine two arrays generated by the UNIQUE function in the screenshot below, you can use this formula:

=VSTACK(E3#, E12#)

Where E3 is the topmost cell of the first array and E12 is the topmost cell of the second array.

The benefit of this approach is that with any change in the source data, all 3 arrays will be recalculated and updated automatically by Excel. Merging Excel dynamic arrays

Handle blanks cells

In case the sources ranges contain empty cells, the returned array will have zeros in the place of blanks. To fix this, you can nest your VSTACK or HSTACK function in the first argument of SUBSTITUTE and tell it to replace zeros with empty strings (""). For example:

=SUBSTITUTE(VSTACK(A3:B7, A12:B16), 0, "") Handling blanks cells in the combined arrays

Note. Do not use this solution when the original arrays contain zero values, since absolutely all zeros in the returned array will be replaced with empty strings.

Combine ranges and remove empty rows

When there are any blank rows or columns in the sources ranges, the resulting array will have zero-filled rows or columns in their place. To eliminate such rows and/or columns, you can filter out blanks with the help of the FILTER function.

The general idea is to supply the VSTACK or HSTACK output to the array argument of the FILTER function and use instruct it to filter non-empty entries (<>"").

Essentially there can be three basic scenarios:

Filter out blanks based on the key column

To filter all rows in which a particular column is not blank, check that specific column. For example, to combine rows that have any value in column A, the formula in D4 is:

=FILTER(VSTACK(A3:B7, A12:B16), VSTACK(A3:A7, A12:A16)<>"")

Remove absolutely blank rows

To remove empty rows that do not have a single value in them, each column should be checked individually. To have it done, in the include argument of the FILTER function, you supply a separate criterion for each column and use the plus sign (+) to test them with the OR logic.

For example, to only remove absolutely blank rows and keep those that have a value in any column, the formula in G4 is:

=FILTER(VSTACK(A3:B7, A12:B16), (VSTACK(A3:A7, A12:A16)<>"")+(VSTACK(B3:B7, B12:B16)<>""))

For more information, please see How to filter with multiple OR criteria.

Eliminate all blanks

To filter out rows that have at least one empty cell in any column, you again check each individual column for non-blanks, but this time test the criteria with the AND logic using the asterisk (*).

For example, to remove rows that have blanks in either column A or B, the formula in E16 is:

=FILTER(VSTACK(A3:B7,A12:B16),(VSTACK(A3:A7,A12:A16)<>"")*(VSTACK(B3:B7,B12:B16)<>""))

For more details, please see How to filter with multiple AND criteria. Combine ranges and remove empty rows.

Tips:

  • Though the VSTACK and HSTACK functions return zeroes instead of empty cells, this is purely for presentation reasons. As there is no data in those cells, we use <>"" for the FILTER criteria. The <>0 criteria will work too.
  • To replace zeros with empty strings in the resulting array, use the SUBSTITUTE function as explained in the previous example.
  • This approach comes in handy for merging variable arrays that may grow in size as new data is added. Simply, stack more rows/columns than are currently filled with data and filter out the empty ones.

Combine ranges without duplicates

To combine only unique records from two or more ranges, use the stacking functions together with UNIQUE.

For example, to stack ranges B2:E4 and H2:K4 horizontally without duplicates, the formula in C8 is:

=UNIQUE(HSTACK(B2:E4, H2:K4), TRUE)

The logical value TRUE in the 2nd argument of UNIQUE tells the function to compare data across columns, not rows.

As the result, the 2nd occurrence of the year 2017 is left out of the resulting array: Combine Excel ranges without duplicates.

Join and sort arrays at once

When merging huge arrays, as a finishing touch, you may want to sort the output. This is quite easy to do by nesting HSTACK or VSTACK in another dynamic array function - SORT.

In our case, the formula takes this form:

=SORT(HSTACK(B2:E4, H2:K4), 1, 1, TRUE )

Breaking down the formula, this is what we have:

  • HSTACK(B2:E4, H2:K4) is the array to sort.
  • 1 in the 2nd argument is the sort index, i.e. the array is sorted by the first row (Year).
  • 1 in the 3rd argument indicates the ascending sort order.
  • TRUE means to sort columns, not rows.
Merge and sort arrays in Excel.

Combining same ranges from multiple sheets - 3D formula

To combine the same range of cells from different worksheets, use a 3D reference in your HSTACK or VSTACK formula.

To make a 3D VSTACK formula for the datasets below, this is what you need to do:

  1. In the leftmost cell of the destination range (A3), start typing the formula: =VSTACK(
  2. Click the tab of the first worksheet (Store 1 in our case).
  3. While holding the Shift key, click the tab of the last worksheet (Store 3).
  4. Select the range that you want to combine in all of the sheets (A2:C6).
  5. Type the closing parenthesis and press the Enter key.

The completed formula will look as follows:

=VSTACK('Store 1:Store 3'!A2:C6)

If your original datasets are likely to expand in future, you can include more rows than are currently populated with data, and then filter out empty rows. For instance:

=FILTER(VSTACK('Store 1:Store 3'!A2:C100), VSTACK('Store 1:Store 3'!A2:A100)<>"") 3D VSTACK formula to combine same ranges from different sheets

How to combine arrays of different size without errors

When merging two or more arrays of different size, Excel "expands" smaller array(s) to match the size of the largest one and returns #N/A errors in place of the missing values. To catch and handle those errors, you can use the IFNA function in Excel 2013 and higher or IFERROR in earlier versions.

In the below formula, IFNA is configured to replace #N/A errors with empty strings (""), which look like blank cells to the human eye.

=IFNA(HSTACK(B2:E4, H2:J3), "") Combine arrays of different size without errors.

VSTACK and HSTACK not working

If the functions do not work as expected or are not available in your Excel, you are likely to get one of these errors.

#NAME? error

Normally, occurs if the function's name is misspelled, but may also indicate that the function is not available in your Excel version. Please remember that VSTACK and HSTACK are only supported in Excel 365.

#SPILL! error

Occurs if one or more cells in the spill range are not completely blank. To fix it, just clear the obstructing cells. For more information, please see SPILL! error in Excel: causes and fixes

#N/A error

If one of the source arrays has fewer columns than the largest array, VSTACK returns #N/A errors in the columns where values are missing.

If one of the source arrays has fewer rows than the largest array, HSTACK returns #N/A errors in extra rows.

The solution is to use the IFNA or IFERROR function to replace errors with empty stings or another value of your choice as shown in this example.

That's how to combine arrays in Excel 365 using the VSTACK and HSTACK functions. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

Practice workbook for download

Stack ranges in Excel – formula examples (.xlsx file)

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