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FILTER function in Excel (How to + 8 Examples)

FILTER Function

Filtering is a common everyday action for most Excel users. Whether using AutoFilter or a Table, it is a convenient way to view a subset of data quickly. Until the FILTER function in Excel was released, there was no easy way to achieve this with formulas. When Microsoft announced the changes to Excel’s calculation engine, they also introduced a host of new functions. One of those new functions is FILTER, which returns all the cells from a range that meet specific criteria.

At the time of writing, the FILTER function is only available in Excel 365, Excel 2021 and Excel Online. It will not be available in Excel 2019 or earlier versions.

Download the example file: Click the link below to download the example file used for this post:

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Arguments of the FILTER function

Before we look at the arguments required for the FILTER function, let’s look at a basic example to appreciate what it does.

FILTER Function Basic Usage

Here the FILTER function returns all the values in cells B3-B10 where the number of characters is greater than 15. Not a scenario that many of us will need, but it perfectly demonstrates the power of the new FILTER function.

FILTER has three arguments:

=FILTER(array, include, [if_empty])
  • array: The range of cells, or array of values to filter.
  • include: An array of TRUE/FALSE results, where only the TRUE values are retained in the filter.
  • [if_empty]: The value to display if no rows are returned.

Examples of using the FILTER function

The following examples illustrate how to use the FILTER function.

Example 1 – FILTER returns an array of rows and columns

In this example, cell F3 contains a single formula, but this formula returns an array of values into the neighboring rows and columns.

FILTER Function retuns array of rows and columns

The formula in cell F3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,C3:C10>100)

This single formula is returning 2 rows and 3 columns of data where the values in C3-C10 are higher than 100.

Example 2 – #CALC! error caused by the FILTER function

The screenshot below displays what happens when the result of the FILTER function has zero results; we get the #CALC! error.

FILTER #CALC! Error

The formula in cell F3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,C3:C10>200)

As no rows meet the criteria of Invoice Value being higher than 200, the FILTER cannot return a value, so the #CALC! error is displayed.

Thankfully, Microsoft has given us the if_empty argument, which displays a message if there are no rows returned.

FILTER Function with if_empty argument

The formula in cell F3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,C3:C10>200,"No Results")

In the screenshot above, No Results displays instead of the #CALC! error.

If we wanted to display a result in each column, we could include a constant array within the if_empty argument. The following shows n/a in the Invoice Value and Days Due columns.

=FILTER(B3:D10,C3:C10>200,{"No Results","n/a","n/a"})

This formula would result in the following:

nction no results, multiple if_empty values

Example 3 – FILTER expands automatically when linked to a table

This example shows how the FILTER function responds when linked to an Excel table.

FILTER expands automatically with table

The FILTER is set to show items where Invoice Value is higher than 100. New records added to the Table which meet the criteria are automatically added to the spill range of the function. Amazing stuff!

Example 4 – Using FILTER with multiple criteria.

Example 4 shows how to apply FILTER with multiple criteria.

FILTER with multiple AND conditions

The formula in cell F3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,(C3:C10>50)*(D3:D10>30))

For anybody who has used the SUMPRODUCT function, this method of applying multiple conditions will be familiar. Multiplication creates AND logic (i.e., all the criteria must be TRUE). The example above shows where the Invoice Value is greater than 50 and the Days Due is greater than 30.

Addition creates OR logic (i.e., any individual condition can be TRUE).

FILTER with multiple OR conditions

The formula in cell G3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,(C3:C10>50)+(D3:D10>30))

The example above shows where the Invoice Value is greater than 50 or the Days Due is greater than 30.

Example 5 – Using FILTER for dependent dynamic drop-down lists

Drop-down lists are a data validation technique. Dependent drop-down lists are an advanced technique where the lists change depending on the result of another cell. For example, if the first drop-down list displays country names, the second drop-down list should only display cities that exist in that country. In Excel 2019 and before there are only tedious methods to achieve this effect, but the new FILTER function makes this super easy.

FILTER - Dependent drop-down lists

The formula in cell H3 is:

=UNIQUE(B3:B10)

The UNIQUE function creates a unique list to populate the drop-down in cell F4.

The formula in cell I3 is:

=FILTER(C3:C10,B3:B10=F4)

Depending on the value in cell F4, the values returned by the FILTER function change. The second drop-down in cell F6 changes dynamically based on the value in Cell F4.

Example 6 – Using FILTER with other functions

In this final example, FILTER is nested inside the SORT function.

FILTER and SORT together

The formula in cell F3 is:

=SORT(FILTER(B3:D10,D3:D10<=30))

First, the FILTER function returns the cells based on the Days Due being less than or equal to 30. The SORT function then puts the Customers into ascending alphabetical order.

Example 7 – Using FILTER to show matching items from a list

How can we match a list of items that could have an unknown size? We can’t keep updating our FILTER function by adding and removing criteria. And, if we had a lot of items to match, it would soon become unmanageable. So, let’s see how we can solve this.

In the example below, the formula in cell H3 returns only the customers listed in F3:F4.

FILTER Example 7 - Matching based on a list

The formula in cell H3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,COUNTIFS(F3:F4,B3:B10),"No results")

The COUNTIFS function returns a positive number if the item exists in both the data and the list, or zero if it exists in only one. Since positive numbers are always TRUE and zeros are always FALSE, this provides the TRUE/FALSE logic required for the FILTER function to return only the matching items.

NOTE: If the list starting in F3 were generated by another array formula, or by Power Query this solution would be completely dynamic (that is outside the scope of the current post, so we have used static ranges for this example).

Example 8 – Simulating wildcard search with FILTER

The FILTER function does not allow wildcard characters in the criteria. However, by using a combination of SEARCH and ISNUMBER we can simulate a similar effect.

In the example below, the formula in cell H3 returns only the items where the customer name contains the letters in cell F3.

Example 8 - FILTER with wildcards

The formula in cell H3 is:

=FILTER(B3:D10,ISNUMBER(SEARCH(F3,B3:B10)),"No results")

SEARCH returns a number if the search term in cell F3 is found in each value in B3-B10.

ISNUMBER returns TRUE or FALSE for each value depending on if SEARCH returns a number. This TRUE/FALSE value provides the logic needed by FILTER to return the matching items.

In this scenario only, Milkshake Junction and Sunset Satay contain un as a substring, therefore only these customers are returned.

Want to learn more?

There is a lot to learn about dynamic arrays and the new functions. Check out my other posts here to learn more:


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About the author

Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.

My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.

In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).


Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?

I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you're still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise.  List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

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