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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

### Example 3 – FILTER expands automatically when linked to a table

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

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).

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.

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.

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**.

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**.

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:

- Introduction to dynamic arrays – learn how the excel calculation engine has changed.
- UNIQUE – to list the unique values in a range
- SORT – to sort the values in a range
- SORTBY – to sort values based on the order of other values
- FILTER – to return only the values which meet specific criteria
- SEQUENCE – to return a sequence of numbers
- RANDARRAY – to return an array of random numbers
- Using dynamic arrays with other Excel features – learn to use dynamic arrays with charts, PivotTables, pictures etc.
- Advanced dynamic array formula techniques – learn the advanced techniques for managing dynamic arrays

**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?**

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