Author: Oscar Cronquist Article last updated on July 08, 2018

The image above demonstrates an array formula in cell E4 that searches for the closest date in column A to the date in cell E2.

Array formula in E4:

=INDEX(B3:B12, MATCH(MIN(ABS(B3:B12-$E$2)), ABS(B3:B12-$E$2), 0))

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How to enter an array formula

  1. Select cell E4
  2. Type or copy/paste above array formula to formula bar
    formula bar
  3. Press and hold Ctrl + Shift
  4. Press Enter

Learn more about array formulas:

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A beginners guide to Excel array formulas
Array formulas allows you to do advanced calculations not possible with regular formulas.

Explaining array formula in cell E4

You can easily follow along, select cell E3. Go to tab "Formulas" and press with left mouse button on "Evaluate formula".

Press with left mouse button on "Evaluate" button to move to next step.

Step 1 - Subtract dates with search date

B3:B12-$E$2

becomes

{39814; 39830; 39822; 39842; 39834; 39830; 39816; 39817; 39824; 39830}-39828

and returns {-14;2;-6;14;6;2;-12;-11;-4;2}

Step 2 - Convert numerical values to absolute values

The ABS function converts a negative number to a positive.

ABS(B3:B12-$E$2)

becomes

ABS({-14;2;-6;14;6;2;-12;-11;-4;2})

and returns {14;2;6;14;6;2;12;11;4;2}

Step 3 - Find smallest numerical value in array

The MIN function returns the smallest number in a cell range or array.

MIN(ABS(B3:B12-$E$2))

becomes

MIN({14;2;6;14;6;2;12;11;4;2})

and returns 2.

Step 4 - Find position in array

The MATCH function returns the relative position of a given value in an array or cell range.

MATCH(MIN(ABS(B3:B12-$E$2)), ABS(B3:B12-$E$2), 0)

becomes

MATCH(2, ABS(B3:B12-$E$2), 0)

becomes

MATCH(2, {14;2;6;14;6;2;12;11;4;2}, 0)

and returns 2. Numerical value 2 has position 2 in the array.

Learn more about the MATCH function:

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How to use the MATCH function
Identify the position of a value in an array.

Step 5 - Return value

INDEX(B3:B12, MATCH(MIN(ABS(B3:B12-$E$2)), ABS(B3:B12-$E$2), 0))

becomes

INDEX(B3:B12, 2)

becomes

INDEX({39814;39830;39822; 39842;39834;39830; 39816;39817;39824;39830}, 2)

an returns 39830 or 1-17-2009 in cell E4.

Learn more about the INDEX function:

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How to use the INDEX function
Gets a value in a specific cell range based on a row and column number.

Get excel example file

find-nearest-date.xls
(Excel 97-2003 Workbook *.xls)

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