This is CRAZY!!!. I stumbled on a weird use for FILTERXML() while reading a forum post earlier today. So I couldn’t wait to test it. I am happy to share the results.
Say you have some text (sentence / phrase / keyword etc.) in a cell and you want to extract the nth word. Unfortunately Excel doesn’t have SPLIT() formula. So we end up writing obscenely long array formulas or use gazillion helper columns.
Here is the super sneaky trick. Use FILTERXML() instead.
See this example
How to extract words from sentence with FILTERXML
Say you have a long sentence (or keyword phrase) in cell C3.
Step 1: Convert this to valid XML
This sounds complicated that it is. All you need to do is prefix, insert and suffix some tags. Like this:
="<DATA><A>"& SUBSTITUTE(C3, " ", "</A><A>") & "</A></DATA>"
This will turn C3 in to a valid XML block with each word as <A> node.
Step 2: Use FILTERXML on this to extract words
Now that we have valid XML, you can say =FILTERXML(C5, “\\DATA\A”)
to extract the 3rd word from our XML converted sentence.
Step 3: There are no more steps. Enjoy FILTERXML.
Bonus trick: Use [last()] to get the last word. For example, =FILTERXML(C5, “\\DATA\A[last()]”) will get you the last word from sentence.
Watch this – how to extract words with FILTERXML() in Excel
I was so excited to learn about this that I recorded a video in my robe. Rated A (for awesomeness), Do check it out below or on my YouTube page.
Download example workbook
Click here to download the example file for this tip. Play with FILTERXML to learn more.
Learn more about XML & XPATH
If you want to learn how XML and Xpath work, check out these pages.
What if you can’t use FILTERXML?
FILTERXML works in Excel 2013 or above. But if you are using an older version of Excel or Excel for Mac, then you can’t rely on this method. Check out below two examples to learn other ways to split and extract words from sentences.
Do you FILTERXML for splitting or something else …?
What about you? Have you used FILTERXML for any other out of box situations? Please share in the comments. Pretty please with sprinkles of conditional formatting icons on top 🙂