Excel VBA Find – A Complete Guide

VBA Find

“I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of” – Michel de Montaigne



This post covers everything you need to know about the VBA Find function. It explains, how to use Find, in simple terms. It also has tons of code examples of Find you can use right now.

If you want to go straight to an example of Find then check out How to do a Simple Find.

If you want to search for text within a string then you are looking for the InStr and InStrRev functions.

If you want to find the last row or column with data then go to Finding the Last Cell Containing Data


What is the VBA Find Function?

The Find function is very commonly used in VBA. The three most important things to know about Find are:

  1. The Find function is a member of Range.
  2. It searches a range of cells containing a given value or format.
  3. It is essentially the same as using the Find Dialog on an Excel worksheet.


Excel Find Dialog

To view the Excel Find dialog, go to the Home ribbon and click on Find & Select in the Editing section. In the menu that appears select Find(shortcut is Ctrl + F)

Excel VBA Find Ribbon

When  you do this the following dialog will appear

Excel Find dialog

The VBA Find function uses most of the options you can see on this Dialog.


How to Use Options With Find

To use the options you pass them as parameters to the Find function. This is similar to how you use worksheet functions. For example, the Sum function has a Range as a parameter. This means you give it a range when you use it.

The VBA Find uses parameters in the same way. You must give it the item you are searching for. This is the first parameter and it is required.

The rest of the parameters are optional. If you don’t use them then Find will use the existing settings. We’ll see more about this shortly.

The table in the next section shows these parameters. The sections that follow this, give examples and details of how to use these parameters.


VBA Find Parameters

The following tables shows all the Find parameters.

WhatRequiredThe value you are searching forAny VBA data type e.g String, Long
AfterOptionalA single cell range that you start your search fromRange("A5")
LookInOptionalWhat to search in e.g. Formulas, Values or CommentsxlValues, xlFormulas, xlComments
LookAtOptionalLook at a part or the whole of the cell xlWhole, xlPart
SearchOrderOptionalThe order to searchxlByRows or xlByColumns.
SearchDirection OptionalThe direction to searchxlNext, xlPrevious
MatchCaseOptionalIf search is case sensitiveTrue or False
MatchByteOptionalUsed for double byte languagesTrue or False
SearchFormatOptionalAllow searching by format. The format is set using Application.FindFormatTrue or False


Important Note about Find Parameters

Keep the following in mind as it can cause a lot of frustration when using Find.

As you can see from the table most of the VBA Find parameters are optional. As we said earlier, if you don’t set a Find parameter it uses the existing setting.

For example, if you set the LookIn parameter to xlComments, it will search for a value in comments only. The next time you run Find(either from the Dialog or from VBA) the existing LookIn setting will be Comments.

The following code shows an example of this

' Search in comments only
Range("A1:A5").Find "John", LookIn:=xlComments
' Will search comments as this is the existing setting
Range("A1:A5").Find "John"

' Search in formulas only
Range("A1:A5").Find "John", LookIn:=xlFormulas
' Will search formulas as this is the existing setting
Range("A1:A5").Find "John"

This applies to the parameters LookIn, LookAt, SearchOrder, and MatchByte.


The Find Return Value

If the search item is found then Find returns  the cell with the value. That is, it returns a Range type of one cell.

If the search item is not found then Find returns an object set to Nothing.

In the following examples, you will see how to deal with the return value.


How to do a Simple Find

Let’s start with a simple example of the VBA Find. You need three things when using the Find function

  1. The Range to search
  2. The value you are searching for
  3. The Range to store the returned cell

Let’s take the following sample data

Excel VBA Find

We are going to search for the text “Jena” in the cells A1 to A5.

The following code searches for “Jena”. When it finds “Jena”, it then places the cell in the rgFound variable.

' Find the name Jena in the range A1:A5
Dim rgFound As Range
Set rgFound = Range("A1:A5").Find("Jena")

' Print cell address to Immediate Window(Ctrl + G)
Debug.Print rgFound.Address

The above code shows the most basic search you can do. If this is your first time using the VBA Find function then I recommend you practice with a simple example like this.


When the Value is not Found

When you use the VBA Find function, there will be times when you do not find a match. You need to handle this in your code or you will get the following error when you try to use the returned range

Excel VBA Find

The following code will give this error if the text “John” is not found in the range A1 to A5

Set rgFound = Range("A1:A5").Find("John")

' Shows Error if John was not found
Debug.Print rgFound.Address

What we need to do is check the return value like the following code shows

Set rgFound= Range("A1:A5").Find("John")

If rgFound Is Nothing Then
    Debug.Print "Name was not found."
    Debug.Print "Name found in :" & rgFound.Address
End If


Using After with Find

The After parameter is used if you want to start the search from a particular cell. This is the same as when you do a search with Excel Find Dialog. With the dialog, the active cell is considered the After cell.


Example 1 Without After

Let’s look at the following code.

Set cell = Range("A1:A6").Find("Rachal")

Find will return the cell A2 as this is where the first “Rachal” is found.

Excel VBA Find No After


Example 2 Using After

In the next example, we use after. We are telling VBA to start the search for “Rachal” after cell A2

Set cell = Range("A1:A6").Find("Rachal", After:=Range("A2"))

This will return the cell A6

Find with After


Example 3 Wrapping Around

If a match is not found then the search will “wrap around”. This means it will go back to the start of the range.

In the following example, we are looking for Drucilla. We start our search After cell A2. Find will search from A3 to A6 and then will move to A1.

So the following code will return A1 as there is no text “Drucilla” from A3 to A6.

Set cell = Range("A1:A6").Find("Drucilla", After:=Range("A2"))

VBA Find with After Wrap

The search order for this example was A4, A5, A6, A1.


Using LookIn with Find

Using LookIn allows you to search in Values, Formulas or Comments.

Important Note: When a cell has text only, this text is considered a formula AND a value. See the table below for details

Cell ContainsResultLookIn value is
AppleAppleValue and Formula
="App" & "le"'AppleValue only
=LEFT("Apple",4)'ApplFormula only

We are going to use the following sample data.

A2 Contains “Apple” as a value only
A3 Contains  “Apple” as a formula only
A4 Contains “Apple” in  the comment only

VBA Find LookIn

The code below searches for “Apple” in the different types

Sub UseLookIn()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = Range("A1:A4").Find("Apple", LookIn:=xlValues)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A3
    vSet cell = Range("A1:A4").Find("Apple", LookIn:=xlFormulas)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A4
    Set cell = Range("A1:A4").Find("Apple", LookIn:=xlComments)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using LookAt with Find

Using the LookAt function is pretty straightforward.

  1. xlWhole means the search value must match the entire cell contents.
  2. xlPart means the search value only has to match part of the cell.

The following example has “Apple” as part of the cell contents in A2 and it is the full contents in cell A3.
VBA Find LookAt

The first Find in the following code finds “Apple” in A2. The second Find is looking for a full match so finds A3.

Sub UseLookAt()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = Range("A1:A3").Find("Apple", Lookat:=xlPart)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A3
    Set cell = Range("A1:A3").Find("Apple", Lookat:=xlWhole)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using SearchOrder with Find

The SearchOrder parameter allows use to search by row or by column. In the following sample data we have two occurrences of the text “Elli”.

VBA Find SearchOrder

If we search by row we will find the “Elli” in B2 first. This is because we search in the order row 1, then row 2 etc.

If we search by column we will find the “Elli” in A5 first. This is because we search in the order column A, the Column B etc.

The following code shows an example of using the SearchOrder with this sample data

Sub UseSearchOrder()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Finds B2
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("Elli", SearchOrder:=xlRows)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A5
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("Elli", SearchOrder:=xlColumns)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using SearchDirection with Find

SearchDirection allows you to search forward or backward. So imagine you have the range A1:A7. Searching using xlNext will go in the order

A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7

Searching using xlPrevious will go in the order

A7, A6, A5, A4, A3, A2, A1

VBA Find SearchDirection

Using xlNext with the sample data will return A2 as this where it finds the first match. Using xlPrevious will return A5.

' NOTE: Underscore allows breaking up a line
Sub UseSearchDirection()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = shData.Range("A1:A7") _
        .Find("Elli", SearchDirection:=xlNext)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A5
    Set cell = shData.Range("A1:A7") _
        .Find("Elli", SearchDirection:=xlPrevious)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using xlPrevious with After

It you use the After parameter with xlPrevious then it will start before from the After cell. So if we set the After cell to be A6 then the search order will be


The following code shows an example of this

Sub UseSearchDirectionAfter()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = shData.Range("A1:A7").Find("Elli" _
            , After:=Range("A6"), SearchDirection:=xlPrevious)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A6
    Set cell = shData.Range("A1:A7").Find("Elli" _
            , After:=Range("A7"), SearchDirection:=xlPrevious)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using MatchCase with Find

The MatchCase parameter is used to determine if the case of the letters matters in the search. It can be set to True or False.

  • True – the case of the letters must match
  • False – the case of the letters does not matter

The following sample list has two entries for “Elli”. The second has a small letter e

VBA Find MatchCase

The following code examples shows the result of setting MatchCase to True and False

Sub UseMatchCase()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("elli", MatchCase:=False)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A6
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("elli", MatchCase:=True)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using MatchByte with Find

The MatchByte parameter is used for languages with a double byte character set. These are languages such as Chinese/Japanese/Korean.

If you are not using them then this parameter is not relevant. They are used as follows

  • True means to match only double-byte characters with double-byte characters.
  • False means to double-byte characters can match with single or double-byte characters.


Using SearchFormat with Find

Search Format is a bit different than the other parameters. It allows you to search for a cell format such as font type or cell colour.

You need to set the format first by using the Application.FindFormat property. Then you set SearchFormat to True to search for this format.

In the following sample data, we have two cells formatted. Cell A5 is set to Bold and Cell A6 has the fill colour set to red.
VBA Find Search Format

The following code searches for the bold cell.

Sub UseSearchFormat()

    Dim cell As Range

    Application.FindFormat.Font.Bold = True

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("Elli", SearchFormat:=False)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A5
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("Elli", SearchFormat:=True)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Using Wild Card

You can search for a cell based on the format only. In other words, the value in the cell is ignored in the search. You do this by placing “*” in the search string.

The following code searches for a cell that is formatted to red. The contents of the cell do not matter.

Sub UseSearchFormatWild()

    Dim cell As Range

    ' Clear previous formats
    ' Set format
    Application.FindFormat.Interior.Color = rgbRed

    ' Finds A2
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("*", SearchFormat:=False)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

    ' Finds A5
    Set cell = Range("A1:B6").Find("*", SearchFormat:=True)
    Debug.Print cell.Address

End Sub


Important – Clearing Format

When you set the FindFormat attributes they remain in place until you set them again. This is something to watch out for.

For example, imagine you set the format to bold and then use Find. Then you set the format to font size 12 and use Find again. The search will look for cells where the font is bold AND of size 12.

Therefore, it is a good idea to clear the format before you use it. You can clear the format by using the code


You can see the we used this in the second SearchFormat example above.


Multiple Searches

In many cases you will want to search for multiple occurrences of the same value.  To do this we use the Find function first. Then we use the .FindNext function to find the next item.

VBA Find Multiple Searches

.FindNext searches based on the setting we used in the Find. The following code shows a simple example of finding the first and second occurrences of the text “Elli”.

Sub SearchNext()

    Dim cell As Range
    ' Find first - A2
    Set cell = Range("A1:A9").Find("Elli")
    Debug.Print "Found: " & cell.Address

    ' Find second - A5
    Set cell = Range("A1:A9").FindNext(cell)
    Debug.Print "Found: " & cell.Address

End Sub

Sometimes you won’t know how many occurrences there is. In this case we use a loop to keep searching until we have found all the items.

We use Find to get the first item. If we find an item we then use a Do Loop with .FindNext to find the rest of the occurrences.

FindNext will wrap around. That is, after it finds A9 it will continue the search at A1. Therefore, we store the address of the first cell we find. When FindNext returns this cell again we know we have found all the items.

The following code will find all the occurrences of Elli

Sub MultipleSearch()

    ' Get name to search
    Dim name As String: name = "Elli"

    ' Get search range
    Dim rgSearch As Range
    Set rgSearch = Range("A1:A9")

    Dim cell As Range
    Set cell = rgSearch.Find(name)

    ' If not found then exit
    If cell Is Nothing Then
        Debug.Print "Not found"
        Exit Sub
    End If

    ' Store first cell address
    Dim firstCellAddress As String
    firstCellAddress = cell.Address

    ' Find all cells containing Elli
        Debug.Print "Found: " & cell.Address
        Set cell = rgSearch.FindNext(cell)
    Loop While firstCellAddress <> cell.Address

End Sub

The output from this code is
Found: $A$2
Found: $A$5
Found: $A$8


Finding the Last Cell Containing Data

A very common task in VBA is finding the last cell that contains data in a row or colum. This does not use the VBA Find function. Instead, we use the following code to find the last row with data

' Find the last row with data in column A
LastRow = Cells(Rows.Count, 1).End(xlUp).Row

' Find the last row with data in column C
LastRow = Cells(Rows.Count, 3).End(xlUp).Row

To find the last column with data we use similar code

' Find the last column with data in row 1
lLastCol = Cells(1, Columns.Count).End(xlToLeft).Column

' Find the last column with data in row 3
lLastCol = Cells(3, Columns.Count).End(xlToLeft).Column


Finding Cells with Patterns

If you want to find cells with certain patterns then you have to use the Like operator rather than Find.

For example, to find  the all the names starting with E you could use the following code

' Print all names starting with the letter E
Sub PatternMatch()

    Dim cell As Range
    ' Go through each cell in range
    For Each cell In Range("A1:A20")
        ' Check the pattern
        If cell Like "[E]*" Then
            Debug.Print cell
        End If

End Sub

If you want to know more about this then check out Comparing Strings using Pattern Matching.

To see a real-world example of using pattern matching check out Example 3: Check if a filename is valid.


An Alternative to using VBA Find

If you are expecting a large number of hits then using an array is a better option. You can read a range of cells to an array very quickly and efficiently.

The following code reads the cell values to an array and then reads through the array to count the items.

Sub UseArrayToCount()

    Dim arr() As Variant
    ' read cell range to array
    arr = Sheet2.Range("A1:B25")

    Dim name As Variant, cnt As Long
    ' Go through the array
    For Each name In arr
        ' Count in the name 'Ray' is found
        If name = "Ray" Then
            cnt = cnt + 1
        End If
    Next name

    Debug.Print "The number of occurrences was: " & cnt

End Sub

If you want to find out more about arrays then check out the post The Complete Guide to Using Arrays in Excel VBA.


Find and Replace

To  do a find and Replace you can use the Replace function. It is very similar to using the Find function.

The replace function is outside the scope of this post although a lot of what you read here can be used with it. You can see the details of it at Microsoft – VBA Replace Function

What’s Next?

If you want to read about more VBA topics you can view a complete list of my posts here. I also have a free eBook(see below) which you will find useful if you are new to VBA.


Get the Free eBook

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Please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and get exclusive VBA content that you cannot find here on the blog, as well as free access to my eBook, How to Ace the 21 Most Common Questions in VBA which is full of examples you can use in your own code.

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      1. Sir, your subject knowledge is brilliant and easy to understand.
        Please suggest how to become great in VBA like you. Want to know some open source VBA project sites.
        Thanks a lot. Learnt a lot from this website.

        1. Hi Abhishek,

          You can try SourceForge.Org for open source.
          The way to become great is by practising and creating real world applications. It’s important to evaluate each project, learn from mistakes and see how you could have done it better.

  1. Hello Paul,

    congratulations for both the website and the blog. They are amazing and your explanations are very clear and helpful.
    In my opinion, one of the best sites for learning VBA.

    Thanks a lot.

  2. Huhuhuhu…. Thank you… thank you… for more than 3 days looking for a good solution in searching… it’s is difficult to being self study without teacher…

    Once again sir.. Thank you very and God bless….

  3. What I would like is an explanation on how VBA could show the built-in Excel find dialog box (hint: Application.Dialogs(xlDialogFormulaFind).Show) and then how a VBA routine could read what the user entered for criteria into that dialog after it finishes. But maybe this is impossible.

    1. It could be done but requires using Windows API. The following code will get you started

      ' Declare Window API function
      Private Declare Function FindWindow Lib "user32" Alias "FindWindowA" _
      (ByVal lpClassName As String, ByVal lpWindowName As String) As Long
      Sub GetText()
          ' Show and wait for user to close it
          ' After it is hidden show again to get text
          ' Get a handle to the window
          Dim hMainWind As Long
          hMainWind = FindWindow(vbNullString, "Find And Replace")
          ' Now you need to
          ' 1. get a handle to the textbox
          ' 2. read the text
          ' 3. hide the Find Window
      End Sub
  4. Hi Paul,

    Firtsly, great blog!
    I’ve been visiting for a while now and learned a lot of useful things from your posts – thank you so much!

    I have a quick question today – Is there a way to set the Application.FindFormat property using the inequality operator “”?

    16777215 is the color.index for “no fill” and in my search for a string I want only to find cells that do have fill colour. But unfortunately I’m getting an error when i type the following:

    Application.FindFormat.Interior.Color 16777215

    Any idea how to get around this?


    1. Hi J,

      When the equals is used with FindFormat it means “assigned” rather than “equals”(see second table here for different examples in VBA).

      So you can only search for a given color.


  5. Hi Paul

    I have a big problem. I started coding in VBA a week ago, as a project for my vacation work. I have a UserForm and a table. The user tipes in a SampleID in the userform and some data. He clicks “Add to table”. The code should do:

    search for the Sample ID and add all other data in that row. My code looks like:

    ID = SampleID.Value
    Set Obj = Sheets(“Tests Results”).ListObjects(“Test_results”).Find(ID)
    Set objNewRow = Obj.ListRows(AlwaysInsert:=True)
    y = objNewRow.Index

    With Obj
    .ListColumns(“Test Lab”).DataBodyRange(x) = Me.ComboBox_LAB.Value
    .ListColumns(“Flammability Type “).DataBodyRange(x) = Me.ComboBoxFlamm.Value
    .ListColumns(“Avg-Smoke Density Pass Value (Ds)”).DataBodyRange(x) = Me.ComboBoxSDpass.Value
    .ListColumns(“Maximum Smoke Density Pass Value_Flaming_ (DS)”).DataBodyRange(x) = Me.ComboBoxMAXSD.Value
    .ListColumns(“Smoke Density Mode”).DataBodyRange(x) = Me.ComboBoxSmoke.Value

    End With
    End Sub

    I get the error 438 “Object does not support this property or method” in line 2

    I have spent hours trying to figure this out and still dont get any results.
    Could you please help me?

    1. Hi Pascal,

      There is no Find method for the Table. You need to get the Range of the table e.g.
      Set Obj = Sheets(“Tests Results”).ListObjects(“Test_results”).Range.Find(ID)

  6. Hi Paul,

    I’m stuck (note: newbie @ VBA!), and hoping you can point out my error.

    Code snippet:

    Dim rowDescription As Integer
    Dim rowPartnumber As Integer
    Dim wb As Workbook
    Dim ws As Worksheet
    Dim FoundCell As Range

    Set wb = ActiveWorkbook
    Set ws = ActiveSheet

    Const WHAT_TO_FIND1 As String = “Description”
    Const WHAT_TO_FIND2 As String = “Part Number”

    Set FoundCell = Cells(1, 1)
    rowPartnumber = 1

    ‘find the next “Description”. This is TOP of Comment
    FoundCell = ws.Range(“A:A”).Find(What:=WHAT_TO_FIND1, After:=Cells(rowPartnumber, 1), LookIn:=xlValues, lookat:=xlWhole, SearchOrder:=xlByRows, SearchDirection:=xlNext, MatchCase:=False)

    /Code snippet:

    My data has the string “Description” in cell A10.

    However, the result of this code is that the string “Description” is populated into cell A1!

    For the life of me, I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong.

    Can you help me?

    1. Hi,

      The line Set FoundCell = Cells(1, 1) sets the range of FoundCell to be A1.

      The line FoundCell = ws.Range(“A:A”).Find( places the result of Find in FoundCell which is A1.

      It should be Set FoundCell = ws.Range(“A:A”).Find(


  7. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the great blog!

    I’m not entirely sure if the solution above will apply to the issue that I currently have. I will play around with it and see how it is different.

    My scenario is as follows:

    Contains mass data with different headers for different types of financial information. The headers change from month to month and if i dont have information for that specific month. The entire column will not display in the report.

    I need code that will produce a summary report based on Sheet1 that will only display certain identified columns. I have written code to find the desired header in sheet1, selecting the entire column, and the copying it to my sheet 2 report.

    (My issue:)
    As soon as my code cant find the column header, it produces an error and halts the entire process that is supposed to follow. I have about 60 different column headers i need to find in my sheet1

    Please help if you can and thank you in advance!



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