“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data”- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This post covers everything you need to know about using Cells and Ranges in VBA. You can read it from start to finish as it is layed out in a logical order. If you prefer you can use the table of contents below to go to a section of your choice.
- 1 A Quick Guide to Ranges and Cells
- 2 The Webinar
- 3 Introduction
- 4 The Range Property
- 5 The Cells Property of the Worksheet
- 6 Using Cells and Range together
- 7 The Offset Property of Range
- 8 Using Rows and Columns as Ranges
- 9 Using Range in place of Worksheet
- 10 Reading Values from one Cell to another
- 11 Reading Values to variables
- 12 How to Copy and Paste Cells
- 13 Reading a Range of Cells to an Array
- 14 Going through all the cells in a Range
- 15 Formatting Cells
- 16 Main Points
- 17 What’s Next?
- 18 Get the Free PDF of this Post
A Quick Guide to Ranges and Cells
|cell address||multiple cells||.Range("A1:A4")||$A$1:$A$4|
|Cells||row, column||one cell||.Cells(1,5)||$E$1|
|Offset||row, column||multiple cells||Range("A1:A2")|
|Rows||row(s)||one or more rows||.Rows(4)|
|Columns||column(s)||one or more columns||.Columns(4)|
If you are a member of the website, click on the image below to access the webinar for this post.
(Note: Website members have access to the full webinar archive.)
This is the third post dealing with the three main elements of VBA. These three elements are the Workbooks, Worksheets and Ranges/Cells. Cells are by far the most important part of Excel. Almost everything you do in Excel starts and ends with Cells.
Generally speaking, you do three main things with Cells
- Read from a cell.
- Write to a cell.
- Change the format of a cell.
Excel has a number of methods for accessing cells such as Range, Cells and Offset.These can cause confusion as they do similar things and can lead to confusion
In this post I will tackle each one, explain why you need it and when you should use it.
Let’s start with the simplest method of accessing cells – using the Range property of the worksheet.
The Range Property
The worksheet has a Range property which you can use to access cells in VBA. The Range property takes the same argument that most Excel Worksheet functions take e.g. “A1”, “A3:C6” etc.
The following example shows you how to place a value in a cell using the Range property.
Public Sub WriteToCell() ' Write number to cell A1 in sheet1 of this workbook ThisWorkbook.Worksheets("Sheet1").Range("A1") = 67 ' Write text to cell A2 in sheet1 of this workbook ThisWorkbook.Worksheets("Sheet1").Range("A2") = "John Smith" ' Write date to cell A3 in sheet1 of this workbook ThisWorkbook.Worksheets("Sheet1").Range("A3") = #11/21/2017# End Sub
As you can see Range is a member of the worksheet which in turn is a member of the Workbook. This follows the same hierarchy as in Excel so should be easy to understand. To do something with Range you must first specify the workbook and worksheet it belongs to.
For the rest of this post I will use the code name to reference the worksheet.
The following code shows the above example using the code name of the worksheet i.e. Sheet1 instead of ThisWorkbook.Worksheets(“Sheet1”).
Public Sub UsingCodeName() ' Write number to cell A1 in sheet1 of this workbook Sheet1.Range("A1") = 67 ' Write text to cell A2 in sheet1 of this workbook Sheet1.Range("A2") = "John Smith" ' Write date to cell A3 in sheet1 of this workbook Sheet1.Range("A3") = #11/21/2017# End Sub
You can also write to multiple cells using the Range property
Public Sub WriteToMulti() ' Write number to a range of cells Sheet1.Range("A1:A10") = 67 ' Write text to multiple ranges of cells Sheet1.Range("B2:B5,B7:B9") = "John Smith" End Sub
The Cells Property of the Worksheet
The worksheet object has another property called Cells which is very similar to range. There are two differences
- Cells returns a range of one cell only.
- Cells takes row and column as arguments.
The example below shows you how to write values to cells using both the Range and Cells property
Public Sub UsingCells() ' Write to A1 Sheet1.Range("A1") = 10 Sheet1.Cells(1, 1) = 10 ' Write to A10 Sheet1.Range("A10") = 10 Sheet1.Cells(10, 1) = 10 ' Write to E1 Sheet1.Range("E1") = 10 Sheet1.Cells(1, 5) = 10 End Sub
You may be wondering when you should use Cells and when you should use Range. Using Range is useful for accessing the same cells each time the Macro runs.
For example, if you were using a Macro to calculate a total and write it to cell A10 every time then Range would be suitable for this task.
Using the Cells property is useful if you are accessing a cell based on a number that may vary. It is easier explain this with an example.
In the following code, we ask the user to specify the column number. Using Cells gives us the flexibility to use a variable number for the column.
Public Sub WriteToFirstBlankCell() Dim UserCol As Integer ' Get the column number from the user UserCol = Application.InputBox(" Please enter the column...", Type:=1) ' Write text to user selected column Sheet1.Cells(1, UserCol) = "John Smith" End Sub
In the above example, we are using a number for the column rather than a letter.
To use Range here would require us to convert these values to the letter/number cell reference e.g. “C1”. Using the Cells property allows us to provide a row and a column number to access a cell.
Sometimes you may want to return more than one cell using row and column numbers. The next section shows you how to do this.
Using Cells and Range together
As you have seen you can only access one cell using the Cells property. If you want to return a range of cells then you can use Cells with Ranges as follows
Public Sub UsingCellsWithRange() With Sheet1 ' Write 5 to Range A1:A10 using Cells property .Range(.Cells(1, 1), .Cells(10, 1)) = 5 ' Format Range B1:Z1 to be bold .Range(.Cells(1, 2), .Cells(1, 26)).Font.Bold = True End With End Sub
As you can see, you provide the start and end cell of the Range. Sometimes it can be tricky to see which range you are dealing with when the value are all numbers. Range has a property called Address which displays the letter/ number cell reference of any range. This can come in very handy when you are debugging or writing code for the first time.
In the following example we print out the address of the ranges we are using.
Public Sub ShowRangeAddress() ' Note: Using underscore allows you to split up lines of code With Sheet1 ' Write 5 to Range A1:A10 using Cells property .Range(.Cells(1, 1), .Cells(10, 1)) = 5 Debug.Print "First address is : " _ + .Range(.Cells(1, 1), .Cells(10, 1)).Address ' Format Range B1:Z1 to be bold .Range(.Cells(1, 2), .Cells(1, 26)).Font.Bold = True Debug.Print "Second address is : " _ + .Range(.Cells(1, 2), .Cells(1, 26)).Address End With End Sub
In the example I used Debug.Print to print to the Immediate Window. To view this window select View->Immediate Window(or Ctrl G)
The Offset Property of Range
Range has a property called Offset. The term Offset refers to a count from the original position. It is used a lot in certain areas of programming. With the Offset property you can get a Range of cells the same size and a certain distance from the current range. The reason this is useful is that sometimes you may want to select a Range based on a certain condition. For example in the screenshot below there is a column for each day of the week. Given the day number(i.e. Monday=1, Tuesday=2 etc.) we need to write the value to the correct column.
We will first attempt to do this without using Offset.
' This sub tests with different values Public Sub TestSelect() ' Monday SetValueSelect 1, 111.21 ' Wednesday SetValueSelect 3, 456.99 ' Friday SetValueSelect 5, 432.25 ' Sunday SetValueSelect 7, 710.17 End Sub ' Writes the value to a column based on the day Public Sub SetValueSelect(lDay As Long, lValue As Currency) Select Case lDay Case 1: Sheet1.Range("H3") = lValue Case 2: Sheet1.Range("I3") = lValue Case 3: Sheet1.Range("J3") = lValue Case 4: Sheet1.Range("K3") = lValue Case 5: Sheet1.Range("L3") = lValue Case 6: Sheet1.Range("M3") = lValue Case 7: Sheet1.Range("N3") = lValue End Select End Sub
As you can see in the example, we need to add a line for each possible option. This is not an ideal situation. Using the Offset Property provides a much cleaner solution
' This sub tests with different values Public Sub TestOffset() DayOffSet 1, 111.01 DayOffSet 3, 456.99 DayOffSet 5, 432.25 DayOffSet 7, 710.17 End Sub Public Sub DayOffSet(lDay As Long, lValue As Currency) ' We use the day value with offset specify the correct column Sheet1.Range("G3").Offset(, lDay) = lValue End Sub
As you can see this solution is much better. If the number of days in increased then we do not need to add any more code. For Offset to be useful there needs to be some kind of relationship between the positions of the cells. If the Day columns in the above example were random then we could not use Offset. We would have to use the first solution.
One thing to keep in mind is that Offset retains the size of the range. So .Range(“A1:A3”).Offset(1,1) returns the range B2:B4. Below are some more examples of using Offset
Public Sub UsingOffset() ' Write to B2 - no offset Sheet1.Range("B2").Offset() = "Cell B2" ' Write to C2 - 1 column to the right Sheet1.Range("B2").Offset(, 1) = "Cell C2" ' Write to B3 - 1 row down Sheet1.Range("B2").Offset(1) = "Cell B3" ' Write to C3 - 1 column right and 1 row down Sheet1.Range("B2").Offset(1, 1) = "Cell C3" ' Write to A1 - 1 column left and 1 row up Sheet1.Range("B2").Offset(-1, -1) = "Cell A1" ' Write to range E3:G13 - 1 column right and 1 row down Sheet1.Range("D2:F12").Offset(1, 1) = "Cells E3:G13" End Sub
Using Rows and Columns as Ranges
If you want to do something with an entire Row or Column you can use the Rows or Columns property of the Worksheet. They both take one parameter which is the row or column number you wish to access
Public Sub UseRowAndColumns() ' Set the font size of column B to 9 Sheet1.Columns(2).Font.Size = 9 ' Set the width of columns D to F Sheet1.Columns("D:F").ColumnWidth = 4 ' Set the font size of row 5 to 18 Sheet1.Rows(5).Font.Size = 18 End Sub
Using Range in place of Worksheet
You can also use Cells, Rows and Columns as part of a Range rather than part of a Worksheet. You may have a specific need to do this but otherwise I would avoid the practice. It makes the code more complex. Simple code is your friend. It reduces the possibility of errors.
The code below will set the second column of the range to bold. As the range has only two rows the entire column is considered B1:B2
Public Sub UseColumnsInRange() ' This will set B1 and B2 to be bold Sheet1.Range("A1:C2").Columns(2).Font.Bold = True End Sub
Reading Values from one Cell to another
In most of the examples so far we have written values to a cell. We do this by placing the range on the left of the equals sign and the value to place in the cell on the right. To write data from one cell to another we do the same. The destination range goes on the left and the source range goes on the right.
The following example shows you how to do this
Public Sub ReadValues() ' Place value from B1 in A1 Sheet1.Range("A1") = Sheet1.Range("B1") ' Place value from B3 in sheet2 to cell A1 Sheet1.Range("A1").Value = Sheet2.Range("B3") ' Place value from B1 in cells A1 to A5 Sheet1.Range("A1:A5") = Sheet1.Range("B1") ' You need to use the "Value" property to read multiple cells Sheet1.Range("A1:A5") = Sheet1.Range("B1:B5").Value End Sub
As you can see from this example it is not possible to read from multiple cells. If you want to do this you can use the Copy function of Range with the Destination parameter
Public Sub CopyValues() ' Store the copy range in a variable Dim rgCopy As Range Set rgCopy = Sheet1.Range("B1:B5") ' Use this to copy from more than one cell rgCopy.Copy Destination:=Sheet1.Range("A1:A5") ' You can paste to multiple destinations rgCopy.Copy Destination:=Sheet1.Range("A1:A5,C2:C6") End Sub
The Copy function copies everything including the format of the cells. It is the same result as manually copying and pasting a selection. You can see more about it in the Copying and Pasting Cells section.
Reading Values to variables
The last section showed you how to read from one cell to another. You can also read from a cell to a variable. A variable is used to store values while a Macro is running. You normally do this when you want to manipulate the data before writing it somewhere. The following is a simple example using a variable. As you can see the value of the item to the right of the equals is written to the item to the left of the equals.
Public Sub UseVar() ' Create Dim val As Integer ' Read number from cell val = Sheet1.Range("A1") ' Add 1 to value val = val + 1 ' Write new value to cell Sheet1.Range("A2") = val End Sub
To read text to a variable you use a variable of type String.
Public Sub UseVarText() ' Declare a variable of type string Dim sText As String ' Read value from cell sText = Sheet1.Range("A1") ' Write value to cell Sheet1.Range("A2") = sText End Sub
You can write a variable to a range of cells. You just specify the range on the left and the value will be written to all cells in the range.
Public Sub VarToMulti() ' Read value from cell Sheet1.Range("A1:B10") = 66 End Sub
You cannot read from multiple cells to a variable. However you can read to an array which is a collection of variables. We will look at doing this in the next section.
How to Copy and Paste Cells
If you want to copy and paste a range of cells then you do not need to select them. This is a common error made by new VBA users.
You can simply copy a range of cells like this
Using this method copies everything – values, formats, formulas and so on. If you want to copy individual items you can use the PasteSpecial property of range.
It works like this
Range("A1:B4").Copy Range("F3").PasteSpecial Paste:=xlPasteValues Range("F3").PasteSpecial Paste:=xlPasteFormats Range("F3").PasteSpecial Paste:=xlPasteFormulas
The following table shows a full list of all the paste types
Reading a Range of Cells to an Array
You can also copy values by assigning the value of one range to another.
Range("A3:Z3").Value = Range("A1:Z1").Value
The value of range in this example is considered to be a variant array. What this means is that you can easily read from a range of cells to an array. You can also write from an array to a range of cells. If you are not familiar with arrays you can check them out in this post.
The following code shows an example of using an array with a range.
Public Sub ReadToArray() ' Create dynamic array Dim StudentMarks() As Variant ' Read 26 values into array from the first row StudentMarks = Range("A1:Z1").Value ' Do something with array here ' Write the 26 values to the third row Range("A3:Z3").Value = StudentMarks End Sub
Keep in mind that the array created by the read is a 2 dimensional array. This is because a spreadsheet stores values in two dimensions i.e. rows and columns
Going through all the cells in a Range
Sometimes you may want to go through each cell one at a time to check value.
You can do this using a For Each loop shown in the following code
Public Sub TraversingCells() ' Go through each cells in the range Dim rg As Range For Each rg In Sheet1.Range("A1:A10,A20") ' Print address of cells that are negative If rg.Value < 0 Then Debug.Print rg.Address + " is negative." End If Next End Sub
You can also go through consecutive Cells using the Cells property and a standard For loop.
The standard loop is more flexible about the order you use but it is slower than a For Each loop.
Public Sub TraverseCells() ' Go through cells from A1 to A10 Dim i As Long For i = 1 To 10 ' Print address of cells that are negative If Range("A" & i).Value < 0 Then Debug.Print Range("A" & i).Address + " is negative." End If Next ' Go through cells in reverse i.e. from A10 to A1 For i = 10 To 1 Step -1 ' Print address of cells that are negative If Range("A" & i) < 0 Then Debug.Print Range("A" & i).Address + " is negative." End If Next End Sub
Sometimes you will need to format the cells the in spreadsheet. This is actually very straightforward. The following example shows you various formatting you can add to any range of cells
Public Sub FormattingCells() With Sheet1 ' Format the font .Range("A1").Font.Bold = True .Range("A1").Font.Underline = True .Range("A1").Font.Color = rgbNavy ' Set the number format to 2 decimal places .Range("B2").NumberFormat = "0.00" ' Set the number format to a date .Range("C2").NumberFormat = "dd/mm/yyyy" ' Set the number format to general .Range("C3").NumberFormat = "General" ' Set the number format to text .Range("C4").NumberFormat = "Text" ' Set the fill color of the cell .Range("B3").Interior.Color = rgbSandyBrown ' Format the borders .Range("B4").Borders.LineStyle = xlDash .Range("B4").Borders.Color = rgbBlueViolet End With End Sub
The following is a summary of the main points
- Range returns a range of cells
- Cells returns one cells only
- You can read from one cell to another
- You can read from a range of cells to another range of cells.
- You can read values from cells to variables and vice versa.
- You can read values from ranges to arrays and vice versa
- You can use a For Each or For loop to run through every cell in a range.
- The properties Rows and Columns allow you to access a range of cells of these types
Free VBA Tutorial If you are new to VBA or you want to sharpen your existing VBA skills then why not try out the The Ultimate VBA Tutorial.
Related Training: Get full access to the Excel VBA training webinars and all the tutorials.
(NOTE: Planning to build or manage a VBA Application? Learn how to build 10 Excel VBA applications from scratch.)
Get the Free PDF of this Post