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Excel Macros: How to Create and Use Them

You work in Excel every day and do the same things again and again. Why not automate those tasks? Or, maybe, you want Excel to do most of the work for you? Read on to learn what Excel macros are and how they can help you.

What are macros in Excel?

Excel is an extremely powerful tool for processing data in the form of spreadsheets. While most users use formulas, there is another way to manipulate data in Excel.

Excel macros are pieces of code that describe specific actions or contain a set of instructions. Every time you launch the macro, Excel follows those instructions step-by-step.

Why learn macros in Excel?

Macros are a must-have tool for an advanced Excel user. By using Excel macros you can avoid dull, repetitive actions or even create your own order management system for free.

Simple macros in Excel that will make things easier

There are lots of simple Excel macros that take just a few lines of code, but can save you hours. Excel can perform certain operations instantly, where it would take you a very long time to do the job manually.

For example, this macro will sort all worksheets alphabetically:

Sub SortSheetsTabName()
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
Dim ShCount As Integer, i As Integer, j As Integer
ShCount = Sheets.Count
For i = 1 To ShCount - 1
For j = i + 1 To ShCount
If Sheets(j).Name < Sheets(i).Name Then
Sheets(j).Move before:=Sheets(i)
End If
Next j
Next i
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

The following code will unhide all hidden worksheets:

Sub UnhideAllWoksheets()
Dim ws As Worksheet
For Each ws In ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets
ws.Visible = xlSheetVisible
Next ws
End Sub

To unhide all rows and columns on a worksheet, use:

Sub UnhideRowsColumns()
Columns.EntireColumn.Hidden = False
Rows.EntireRow.Hidden = False
End Sub

Advanced Excel macros that can significantly improve your workflow

If you are running a business, you have to store and manipulate data. Small companies can keep records by hand and large enterprises can buy specialized software (which is rather expensive). But what about medium-sized businesses that can no longer settle for manual record-keeping, but still cannot afford costly software? This is where Excel with macros shines.

By combining advanced Excel macros you can create a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system which will help you provide better services. If you sell goods, you need an inventory management tool and Excel spreadsheets enhanced with macros will fit your needs.

If your data is contained in multiple Excel workbooks, you can use Coupler.io to move them around. You can even add third-party sources, like  Google Sheets, Airtable, BigQuery, etc. Data integration with Coupler.io does not require any programming skills and can be done in just a few clicks.

Check out the available integrations with Excel.

Other Excel macros examples

Below are a few examples of useful Excel macros.

Sometimes you might accidentally add extra spaces to the data in cells. This mistake will cause errors, thereby preventing you from making correct calculations. To remove unnecessary spaces from the selected cells, use the following code:

Sub TrimTheSpaces()
Dim MyRange As Range
Dim MyCell As Range
Set MyRange = Selection
For Each MyCell In MyRange
If Not IsEmpty(MyCell) Then
MyCell = Trim(MyCell)
End If
Next MyCell
End Sub

It is often the case that you need to protect your workbook with a password. You can do that in the user interface of Excel. However, if you use the same password for all of your workbooks, you have to re-enter it every time. This macro will do the job for you (don’t forget to replace “1234” with your own password!):

Sub ProtectSheets()
Dim ws As Worksheet
For Each ws In ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets
ws.Protect Password:="1234"
Next ws
End Sub

Using macros in Excel

As macros are programs that can do literally anything on your computer, using macros from untrusted sources is very risky. That’s why, when you open a workbook with macros in Excel, they will be disabled and you will see the following notification:

If you trust the source of the file, click Enable Content. That will add the workbook to the list of trusted documents and turn on its macros. The next time you open that workbook, there will be no warning.

You will see the above notification each time you open a workbook if it has been saved to an untrusted location. That can be a folder for temporary files or browser downloads. To avoid that, move the file to another folder or enable macros in the Excel Trust Center.

How to enable macros in Excel

If you do not want to see the security warning when opening Excel workbooks, you can permanently enable macros in the Trust Center.

To enable macros in the Excel Trust Center:

  1. In the upper-left corner, click the File tab and then select Options:
  1. In the Excel Options window, select Trust Center and then click Trust Center Settings:
  1. In the Trust Center, go to Macro Settings and then select Enable all macros:

Warning! Enabling macros for all workbooks is potentially risky because files from external sources may contain malicious code. If you open such a workbook, the macros may run automatically and corrupt your data or even cause hardware malfunctions.

How to use macros in Excel

If your workbook contains macros, you can run them by pressing Alt+F8. In the Macro window that opens, select the macro you need and click Run:

If you want to create new macros, you need to enable the Developer tab first.

To enable the Developer tab:

  1. In the upper-left corner, click the File tab and then select Options.
  2. In the Excel Options window, select Customize Ribbon and then enable the Developer checkbox in the Main Tabs area:
  1. Click OK to apply the changes.

In the Developer tab you can run existing macros by clicking the Macros button or create a new macro. For details on creating macros in Excel, see the following sections.

How to delete macros in Excel

To delete a macro in Excel:

  1. Open the Macro window in one of the following ways:
    • Press Alt+F8.
    • Select the Developer tab and click Macros.
  2. Select the macro that you want to delete and click Delete.
  1. Click Yes in the confirmation window that opens.

How to disable macros in Excel

Enabling Excel macros can make your computer vulnerable. Some macros will run when you open a workbook, which is especially dangerous if you have downloaded the workbook from an untrusted source. To prevent that, you can disable macros in Excel either with or without a notification.

To disable macros in Excel:

  1. In the upper-left corner, click the File tab and then select Options.
  2. In the Excel Options window, select Trust Center and then click Trust Center Settings.
  3. In the Trust Center, go to Macro Settings and then select one of the following options:
    • Disable all macros without notification. Macros will be disabled and you will not see a security warning when opening a workbook with macros.
    • Disable all macros with notification. Macros will be disabled but you will see a security warning when opening a workbook with macros and will be able to allow macros, if needed.

Writing macros in Excel

In Excel you can not only run ready-to-use macros, but also write your own macros to automate your daily tasks. We will provide a few methods below for creating macros in Excel. Anyone can write macros in Excel: from a complete beginner to an advanced user with programming skills.

How to record a macro in Excel

If you are unfamiliar with programming languages, the easiest way to create your own Excel macro is to record it.

To record a macro in Excel:

  1. In the Developer tab, click Record Macro:
  1. Enter the macro name and click OK:

Excel will start recording the macro.

  1. Perform the actions, that need to be included in the macro, then click Stop Recording:

The macro will be saved to the workbook.

Creating VBA macros in Excel

If you can write code in any programming language, you can easily learn the basics of Visual Basic for Applications and create Excel macros in the VBA editor.

To open the editor, click Visual Basic in the Developer tab.

Each workbook is a VBA project in the editor. The project contains worksheets as objects and modules with macros:

By default, macros recorded in the Developer tab are saved to Module1. For example, here is the macro that we recorded in the previous section:

As you can see in the picture above, a macro starts with Sub followed by the macro name and (). You can insert the macro description in the comment lines. Be sure to indent the macro body for better readability. The End Sub string designates the end of the macro.

Excel macros language

Macros in Excel are written in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). This programming language is used not only in Excel, but also in other MS office applications.

VBA provides many of the tools that are available in advanced programming languages. For example, to create Excel macros, you can use the following:

  • Variables
  • ‘If’ statements
  • ‘For’ cycles
  • Loops
  • Arrays
  • Events
  • Functions

Being an object-oriented language, VBA lets you manipulate the following objects:

  • Application object
  • Workbook object
  • Worksheet object
  • Range object

If you decide to turn your Excel worksheet into something much more powerful, like a CRM system, you can even create a graphical user interface with message boxes and user forms. To learn more about VBA, check out the official documentation.

Editing macros in Excel VBA editor

When creating macros in Excel, it may be difficult to get the desired result on the first try. By editing Excel macros and running them again, you can resolve errors and make your system work as expected.

To edit a macro in Excel VBA editor:

  1. In the Developer tab, click Visual Basic:
  1. In the VBA project tree, double-click the module with the macro that you want to edit:
  1. Edit the macro code, then save changes by clicking the Save button or pressing Ctrl+S.

The workbook with the macro will be saved.

You can press F5 or click Run in the editor to launch the macro:

Note: If a macro changes workbook data, those changes cannot be reversed using the Undo command in Excel.

The VBA editor has a built-in debugger that highlights errors in code. The line that follows the error is highlighted:

An easy way of learning how to create macros in Excel

In Excel you can record a macro by using the Record Macro button in the Developer tab. Then you can open the recorded macro in Excel VBA editor.

This is the easiest way to learn the VBA programming language. Just perform actions in the Excel user interface and see how they are interpreted in the macro code. Then you can change values and methods in the code to see how that affects the macro behavior.

Do I need Excel macros?

As you can see, macros can drastically enhance Excel features in many ways. By using macros, you can automate your daily operations and save yourself hours of time. Excel macros can even save you money if you decide to create an Excel-based order management system instead of buying costly software.

When you finish customizing your Excel workbook with macros, you may need to migrate your data from other sources, like Google Sheets or BigQuery.

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