Generating Permutations

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

A companion file is available: Click here to download

The number of permutations of a string is equal to the factorial of the length of the string. For example, the word DOG has a length of three -- which means that the letters can be rearranged in six different ways: DOG, DGO, ODG OGD, GDO, and GOD. The number of permutations quickly gets unwieldy. The table below lists the number of permutations for strings of various sizes.

Characters Permutations
1 1
2 2
3 6
4 24
5 120
6 720
7 5,040
8 40,320
9 362,880
10 3,628,800
11 39,916,800
12 479,001,600

This tip describes how to generate all permutations from a string. It uses a recursive subroutine to do the work. The source of this algorithm is not known (I was browsing through some old files on my hard drive and discovered it).

VBA Listing

The GetString subroutine prompts the user for a string. If the length of the string is greater than 1 and less than 8, the GetPermutations subroutine is called --which then calls itself. The permutations are stored in column A of the worksheet.

Dim CurrentRow

Sub GetString()
    Dim InString As String
    InString = InputBox("Enter text to permute:")
    If Len(InString) < 2 Then Exit Sub
    If Len(InString) >= 8 Then
        MsgBox "Too many permutations!"
        Exit Sub
        CurrentRow = 1
        Call GetPermutation("", InString)
    End If
End Sub

Sub GetPermutation(x As String, y As String)
'   The source of this algorithm is unknown
    Dim i As Integer, j As Integer
    j = Len(y)
    If j < 2 Then
        Cells(CurrentRow, 1) = x & y
        CurrentRow = CurrentRow + 1
        For i = 1 To j
            Call GetPermutation(x + Mid(y, i, 1), _
            Left(y, i - 1) + Right(y, j - i))
    End If
End Sub

Displaying Help

Category: General VBA / UserForms | [Item URL]

A companion file is available: Click here to download

This tip describes a useful technique that lets you display a series of help topics in an Excel workbook.

How it works

The technique described here uses a UserForm, and the UserForm has the following controls (see the Figure below):

  • A DropDown control (which displays the current help topic title)
  • A Label control that displays the help topic text
  • A Frame control. The label is inside of the frame to allow scrolling if all of the text isn't visible.
  • Three buttons: Previous, Next, and Exit

The help topics are contained on a worksheet, and the VBA code simply reads the text in the worksheet and transfers it to the UserForm. The user can select a help topic from the DropDown, or view the topics sequentially using the Previous and Next buttons.

You can easily adapt this technique to your own project:

  1. Export the UserForm and Import it to your project
  2. Set up the worksheet with the help topics and help text
  3. Create a simple macro to display the UserForm

Pros and Cons

This technique is very easy to set up, and requires no additional software or files. The VBA code is contained in the UserForm, so no additional programming is necessary. The primary disadvantage is that you cannot format the text that is displayed.

Deleting All Empty Rows

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

The subroutine below is a fast and efficient way to delete all empty rows in the active worksheet.

Sub DeleteEmptyRows()
    LastRow = ActiveSheet.UsedRange.Row - 1 + _
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    For r = LastRow To 1 Step -1
        If Application.CountA(Rows(r)) = 0 Then Rows(r).Delete
    Next r
End Sub

Notice that loop uses a negative Step value, which causes the rows to be deleted from the bottom to the top.

Working With Names In VBA

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

Most Excel users realize the value of using names in the workbook. This tip describes some VBA techniques that are useful when working with names.

Listing all names

You probably know that you can get a list of all names by using the Insert Name Paste command, and then clicking the Paste List button. The list that gets generated omits hidden names and sheet level names. The subroutine below creates a list of all names and their references, beginning in cell A1.

Sub ListAllNames()
    Row = 1
    For Each n In ActiveWorkbook.Names
        Cells(Row, 1) = n.Name
        Cells(Row, 2) = " " & n.RefersTo
        Row = Row + 1
    Next n
End Sub

This subroutine works by looping through the Names collection.

Hidden names

Hidden names are names that are not visibile to the end user. Developers often use hidden names to store various types of information. To demonstrate, just save a range in HTML format using the Internet Assistant Wizard add-in (use the File Save as HTML command). After doing so, execute the ListAllnames subroutine and you'll find that your workbook contains more than a dozen new hidden names that contain the parameters you specified in the Internet Assistant Wizard. The Internet Assistant Wizard uses this information as default values the next time it is run.

A hidden name has its visible property set to False. The only way change this propery is with VBA. For example, the statement below makes the name MyRange a hidden name:

ActiveWorkbook.Names("MyRange").Visible = False

Sheet level names

A sheet level name is a name that is valid for a particular worksheet. To create a sheet level name, precede the name with the worksheet name and an exclamation point.

To find out if a particular name is a sheet level name, simply determine if the name's Name property contains an exclamation point. You can use the Like operator to do this. The expression below is True if MyRange is a sheet level name.

ActiveWorkbook.Names("MyRange").Name  Like "*!*"

Linked names

A name can also refer to a different workbook. I call this type of name a linked name. To find out if a particular name is a linked name, simply determine if the name's RefersTo property contains a right bracket. The expression below is True if MyRange is a linked name.

ActiveWorkbook.Names("MyRange").RefersTo  Like "*[[]*"

NOTE: A bracket is a special character when using the Like command, so it must be enclosed in brackets.

Erroneous names

It's not uncommon for a name to refer to a range that no longer exist (deleting a sheet can cause this). These types of names are responsible for the "phantom link" phenomenon in which Excel asks you to update links when you open a workbook -- even if no links really exist.

To find out if a particular name is an erroneous name, simply determine if the name's RefersTo property conains "REF!". The expression below is True if MyRange is an erroneous name.

ActiveWorkbook.Names("MyRange").RefersTo Like "*REF!*" 

Using Auto List Members In The VB Editor

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

One of the most useful features in VBA is an option called Auto List Members. When this option is in effect, VBA displays a list that contains information that would logically complete the statement at the current insertion point.

For example, when you type Application (followed by a dot), you'll get a drop-down list of all of the properties and methods for the Application object. Simply select from the list and be on your way. This feature is useful because it:

  • Reduces typing
  • Prompts you with properties and methods you may not even know about
  • Eliminates spelling errors

If you're working in a code module for a UserForm, you may need to specify an object located on the UserForm (such as a ListBox) -- but you can't remember the object's name. The solution? Type Me followed by a dot. You'll get a list of all of the properties, methods, and objects for the UserForm. Then you can simply select the object's name from the list.

Similarly, you can type VBA followed by a dot and you'll get a list of VBA statements, functions, and constants. The figure below demonstrates.

NOTE: if Auto List Members isn't working for you, select Tools Options to view the Options dialog box. Click the Edit tab and make sure you have the Auto List Members option checked. (5786 bytes)

Automatically Resetting The Last Cell

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

It's commonly known that Excel sometimes has a problem in keeping track of the "last cell" in a worksheet. The last cell is lower right cell that contains data.

Any VBA reference to the UsedRange.Rows.Count property will force Excel to recognize the updated last cell on a worksheet. Therefore, if you're using Excel 97 you can insert the following subroutine into the code module for the ThisWorkbook object:

Private Sub Workbook_SheetSelectionChange _
  (ByVal Sh As Object, ByVal Target As Excel.Range)
  x = Sh.UsedRange.Rows.Count
End Sub

This subroutine is executed whenever the selection is changed on a worksheet. It quickly accesses the Count property -- and the last cell is reset. Pressing End-Home will always take you to the real last cell in the worksheet.

CAUTION: This technique has one potentially serious side-effect. Executing this procedure wipes out Excel's undo stack. In other words, if you use this technique you won't be able to use Undo. Therefore, a better technique might be to reset the used range when the workbook is saved (saving a workbook also zaps the undo stack). Here's an example:

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeSave _
  (ByVal SaveAsUI As Boolean, Cancel As Boolean)
    For Each Sh In ThisWorkbook.Worksheets
        x = Sh.UsedRange.Rows.Count
    Next Sh
End Sub

Synchronizing Sheets In A Workbook

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

If you use multisheet workbook, you probably know that Excel cannot "synchronize" the sheets in a workbook. In other words, there is no automatic way to force all sheets to have the same selected range and upper left cell.

The VBA macro listed below uses the active worksheet as a base, and then performs the following on all other worksheets in the workbook:

  • Selects the same range as the active sheet
  • Makes the upper left cell the same as the active sheet

Note: Hidden worksheet are ignored.

The SynchSheets Subroutine

Following is the listing for the subroutine:

Sub SynchSheets()
'   Duplicates the active sheet's active cell upperleft cell
'   Across all worksheets
    If TypeName(ActiveSheet) <> "Worksheet" Then Exit Sub
    Dim UserSheet As Worksheet, sht As Worksheet
    Dim TopRow As Long, LeftCol As Integer
    Dim UserSel As String
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False

'   Remember the current sheet
    Set UserSheet = ActiveSheet
'   Store info from the active sheet
    TopRow = ActiveWindow.ScrollRow
    LeftCol = ActiveWindow.ScrollColumn
    UserSel = ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.Address
'   Loop through the worksheets
    For Each sht In ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets
        If sht.Visible Then 'skip hidden sheets
            ActiveWindow.ScrollRow = TopRow
            ActiveWindow.ScrollColumn = LeftCol
        End If
    Next sht
'   Restore the original position
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

Using the Subroutine

To use this subroutine, copy it to a VBA module (your Personal Macro Workbook is a good choice). Then, activate a worksheet and execute the SynchSheets subroutine. All of the worksheets will then have the same range selection and and upper left cell as the active sheet.

Handling The Workbook Beforeclose Event

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

The BeforeClose event occurs before a workbook is closed. This event is often used in conjunction with a Workbook_Open event handler. For example, you can use the Workbook_Open procedure to initialize things, and use the Workbook_BeforeClose procedure to "clean up" things before the workbook is closed.

If you attempt to close a workbook that hasn't been saved, Excel displays a prompt asking if you want to save the workbook before closing. A potential problem can arise because by the time the users sees this message, the BeforeClose event has already occurred -- which means that your Workbook_BeforeClose subroutine has already executed.

Consider this scenario: You need to display a custom menu when a particular workbook is open. Therefore, your workbook uses a Workbook_Open procedure to create the menu when the workbook is opened, and it uses a Workbook_BeforeClose procedure to remove the menu when the workbook is closed. These two event-handler procedures (which must be in the code module for the ThisWorkbook object) are listed below.

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    Call CreateMenu
End Sub
Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)
    Call DeleteMenu
End Sub

But, as I noted above, Excel's "save workbook before closing" prompt occurs after the Workbook_BeforeClose event-handler runs. So if the user clicks Cancel, the workbook remains open -- but the custom menu item has already been deleted!

One solution to this problem is to by-pass Excel's prompt and write your own code in the Workbook_BeforeClose procedure to ask the user to save the workbook. The code below demonstrates. This procedure must be in the code module for the ThisWorkbook object.

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)
    If Not Me.Saved Then
        Msg = "Do you want to save the changes you made to "
        Msg = Msg & Me.Name & "?"
        Ans = MsgBox(Msg, vbQuestion + vbYesNoCancel)
        Select Case Ans
            Case vbYes
            Case vbNo
                Me.Saved = True
            Case vbCancel
                Cancel = True
                Exit Sub
          End Select
    End If
    Call DeleteMenu 'Change this to your own subroutine
End Sub

This procedure first determines if the workbook has been saved. If so, no problem -- the DeleteMenu subroutine is executed and the workbook is closed. But if the workbook has not been saved, the procedure displays a message box that duplicates the one Excel would normally show.

If the user clicks Yes the workbook is saved, the menu is deleted, and the workbook is closed. If the user click No, the code sets the Saved property of the Workbook object to True (but doesn't actually save the file), and deletes the menu. If the user clicks Cancel, the BeforeClose event is canceled and the subroutine ends without deleting the menu.

Pausing A Macro To Get A User-selected Range

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

This tip describes how to pause a VBA macro so the use can select a range. The trick is to use the InputBox function of the Application object.

NOTE: Do not confuse this with VBA's InputBox function. Although these two functions have the same name, they are not the same.

The Sub procedure listed below demonstrates how to pause a macro and let the user select a cell.

Sub GetUserRange()
    Dim UserRange As Range   
    Output = 565
    Prompt = "Select a cell for the output."
    Title = "Select a cell"

'   Display the Input Box
    On Error Resume Next
    Set UserRange = Application.InputBox( _
        Prompt:=Prompt, _
        Title:=Title, _
        Default:=ActiveCell.Address, _
        Type:=8) 'Range selection

'   Was the Input Box canceled?
    If UserRange Is Nothing Then
        MsgBox "Canceled."
        UserRange.Range("A1") = Output
    End If
End Sub

The input box is shown below. (1825 bytes)

Specifying a Type argument of 8 is the key to this procedure. Also, note the use of On Error Resume Next. This statement ignores the error that occurs if the user clicks the Cancel button. If so, the UserRange object variable is not defined. This example displays a message box with the text Canceled. If the user clicks OK, the macro continues.

By the way, it's not necessary to check for a valid range selection. Excel takes care of this for you.

WARNING: Make sure ScreenUpdating is turned on. Otherwise, you won't be able to select a cell.

Sending Personalized Email From Excel

Category: General VBA | [Item URL]

If you use Microsoft Outlook, it's fairly easy to create a macro to send personalized email from Excel. Just create an Outlook object and manipulate Outlook's object model using data from your worksheet.

But what if you don't use Outlook? This tip presents a technique for sending personalized email from Excel. I developed and tested the code using Outlook Express (which does not support VBA). It may or may not work with other email clients.

An Example

Consider the simple worksheet shown in the figure below. The goal is to send a personalized email to each of the three people listed in the workbook, informing them of their annual bonus amount.

For example, the first email message would read:

Dear John Jones,

I am pleased to inform you that your annual bonus is $2,000.

William Rose

The VBA Code

The VBA code to create and send these email messages is listed below.

Private Declare Function ShellExecute Lib "shell32.dll" _
Alias "ShellExecuteA" (ByVal hwnd As Long, ByVal lpOperation As String, _
ByVal lpFile As String, ByVal lpParameters As String, ByVal lpDirectory As String, _
ByVal nShowCmd As Long) As Long
Sub SendEMail()
    Dim Email As String, Subj As String
    Dim Msg As String, URL As String
    Dim r As Integer, x As Double
    For r = 2 To 4 'data in rows 2-4
'       Get the email address
        Email = Cells(r, 2)
'       Message subject
        Subj = "Your Annual Bonus"

'       Compose the message
        Msg = ""
        Msg = Msg & "Dear " & Cells(r, 1) & "," & vbCrLf & vbCrLf
        Msg = Msg & "I am pleased to inform you that your annual bonus is "

        Msg = Msg & Cells(r, 3).Text & "." & vbCrLf & vbCrLf
        Msg = Msg & "William Rose" & vbCrLf
        Msg = Msg & "President"
'       Replace spaces with %20 (hex)
        Subj = Application.WorksheetFunction.Substitute(Subj, " ", "%20")
        Msg = Application.WorksheetFunction.Substitute(Msg, " ", "%20")
'       Replace carriage returns with %0D%0A (hex)
        Msg = Application.WorksheetFunction.Substitute(Msg, vbCrLf, "%0D%0A")        
'       Create the URL
        URL = "mailto:" & Email & "?subject=" & Subj & "&body=" & Msg        

'       Execute the URL (start the email client)
        ShellExecute 0&, vbNullString, URL, vbNullString, vbNullString, vbNormalFocus

'       Wait two seconds before sending keystrokes
        Application.Wait (Now + TimeValue("0:00:02"))
        Application.SendKeys "%s"
    Next r
End Sub

How it Works

The first part of the macro is straightforward. It loops through the rows, picks up the email address and composes the custom message. Notice the use of Excel's Substitute worksheet function. This is used to replace space characters and carriage return/line feed sequences with their hex code equivalent (the standard characters are not allowed in a URL). A URL is created, and stored in the variable named URL. It then uses the ShellExecute API function to execute associated application.

At this point, the compose window for Outlook Express is displayed and ready to be sent. It uses the SendKeys message to send an Alt+S command (the "send" command for Outlook Express). Notice that there is a two second delay before the keystroke is sent. This can be adjusted as needed (one second may work fine).

I only use SendKeys as a last resort -- and this qualifies. Because of the pause, this macro is not very fast.

Note: The size of the email message is limited to (I think) 255 characters.

Note: My first approach was to use the FollowHyperlink method of the Workbook object. However, I was not able to figure out how to insert blank lines in the email body. Ron de Bruin solved that problem (see below).


"Bugs" suggested a way to insert a block of static text into the message, thereby negating the 255-character limit. The solution? Copy your text to the Clipboard. Then add the following statement before the Application.SendKeys statement:

 Application.SendKeys "{Tab}{Tab}{Tab}{Tab}{Tab}^{End}{Return}{Return}^v"

This statement tabs through the email window headers, jumps to the end of the message text, inserts two carriage returns, and pastes the contents of the clipboard. You may need to experiment with the number of Tabs sent.

For more information on sending email from Excel, visit Ron de Bruin's site.

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