Excel VBA Formulas – The Ultimate Guide

This tutorial will teach you how to create cell formulas using VBA.

Formulas in VBA

Using VBA, you can write formulas directly to Ranges or Cells in Excel. It looks like this:

Sub Formula_Example()

    'Assign a hard-coded formula to a single cell
    Range("b3").Formula = "=b1+b2"
    'Assign a flexible formula to a range of cells
    Range("d1:d100").FormulaR1C1 = "=RC2+RC3"

End Sub

There are two Range properties you will need to know:

  • .Formula – Creates an exact formula (hard-coded cell references). Good for adding a formula to a single cell.
  • .FormulaR1C1 – Creates a flexible formula. Good for adding formulas to a range of cells where cell references should change.

For simple formulas, it’s fine to use the .Formula Property.  However, for everything else, we recommend using the Macro Recorder

Macro Recorder and Cell Formulas

The Macro Recorder is our go-to tool for writing cell formulas with VBA.  You can simply:

  • Start recording
  • Type the formula (with relative / absolute references as needed) into the cell & press enter
  • Stop recording
  • Open VBA and review the formula, adapting as needed and copying+pasting the code where needed.

I find it’s much easier to enter a formula into a cell than to type the corresponding formula in VBA.

vba formula formular1c1

Notice a couple of things:

  • The Macro Recorder will always use the .FormulaR1C1 property
  • The Macro Recorder recognizes Absolute vs. Relative Cell References

VBA FormulaR1C1 Property

The FormulaR1C1 property uses R1C1-style cell referencing (as opposed to the standard A1-style you are accustomed to seeing in Excel).

Here are some examples:

Sub FormulaR1C1_Examples()

    'Reference D5 (Absolute)
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R5C4"
    'Reference D5 (Relative) from cell A1
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R[4]C[3]"
    'Reference D5 (Absolute Row, Relative Column) from cell A1
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R5C[3]"
    'Reference D5 (Relative Row, Absolute Column) from cell A1
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R[4]C4"

End Sub

Notice that the R1C1-style cell referencing allows you to set absolute or relative references.

Absolute References

In standard A1 notation an absolute reference looks like this: “=$C$2”.  In R1C1 notation it looks like this: “=R2C3”.

To create an Absolute cell reference using R1C1-style type:

  • R + Row number
  • C + Column number

Example:  R2C3 would represent cell $C$2 (C is the 3rd column).

    'Reference D5 (Absolute)
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R5C4"

Relative References

Relative cell references are cell references that “move” when the formula is moved.

In standard A1 notation they look like this: “=C2”. In R1C1 notation, you use brackets [] to offset the cell reference from the current cell.

Example: Entering formula “=R[1]C[1]” in cell B3 would reference cell D4 (the cell 1 row below and 1 column to the right of the formula cell).

Use negative numbers to reference cells above or to the left of the current cell.

    'Reference D5 (Relative) from cell A1
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R[4]C[3]"

Mixed References

Cell references can be partially relative and partially absolute.  Example:

    'Reference D5 (Relative Row, Absolute Column) from cell A1
    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R[4]C4"

VBA Formula Property

When setting formulas with the .Formula Property you will always use A1-style notation.  You enter the formula just like you would in an Excel cell, except surrounded by quotations:

    'Assign a hard-coded formula to a single cell
    Range("b3").Formula = "=b1+b2"

VBA Formula Tips

Formula With Variable

When working with Formulas in VBA, it’s very common to want to use variables within the cell formulas.  To use variables, you use & to combine the variables with the rest of the formula string. Example:

Sub Formula_Variable()
    Dim colNum As Long
    colNum = 4

    Range("a1").FormulaR1C1 = "=R1C" & colNum & "+R2C" & colNum

End Sub

Formula Quotations

If you need to add a quotation (“) within a formula, enter the quotation twice (“”):

vba formula quotations

Sub Macro2()
    Range("B3").FormulaR1C1 = "=TEXT(RC[-1],""mm/dd/yyyy"")"
End Sub

A single quotation (“) signifies to VBA the end of a string of text. Whereas a double quotation (“”) is treated like a quotation within the string of text.

Similarly, use 3 quotation marks (“””) to surround a string with a quotation mark (“)

MsgBox """Use 3 to surround a string with quotes"""
' This will print <"Use 3 to surround a string with quotes"> immediate window

Assign Cell Formula to String Variable

We can read the formula in a given cell or range and assign it to a variable:

'Assign Cell Formula to Variable
Dim strFormula as String
strFormula = Range("B1").Formula

Different Ways to Add Formulas to a Cell

Here are a few more examples for how to assign a formula to a cell:

  1. Directly Assign Formula
  2. Define a String Variable Containing the Formula
  3. Use Variables to Create Formula
Sub MoreFormulaExamples ()
' Alternate ways to add SUM formula
' to cell B1
  Dim strFormula as String
  Dim cell as Range
  dim fromRow as Range, toRow as Range

  Set cell = Range("B1")

  ' Directly assigning a String
  cell.Formula = "=SUM(A1:A10)"

  ' Storing string to a variable
  ' and assigning to "Formula" property
  strFormula = "=SUM(A1:A10)"
  cell.Formula = strFormula

  ' Using variables to build a string 
  ' and assigning it to "Formula" property
  fromRow = 1
  toRow   = 10
  strFormula = "=SUM(A" & fromValue & ":A" & toValue & ")
  cell.Formula = strFormula
End Sub

Refresh Formulas

As a reminder, to refresh formulas, you can use the Calculate command:


To refresh single formula, range, or entire worksheet use .Calculate instead:



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