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VBA – Opening & Using the Visual Basic Editor (VBE) in Excel

This tutorial will show you how to open and program in the Visual Basic Editor in VBA.

Opening the Visual Basic Editor

There are a few ways to access the Visual Basic Editor (VBE) in Excel.

Press Alt + F11 on your keyboard.

OR

Click View > Macros > View Macros. From here you can Edit an existing macro or Create a new one. Either option opens up the VB Editor.

vba vbe editor

OR

Developer > Visual Basic

Note: If you don’t see the Developer Ribbon, you’ll need to enable it.

To enable the Developer Ribbon

Click on the File tab in the Ribbon, and go down to Options. In the Customize Ribbon options, tick the Developer check box. This is switched off by default so you will need to switch it on to see the tab on the ribbon.

vba vbe developer

Click OK.

The Developer tab will appear on the main ribbon. Click on Visual Basic at the start of the ribbon to access the Visual Basic Editor.

vba vbe vbescreen

Understanding the VBE Screen

The VBE Screen is shown in the graphic below.

vba vbe vbeexplain

 

The Project Explorer

The Project Explorer enables you to see how the Project in which you are working is organized.  You can see how many modules and forms are stored in the project, and can navigate between these modules and forms. A module is where the code in your workbook is stored, when you record a macro, it will be stored in a standard module – which will by default be named ‘Module1’.

Each of the worksheets in your Excel file also has module behind it, as does the workbook itself.  When you insert a new sheet into the workbook via the main Excel screen, you will see an additional sheet module appear in the Project Explorer.

vba vbe sheetmodule

Double-click on a module to move to the code for that module.

vba vbe workbook module

You can also click on the Window menu on the toolbar and select the module there to move to the code for that module.

vba vbe insert window module

Type of Modules

The modules are organized into 5 different types.

  1. Standard modules – most of your code will go into this type of module. When you record a macro, it gets put into a standard module.    When you write a general procedure to be used throughout your workbook, it also normally goes into a standard module.
  2. Workbook modules – this module holds the code the is unique to that individual workbook. Most of the code in these type of modules are known as EVENTS.   An event can occur when a workbook is opened or closed for example. The module can also contain code that is written by yourself and used by the events.
  3. Sheet modules – this module holds the code that is unique to that individual sheet.  They can occur when a sheet is clicked on for example (the Click Event), or when you change data in a cell.  This module can also hold code that is written by yourself and called by the Events.
  4. Form modules – this is the module behind a custom form that you may create. For example you may create a form to hold details for an invoice, with an OK button, the code behind the button (the Click Event) contains the code that will run  when the button is clicked.
  5. Class modules – this module is used to create objects at run time. Class module are used by Advanced VBA programmers and will be covered at a later stage.

Inserting a module or form into your code

To insert a new module into your code, click on the Insert option on the menu bar, and click Module.

vba vbe insert module

Or, click on the Insert Module button which you will find on the standard ribbon.

vba vbe insert module ribbon

To insert a new user form into your code, select the UserForm option.

vba vbe insert userform

A new user form will appear in the Project Explorer and will be shown in the Code Window on the right.

vba vbe userform

You can also insert a Class Module

vba vbe insert classmodule

A class module is used to insert objects into your VBA project.

vba vbe insert classmodule2

Removing a Module or Form from the Project Explorer

Right-click on the module or form you wish to remove to show the right click short cut menu.

vba vbe delete userform

 

Click Remove (in this case UserForm1…)

OR

Click on the File menu, and then click on Remove (UserForm1).

vba vbe delete userform 1

A warning box will appear asking if you want to Export the form or module before you remove it.  Exporting the form or module enables you to save it as an individual file for use in a different Excel project at some other time.

vba vbe save userform

More often than not when you remove a module or form it is because you do not need it, so click No.

The Properties Window

You will see the properties window below the Project Explorer.  You may need to switch this on.

Press F4 or click View, Properties Window.

vba vbe properties

The properties window enables you to see the properties for the particular module or form that is selected in the Project Explorer.  When you are working in modules, you can use the properties window to change the name of the module.  This is the only property available to a module. However, when you are working with forms, there will be far more properties available and the Properties window is then used extensively to control the behavior of forms and the controls contained in the form.

When you record a macro, it is automatically put into a standard module.  The module will named ‘Module1’ and any code that is contained in that module is available to be used throughout your project.  You should rename your module to something that is significant, that would make your code easy to find if you were to add multiple modules to the project.

vba vbe properties window

You can also rename your forms.

vba vbe rename forms

If you have renamed your sheet in Excel, the name of the sheet will show up as the name of the sheet in brackets after Sheet1.

vba vbe sheet name

If you want to change the name of the module behind the sheet, you can change it in the same way you change the module and user form name – by changing the Name property in the Properties Window.

vba vbe sheet rename

The Code Window

The code window shows you the sub procedures and functions that are contained in your modules – it shows you the actual code.  When you record a macro, a sub procedure will be created for you.  If you add a short cut key to the macro, it will show up as a comment in the macro to let you know what the short cut key is that you assigned to the macro.

vba vbe code window

At the top of the code window are two combo boxes.  These allow you to see which object (if any) within the Module that you might be working on, and which Procedure you might be working on.

In the example above, we are not working on any object – thus this is set to general, but we are working within the Gridlines procedure.

If we had more than one procedure in this module, we could use the combo box above to navigate to the other procedures.

Understanding the Code

There are 2 types of procedures – Sub procedures and Function procedures.

Sub Procedures

The macro recorder can only record Sub procedures.  A Sub procedure does things.  They perform actions such as formatting a table or creating a pivot table, or in the gridline example, changing the view settings of your active window.  The majority of procedures written are Sub procedures.  All macros are Sub procedures.

A sub procedure begins with a Sub statement and ends with an End Sub statement.  The procedure name is always followed by parentheses.

Function Procedures

A Function procedure returns a value.  This value may be a single value, an array, a range of cells or an object.  Functions usually perform some type of calculation.   Functions in Excel can be used with the Function Wizard or they can be called from Sub Procedures.

 This function could be used within the Insert Function dialog box in Excel to convert Pounds to Kilograms.

vba vbe insert function excel

Creating a new Procedure

Before you create your new procedure, make sure you are in the module in which you wish to store the procedure.  You can create a new procedure by clicking on the Insert menu, Procedure;

vba vbe insert procedure

or you can click on the icon on the toolbar

vba vbe insert procedure 2

The following dialog box will appear

vba vbe add procedure

  1. Type the name of your new procedure in the name box – this must start with a letter of the alphabet and can contain letters and number and be a maximum of 64 characters.
  2. You can have a Sub procedure, a Function procedure or a Property procedure. (Properties are used in Class modules and set properties for ActiveX controls that you may have created).
  3. You can make the scope of the procedure either Public or Private. If the procedure is public (default), then it can be used by all the modules in the project while if the procedure is private, it will only be able to be used by this module.
  4. You can declare local variables in this procedure as Statics (this is to do with the Scope of the variable and makes a local procedure level variable public to the entire module). We will not use this option.

When you have filled in all the relevant details, click on OK.

vba vbe public sub proceduire

You then type your code between the Sub and End Sub statements.

ALTERNATIVELY – you can type the Sub and End Sub statements in your module exactly as it appears above.  You do not need to put the word Public in front of the word sub – if this word is omitted, all procedures in the module are automatically assumed to be Public.

Then you type Sub and then the name of your procedure followed by parenthesis.

ie:

The End Sub statement will appear automatically.

vba vbe sub procedure

Writing Code that is easy to understand and navigate

Adding Comments

Get into the habit of putting in comments in your code in order to remind yourself at a later stage of the functionality of the code.

vba vbe code comment

You can insert a comment in your code but typing an apostrophe on the keyboard or you can switch on the Edit toolbar, and use the comment button which appears on that toolbar.

Right-click on the toolbars.

vba vbe show debug ribbon

Select Edit.

vba vbe debug ribbon

Click on the comment button to insert a comment into your code.

vba vbe comment block

NOTE: You usually only use the comment block button when you have a few lines of code you wish to comment out (and not delete).  It is easier for a single comment to use an apostrophe.

Indenting

A good habit to get into is to indent your code making it easy to read through the code and see the different parts of the code.

vba vbe indent

There can be many levels of indenting, depending on the logic of your code.

vba vbe indent 2

UpperCase vs LowerCase

VBA adjusts all code to Proper Case so if you type ALL IN UPPERCASE or all in lowercase it will Readjust Your Code To Be In Proper Case!

AutoComplete

When you adjust your code, you will notice that VBA tries to help you by suggesting the code that you can type.  This is known as AutoComplete.

vbba vbe code case

 

Error trapping and Debugging

There are 4 types of errors that can occur when you write VBA code – Syntax errors, Compilation errors, Runtime errors and Logical Errors.

Syntax errors

These occur when you write the code incorrectly.   This is largely prevented by VBA by having the Syntax check option switch on.  This is normally on by default but if your is switch off, then switch it on by going to Tools, Options and click Auto Syntax Check.

vba vbe options syntax

If you type the code incorrectly (for example excluding something that should be in the code), a message box will pop up while you are writing the code giving you the opportunity to amend the code.

vba vbe compile error

Compilation Errors

These occur when something is missing from the code that prevents the code from running.  The error does not come up when you write the code, but it occurs when you try and run the code.

vba vbe compile error 2

Runtime Errors

These occur when you run the code, and the syntax and compilation is correct, but something else occurs to prevent the code from running correctly.

vba vbe debug

In this case, Sheet4 does not exist.  This error message is more useful than the compile error messages as it gives you the opportunity to Debug the code and see why it is not working.

Click Debug. The code will stop at the error and highlight the error in yellow enabling you to correct your error.

vba vbe debug break

Amend Sheet4 to Sheet2 (as Sheet 2 exists and Sheet 4 does not exist).

vba vbe debug fix

Press F5 or click on the Continue button on the toolbar.

vba vbe f5

Logical Errors

These are the most difficult to find.  In their case, the code is written correctly but the actual logic of the code is flawed, so you may not get the result that you want from the code.  For logical errors, error trapping is essential.

There are 2 types of error traps

On Error Go To

The following code is to open the File Open Dialog box – it will give us an error if the user clicks Cancel.

vba vbe logical error 1

When you run the code the File Open dialog box appears.

vba vbe logical error 2

When you then click cancel, the error will occur.

vba vbe logical error 3

The following Error trap will continue the code to the Exit Function of the code, and return message.

This makes use of On Error GoTo to exit the function.

vba vbe logical error 4

When you run the code and click cancel, the message box will appear.

vba vbe logical error 5

 

On Error Resume Next

If you put the On Error Resume Next Statement into your code, the line that contains the error will be ignored and the code will continue.

For example, if the user clicks Cancel in the code below, the code will not give you a run-time error, it will just end without the code doing anything further.

vba vbe on error resume next

There are times when this is very useful but it can also be very dangerous in some circumstances as it does not return a message as to why you obtained an error.