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Working while a Macro is Running

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Working while a Macro is Running.

Macros are great for doing the mundane (or not so mundane) processing that is often necessary with Excel data. After you start to use them, you may find that running macros can consume quite a bit of time. While you are running them, there is very little else that you can do, since Excel won't allow you to do any other work while the macro is chunking away.

The best way to do additional work is to open another instance of Excel. As you are working on one workbook in the foreground, the other instance of Excel continues to work away at the macro in the background. This approach works because Windows allows multiple instances of a program, each in its own workspace. The only thing you cannot do is work in the foreground on the same workbook which the macro is using.

In order to open a second instance of Excel, simply follow the steps you followed to open the first instance. For example, if you started Excel by calling up the Start menu and then the Programs submenu, you could do the same thing to open the second instance.

You should realize that the macro running in the background instance of Excel will be affected by you working on a different instance of Excel in the foreground. This, again, is related to how Windows treats different programs. On most systems, the background programs are given a smaller percentage of the CPU's attention than the foreground program.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2021) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Working while a Macro is Running.

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Comments for this tip:

Barry Fitzpatrick    19 Nov 2011, 16:33
If a macro is running for a long period of time it is likely it is executing a loop. By embedding within the loop a "DoEvents" instruction the macro will suspend operations back to the User, and once all User input has been serviced will resume macro execution.

This slows the macro down a bit, but allows you to work on the same spreadsheet (or another spreadsheet) within the same instance of Excel. You do have to be careful as by changing a value on the worksheet could affect the macro i.e. maybe waiting for a value to change then takes action sometimes changing the value back again.

There are also some other oddities when running macros behind the scenes like this. I've observed that on a random basis, some tool bar buttons are greyed out.
 
 

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