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Pulling Apart Characters in a Long String

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: Pulling Apart Characters in a Long String.

John has a worksheet that, in column A, has a large number of very long text strings. He needs to individually pull the first 249 characters from each string, placing a single character in each cell to the right of the string.

There are a couple of ways that you can accomplish this task. It is quite easy to do through the use of a simple formula. For instance, if your first text string is in cell A1, put the following formula to its right, in cell B1:

=MID($A1,COLUMN()-1,1)

This formula uses Excel worksheet functions to pull apart the text string. The COLUMN function, in this case, returns the value 2 since the formula is in column B and that is the second column in the worksheet. This value is decremented by 1, and then used as a pointer into the string in cell A1, marking where the extracted character should come from. When you copy this formula right, for however many cells desired, you end up with individual characters from the string, in consecutive order.

Of course, if you have quite a few strings in the worksheet (as John does), then copying this formula over 249 columns and down, say, several hundred rows can make for a very sluggish worksheet. In such situations it may be desirable to use a macro to split apart the strings instead of a formula. The following macro, SplitUp, is one approach to doing the actual tearing apart.

Sub SplitUp()
    Dim c As Range
    Dim r As Range
    Dim sTemp As String
    Dim z As Integer

    Set r = Range("A1", Range("A65536").End(xlUp))
    For Each c In r
        sTemp = Left(c, 249)
        For z = 1 To Len(sTemp)
            c.Offset(0, z) = Mid(sTemp, z, 1)
        Next z
    Next
End Sub

The macro starts by defining a range (r) that consists of all the cells in column A that contain values. The c variable is then used to represent each cell in the range, and the first 249 characters pulled from each cell. A For ... Next loop is then used to pull each character from the string and stuff it into a cell to the right of the string.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2790) 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: Pulling Apart Characters in a Long String.

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