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Searching by Columns, by Default

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: Searching by Columns, by Default.

When you use the Find command, Excel defaults to "search by row" as the order it will use in looking for information. Your needs may vary, however; you may have a need to search by column most of the time. You can certainly change this setting when you start the search, but wouldn't it be nice to change the default so that Excel starts out by searching columns?

Unfortunately, there is no setting that you can specify so that Excel remembers how you want to do your search. You can, however, use a macro to set the default searching order. Consider the following example:

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    On Error Resume Next
    Cells.Find("", , , , xlByColumns, , , False) = True
End Sub

This macro does nothing but change the search order to columns. After it is run (in other words, after you open the workbook), subsequent searches will default to searching by column.

The fact that Excel remembers the last-used search order for all subsequent searches during the current Excel session can be used to your advantage. The following macro does essentially the same thing as the previous example, except it also closes the workbook:

Sub Auto_Open()
    Worksheets("sheet1").Cells.Find _
      What:="", _
      After:=ActiveCell, _
      LookIn:=xlFormulas, _
      LookAt:=xlWhole, _
      SearchOrder:=xlByColumns, _
      SearchDirection:=xlNext, _
      MatchCase:=True

    ThisWorkbook.Close savechanges:=False
End Sub

If you put this macro into a blank workbook and then saved the workbook in your xlStart folder, it would be opened every time you start Excel. When opened, the workbook does a single search using the settings you want, and then closes itself. The net result is that your search order is set to columns, and subsequent searches will occur the way you want them to.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3913) 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: Searching by Columns, by Default.

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