Creating Superscript and Subscript Buttons

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 20, 2016)

When you are editing a cell in Excel, you have access to several of the formatting toolbar buttons that can make formatting the cell a bit easier. For instance, you can use the Bold or Italics tools to change these two attributes for any text selected in a cell. At some point you may want to create other toolbar buttons to handle other formatting, such as applying superscript or subscript.

Excel, however, doesn't allow you to create your own formatting tools and have them accessible while editing a cell. This is because Excel "deactivates" all user-defined macros while you are doing the editing. You are left with formatting the cell contents via Format | Cells, or by pressing Ctrl+1 to display the Format Cells dialog box directly.

There is a sneaky way you can use to create your own formatting tools, however. This involves the use of user forms and VBA to create your own formatting "dialog box." (I know—this is not really a dialog box, but a form.) Creating your own user form is not terribly difficult, but it isn't for the faint-of-heart when it comes to macros. Follow these steps to create your own form:

  1. Press Ctrl+F11 to display the VBA Editor.
  2. In the VBA Editor, choose User Form from the Insert menu. A new, blank user form displays, along with the form toolbox.
  3. Using the controls in the form toolbox, add three CommandButton controls across the top of the form.
  4. Change the properties for the left CommandButton control so its Name is btnSuper and its Caption is Superscript.
  5. Change the properties for the center CommandButton control so its Name is btnSub and its Caption is Subscript.
  6. Change the properties for the right CommandButton control so its Name is btnNormal and its Caption is Normal.
  7. Just under the three buttons, add a TextBox control. You don't need to change any properties for this control.
  8. Just under the TextBox control, add a fourth CommandButton control.
  9. Change the properties for this last CommandButton control so its Name is btnExit and its Caption is Exit.

That's it; you've created your user form, and you are ready to associate macro code with the controls you just placed. With the user form selected, press F7 to display the Code window for the form. The window may contain a line or two of automatically generated code. Replace this with the following code:

Private Sub UserForm_Activate()
    TextBox1.Text = ActiveCell.Formula
End Sub
Private Sub btnSuper_Click()
Dim intStart As Integer
    Dim intLength As Integer
    intLength = TextBox1.SelLength
    If intLength > 0 Then
        intStart = TextBox1.SelStart + 1
        ActiveCell.Characters(intStart, intLength).Font.Superscript = True
    End If
End Sub
Private Sub btnSub_Click()
    Dim intStart As Integer
    Dim intLength As Integer
    intLength = TextBox1.SelLength
    If intLength > 0 Then
        intStart = TextBox1.SelStart + 1
        ActiveCell.Characters(intStart, intLength).Font.Subscript = True
    End If
End Sub
Private Sub btnExit_Click()
    Unload UserForm1
End Sub
Private Sub btnNormal_Click()
    Dim intStart As Integer
    Dim intLength As Integer
    intLength = TextBox1.SelLength
    If intLength > 0 Then
        intStart = TextBox1.SelStart + 1
        ActiveCell.Characters(intStart, intLength).Font.Superscript = False
        ActiveCell.Characters(intStart, intLength).Font.Subscript = False
    End If
End Sub

Close the Code window for the user form, and close the form window itself. You now need to create a very short macro that will display the actual user form. This macro is created the same as any other Excel macro, and should look like this:

Sub DoForm()
    UserForm1.Show
End Sub

You can now close the VBA Editor window. In order to use the macro, select the cell you want to edit, and then run the DoForm macro. Excel displays your user form, which contains the text in the selected cell. You can then select text within the user form and use the buttons (Superscript, Subscript, and Normal) to change the formatting of the actual cell contents. The macro affects the contents of the cell, not the contents of the user form. Thus, it is helpful to be able to see both the selected cell and the user form on the screen at the same time.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1945) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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