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: Using Excel for Timing.

Using Excel for Timing

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 11, 2017)


You may want to use Excel to record the elapsed time for different events. There are two ways that this can be approached: either native, within Excel, or with a macro.

If you don't want to use a macro, you can easily set up three columns for your timing. The first column can be used to record the start time, the second column the end time, and then the third column the elapsed time (calculated by using a formula that subtracts the start time from the end time). In order to record times, you select a cell in either the start time or end time columns and press Ctrl+: (the colon). Excel enters the current time in that cell.

If you want to use a macro that simply returns the elapsed time, then you can use the following:

Public Sub TimeIt()
    Dim vStartTime As Date

    vStartTime = Time
    MsgBox Prompt:="Press the button to end the timing" & vbCrLf _
      & "Timing started at " & Format(vStartTime, "hh:mm:ss"), _
      Buttons:=vbOKOnly, _
      Title:="Time Recording Macro"
    ActiveCell.Value = Time - vStartTime
End Sub

This macro records a start time (in vStartTime), and then displays a message box. When you click on the message box button, the difference between the current time and the start time is stored in the current cell. (You need to make sure the current cell is formatted with one of the time formats.)

The above macro works very well for recording short events during which you don't need to use Excel for other tasks. If you need to record longer events, then a different approach is in order. The following macros work in tandem. The first one records a start time; that is all it does. The second one uses that recorded time to calculate an elapsed time which is placed in the currently selected cell.

Global vStTime

Sub StartTiming()
    vStTime = Time
End Sub

Sub EndTiming()
    ActiveCell.Value = Time - vStTime
End Sub

You could easily assign these two macros to the Quick Access toolbar or to different toolbar buttons that would, respectively, start and stop the timing process.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2037) 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: Using Excel for Timing.

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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What is five more than 3?

2017-06-19 05:13:21


Great tip about the short cut for putting timing on a spreadsheet once I found it should be for me Ctrl. Shift and colon. I run a timesheet and did not realise this shortcut. Thank you.

2012-01-09 06:59:32

Dave Kerr

small typo...

Ctrl+: enters the date in the current cell.

Use Shift+Ctrl+: to enter the time.

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