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: Recording a Data Entry Time.

Recording a Data Entry Time

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 8, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Vinay uses an Excel worksheet for data entry. Information is entered in column A and Vinay would like to have a way to automatically add a time into column B, adjacent to the value entered in column A, that indicates when the value was entered.

There are several different ways you can accomplish this task. The first is to manually enter a time by selecting the adjacent cell in column B and pressing Ctrl+Shift+; (that's the semicolon). This shortcut enters the current time in the cell. The problem with this approach, of course, is that it isn't automatic and it takes some extra movement and keystrokes to implement.

A better approach would be to use a formula to enter the time. The NOW function returns the current date and time, and you can use it in a cell in this manner:

=NOW()

Of course, this simple formula is updated every time the worksheet recalculates. That means that the function returns the current time every time you enter a value in column A. This is undesirable because you don't want previous times to update. You could try to use a formula to check to see if something is in column A, as in this manner:

=IF(A3="","",IF(B3="",NOW(),B3))

The problem is that a formula like this introduces a circular reference into the worksheet, which presents a whole host of challenges to work with. A better approach is to create a macro that automatically runs every time something is entered in column A. Right-click on the tab of the worksheet used for data entry and choose View Code from the Context menu. You'll see the Code window for the worksheet in the Visual Basic Editor, and then enter this into the window:

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Excel.Range)
    Dim rCell As Range
    Dim rChange As Range
    
    On Error GoTo ErrHandler
    Set rChange = Intersect(Target, Range("A:A"))
    If Not rChange Is Nothing Then
        Application.EnableEvents = False
        For Each rCell In rChange
            If rCell > "" Then
                With rCell.Offset(0, 1)
                    .Value = Now
                    .NumberFormat = "hh:mm:ss"
                End With
            Else
                rCell.Offset(0, 1).Clear
            End If
        Next
    End If

ExitHandler:
    Set rCell = Nothing
    Set rChange = Nothing
    Application.EnableEvents = True
    Exit Sub
ErrHandler:
    MsgBox Err.Description
    Resume ExitHandler
End Sub

With the macro in place, anytime you enter something into a cell in column A, the adjacent cell in column B will contain the date and time (formatted to show only the time). If you delete something in column A, then the adjacent cell in column B is cleared, as well.

Note, as well, that you can change the setting for the NumberFormat property to reflect how you want the date to appear. As an example, you could change to a twelve-hour time format by changing "hh:mm:ss" to "h:mm:ss AM/PM".

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3116) 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: Recording a Data Entry Time.

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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