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: Breaking Up Variable-Length Part Numbers.

Breaking Up Variable-Length Part Numbers

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 12, 2014)

Marty has a worksheet with a long series of part numbers in column A. These consist of letters and numbers, such as A123BC, AB123C, etc. Marty wants to break the data into three columns, so that text before the numbers will be in one column, numbers in the second column, and text after the numbers in the third.

The factor that complicates dividing the part number into segments is that there is no set length for each component of the combined part number. If the components were of standard lengths, then you could use the Text to Columns function in Excel. Since they aren't, and there is no delimiter between the components, then that potential avenue for solution is closed.

If you want to use formulas to pull apart the part numbers, then you will need three of them, one for each component you want to extract. Assuming that the part numbers follow the pattern indicated (text, digits, text) and that the first part number is in cell A1, you could use the following in cell B1:


This needs to be entered as an array formula, meaning that you need to enter it using Ctrl+Shift+Enter. The formula finds the first numeric digit in the part number, and then returns everything before that digit. It will work on any part number that isn't over 100 characters in length.

To extract the second component of the part number, you can put the following formula in cell C1:


Again, this is a single formula, and it needs to be entered as an array formula (Ctrl+Shift+Enter) so that it can work on each character in the original part number. It examines the part number and determines the beginning point of the digits, and then extracts all those digits. It returns a text string, even though that string is composed of digits. If you want it to actually be treated as a number (which would get rid of any leading zeros, of course), then you need to enclose the entire formula in a Value function, as shown here:


To get the last component of the part number, you need to use the following formula, again entered as an array formula:


While this approach works very well, array formulas are notoriously calculation intensive, especially when you have a lot of the formulas in your worksheet. If you need to pull apart a thousand part numbers, that means that you end up with 3,000 array formulas, which can be very, very slow in recalculating.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to use a macro to actually pull apart the part numbers. The following macro should work on part numbers that follow the pattern of text, digits, text, as already described.

Sub Split1()
    Dim C As Range
    Dim sNew As New
    Dim i As Integer
    For Each C In Selection
        sNew = ""
        i = 1

        ' Get first part, which is text
        Do While IsNumeric(Mid(C, i, 1)) = False
            sNew = sNew & Mid(C, i, 1)

            i = i + 1
            If i > Len(C) Then Exit Do
        C.Offset(0, 1).Value = sNew

        ' Pull next part, which should be digits
        sNew = ""
        Do While IsNumeric(Mid(C, i, 1)) = True
            sNew = sNew & Mid(C, i, 1)

            i = i + 1
            If i > Len(C) Then Exit Do
        C.Offset(0, 2).Value = sNew

        ' Use rest of original cell
        sNew = Mid(C, i, Len(C))
        C.Offset(0, 3).Value = sNew
    Next C
End Sub

To use the macro, just make a selection of part numbers and run it. The macro uses the concept of looking for changes between numeric/nonnumeric values in string of characters in the cell. When one of these boundaries is reached, the part of the original string before the boundary is stuffed into a new cell. This concept can be shortened a bit, as is done in the following example.

Sub Split2()
    Dim C As Range
    Dim j As Integer
    Dim k As Integer

    For Each C In Selection
        j = 1
        Do While Not (IsNumeric(Mid(C.Value, j, 1))) And j <= Len(C)
            j = j + 1
        k = j

        Do While IsNumeric(Mid(C.Value, k, 1)) And k <= Len(C)
            k = k + 1

        C.Offset(0, 1) = Left(C, j - 1)
        C.Offset(0, 2) = Mid(C, j, k - j)
        C.Offset(0, 3) = Mid(C, k, Len(C) - (k - 1))
    Next C
End Sub

The difference between this version of the macro and the previous one, of course, is that this version steps through the original cell and determines the boundaries all at once. When they are known, then the components of the original part number are stuffed into the cells.

An interesting approach to pulling apart the part numbers is to use a couple of short user-defined functions that determine where the boundaries are between the components. Consider the following two functions:

Function pNumber(X)
    i = 1
    Do Until Mid(X, i, 1) Like "#": i = i + 1: Loop
    pNumber = i
End Function
Function pAlpha(X)
    X = UCase(X)
    i = pNumber(X)
    Do Until Mid(X, i, 1) Like "[A-Z]": i = i + 1: Loop
    pAlpha = i
End Function

These are much shorter than the previous macros, and all they do is return the boundary where the numbers start (in the case of pNumber) and the boundary where the second group of text starts (in the case of pAlpha). To use the functions, you use the following three formulas to return, respectively, the first, second, and third components of the original part number:


ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3141) 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: Breaking Up Variable-Length Part Numbers.

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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