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: Setting a Length Limit on Cells.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 21, 2020)
Craig is developing a worksheet and wants to know if there is a way to specify the maximum number of characters that can be entered in any given cell. He doesn't want to use Data Validation to impose the limitation.
There is no way to do this directly in Excel without (as Craig mentions) using Data Validation. There are a few things you can try to achieve the desired effect, however. First, you can using a formula to check the length of any cell, and then display an error message, if desired. For instance, if the cells you want to check are in column C, you could use a formula such as the following:
=IF((LEN(C1)>15),"Cell is Too Long","")
Place the formula in the cell to the right of the cell being checked (such as in cell D1), and then copy it down as many cells as necessary. When an entry is made in C1, and if it is more than 15 characters, then the message is displayed.
If such a direct approach is undesirable, then you'll need to use macros to do the checking. The following is a simple example that is triggered whenever something is changed in the worksheet. Each cell in the worksheet is then checked to make sure it is not longer than 15 characters. If such a cell is discovered, then a message box is displayed and the cell is cleared.
Private Sub Worksheet_SelectionChange(ByVal Target As Range) For Each cell In UsedRange If Len(cell.Value) > 15 Then MsgBox " Can't enter more than 15 characters" cell.Value = "" End If Next End Sub
A more robust approach is to check in the event handler to see if the change was made somewhere within a range of cells that need to be length-limited.
Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Excel.Range) Dim rng As Range Dim rCell As Range Dim iChars As Integer On Error GoTo ErrHandler 'Change these as desired iChars = 15 Set rng = Me.Range("A1:A10") If Not Intersect(Target, rng) Is Nothing Then Application.EnableEvents = False For Each rCell In Intersect(Target, rng) If Len(rCell.Value) > iChars Then rCell.Value = Left(rCell.Value, iChars) MsgBox rCell.Address & " has more than" _ & iChars & " characters." & vbCrLf _ & "It has been truncated." End If Next End If ExitHandler: Application.EnableEvents = True Set rCell = Nothing Set rng = Nothing Exit Sub ErrHandler: MsgBox Err.Description Resume ExitHandler End Sub
To use this macro, you simply need to change the value assigned to iChars (represents the maximum length allowed) and the range assigned to rng (currently set to A1:A10). Because the macro checks only for changes within the specified range, it is much faster with larger worksheets than the macro that checks all the cells used.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3150) 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: Setting a Length Limit on Cells.
Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!
Want a quick way to tell how may rows and columns you've selected? Here's what I do when I need to know that information.Discover More
Need to find that misplaced comment in your worksheet? It's easy to do using the Find and Replace capabilities of Excel.Discover More
Delete a cell or a range of cells, and Excel needs to figure out how to rearrange the void left by the deletion. You can ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.