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: Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character.

Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 2, 2016)

Barry often finds himself wanting to identify the Nth occurrence of a character within a text string. He knows he can use the SEARCH and FIND worksheet functions for finding an initial occurrence, but is unsure how to find, say, the 3rd occurrence of the letter "B" within a text string.

Actually, the SEARCH function could be used to find the desired occurrence, in the following manner:

=SEARCHB("b",G20,(SEARCHB("b",G20,(SEARCHB("b",G20,1)+1))+1))

Notice how the SEARCHB function is used in a nested manner. The formula specifies what is being searched for (the letter "b") and the number of nesting levels indicates which occurrence within the cell you want to find. The formula returns the position of the desired character within the cell.

The problem with such a formula, of course, is that it is difficult to maintain and can quickly get unusable if you want to find, say, the seventh occurrence.

A more flexible formula would be the following:

=FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1,"B",CHAR(1),3))

This formula examines the value in A1. It substitutes the CHAR(1) code for the third occurrence of "B" within the cell. The FIND function then looks within the resulting string for the position where CHAR(1) occurs. If the desired occurrence does not exist, then the formula returns a #VALUE error.

If you prefer, you could create a user-defined function that will look for the Nth position of a character. The following is a very simple macro that takes three arguments: the string to be searched, the text to match, and the position desired.

Function FindN(sFindWhat As String, _
  sInputString As String, N As Integer) As Integer
    Dim J As Integer

    Application.Volatile
    FindN = 0
    For J = 1 To N
        FindN = InStr(FindN + 1, sInputString, sFindWhat)
        If FindN = 0 Then Exit For
    Next
End Function

The function is case sensitive in what it searches for, and it returns the position within the specified string at which the sFindWhat value occurs. If there is no occurrence at the specified instance, then the function returns a 0. The following shows how the function can be used in a worksheet:

=FindN("b",C15,3)

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3324) 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: Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Word Won't Take 'No' for an Answer

If you choose to exit Word and it asks you if you want to save changes to your Normal.dot template, it can be very confusing ...

Discover More

Working With Multiple Workbooks

Need to do work in more than one workbook at a time? For many, this ability is a necessity. Excel allows you to easily work ...

Discover More

Copying Pictures with a Macro

Copying information using a macro is rather simple, although there are multiple ways you can do the copying. The most ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Finding the Directory Name

Need to know the directory (folder) in which a workbook was saved? You can create a formula that will return this information ...

Discover More

Splitting Cells by Case

Excel provides several different ways that you can split apart the contents of a cell. One way it doesn't provide is to split ...

Discover More

Where Is that Text?

Looking for a formula that can return the address of a cell containing a text string? Look no further; the solution is in ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

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.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share