Disabling Excel's Help System

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 26, 2014)

Mark is a high school teacher and he wants to disable Excel's Help system during student tests. He wonders if there is an easy way to do this.

The answer is yes, there is a relatively easy way. You could set up a couple of macros that disable and restore the most common ways of opening the Help system. The following macros, DisableHelp and EnableHelp, do that.

Sub DisableHelp()
    EnableControl 984, False ' help
    EnableControl 1004, False ' Office Assistant
    Application.OnKey "{F1}", ""
End Sub
Sub EnableHelp()
    EnableControl 984, True ' help
    EnableControl 1004, True ' Office Assistant
    Application.OnKey "{F1}"
End Sub
Sub EnableControl(Id As Integer, Enabled As Boolean)
    Dim CB As CommandBar
    Dim C As CommandBarControl
    For Each CB In Application.CommandBars
        Set C = CB.FindControl(Id:=Id, recursive:=True)
        If Not C Is Nothing Then C.Enabled = Enabled
    Next
End Sub

Both of the main macros call the EnableControl macro. This macro does the actual work of removing the Help options from the menus and toolbars. Note that the main macros also use the OnKey method to disable (or restore) the functioning of the F1 function key. To use these macros, you can call them from a suitable event procedure, such as those that automatically run when a workbook is opened and closed.

Even with a macro such as this at work, you need to realize that the Help system is not totally disabled. The Help files still reside on disk and could be located via Windows and opened. (You don't even need Excel to open and view them.)

Typically the Excel Help files are stored in files that use the CHM file extension. Disabling the file can be as simple as locating the proper CHM help file on the disk and renaming it to something different.

For example, Excel may be installed on a certain machine in the directory "c:\program files\microsoft office\office11". The Help file for this installation of Excel can be found in "c:\program files\microsoft office\office11\1033". The main Excel file is XLMAIN11.CHM, but there may be other Help files (CHM extension) in the directory as well. All you need to do is to rename these files something such as XLMAIN11.XXX. Since the Help program cannot locate the file, it cannot display any help in Excel.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3406) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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