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: Extracting a Pattern from within Text.

Extracting a Pattern from within Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 2, 2015)

Tom has a worksheet that contains about 20,000 cells full of textual data. From within these cells he needs to extract a specific pattern of text. The pattern is ##-##### where each # is a digit. This pattern does not appear at a set place in each cell. Tom wonders if there is a way to extract the desired information.

There are several ways that you can approach this problem, and the correct solution for your needs will depend on the characteristics of the data with which you are working. If you know that the only place in your data that you will have a dash is within your pattern, then you can key off of the presence of the dash by using a formula such as the following:

=MID(A1,FIND("-",A1)-2,8)

This finds the dash and then grabs the eight characters beginning two characters to the left of the dash. This obviously will not work if there are dashes in other places in the text or if it is possible to have "patterns" that include non-digits (such as 12-34B32) and you want those excluded. In that case you'll need a much more complex formula:

=IF(ISERROR(INT(MID(A1, FIND("-", A1, 1)-2, 2)) & INT(MID(
A1, FIND("-", A1, 1)+1, 5))), "", MID(A1, FIND("-", A1)-2, 8))

This includes an error checking component that finds out if the characters just before the dash and just after the dash contain anything other than digits. If they do, then nothing is returned.

The one thing that these formulaic approaches don't do is handle those situations where there may be more than one occurrence of the pattern within the same cell. In that case, a macro is the best approach. The following will extract the valid patterns and place them in a new worksheet called "Results".

Sub ExtractPattern()
    On Error Resume Next
    Set SourceSheet = ActiveSheet
    Set TargetSheet = ActiveWorkbook.Sheets("Results")
    If Err = 0 Then
        Worksheets("Results").Delete
    End If
    Worksheets.Add
    ActiveSheet.Name = "Results"
    Set TargetSheet = ActiveSheet
    Cells(1, 1).Value = "Found Codes"
    Cells(1, 1).Font.Bold = True
    iTargetRow = 2

    SourceSheet.Select
    Selection.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeLastCell).Select
    Range(Selection, Cells(1)).Select

    For Each c In Selection.Cells
        If c.Value Like "*##-#####*" Then
            sRaw = c.Value
            iPos = InStr(sRaw, "-")
            Do While iPos > 0
                If iPos < 3 Then
                    sRaw = "  " & sRaw
                    iPos = iPos + 2
                End If
                sTemp = Mid(sRaw, iPos - 2, 8)
                sRaw = Mid(sRaw, iPos + 6, Len(sRaw))
                If sTemp Like "##-#####" Then
                    TargetSheet.Cells(iTargetRow, 1) = sTemp
                    iTargetRow = iTargetRow + 1
                Else
                    sRaw = Mid(sTemp, 4, 5) & sRaw
                End If
                iPos = InStr(sRaw, "-")
            Loop
        End If
    Next c
End Sub

Note that the macro uses the Like function in two places. The first instance determines if the pattern occurs anywhere in the cell, and the second instance is used to determine if the extracted characters exactly match the desired pattern.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7348) 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: Extracting a Pattern from within Text.

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

Keeping Table Rows Together

When you create a table that extends beyond a single page, you may want to make sure that the information in a table row ...

Discover More

Auto Creation of an Acronym List

If you use a lot of acronyms in your documents, you may want a quick way to compile those acronyms and their definitions into ...

Discover More

Maintaining Delivery Address Information for Envelopes

Using the Envelopes and Labels dialog box to print envelopes is quick and easy. It can also be frustrating, however, since ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Tracking Down Invalid References

When you discover that there is an invalid reference in a workbook, you can have a bear of a time tracking down the problem. ...

Discover More

Generating Random Strings of Characters

If you need to generate a random sequence of characters, of a fixed length, then you'll appreciate the discussion in this ...

Discover More

Extracting a State and a ZIP Code

Excel is often used to process or edit data in some way. For example, you may have a bunch of addresses from which you need ...

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