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 August 4, 2018)

1

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.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

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

Quickly Moving Your Table

For those who love to use the mouse during editing, you can use the little critter to help move your tables to exactly ...

Discover More

Finding a Cell Reference

Want to know what the reference address is for a particular cell in a table? Word won't tell you, but you can use a macro ...

Discover More

Differences between Deleting, Clearing, and Cutting

When getting rid of text from your document, Word allows you to delete, clear, or cut. Here are the differences between ...

Discover More

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!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Determining Winners, by Category

Do you need to determine the top three values in a range of columns? The techniques discussed in this tip will come in ...

Discover More

Referencing the Last Six Items in a Formula

If you have a list of data in a column, you may want to determine an average of whatever the last few items are in the ...

Discover More

Saving Common Formulas

It is not uncommon to reuse formulas in a variety of workbooks. If you develop some "gotta keep" formulas, here are some ...

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

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 8?

2018-08-04 05:27:43

Rick Rothstein

Here is another, more compact way to code the For..Next loop shown in your macro...

For Each C In Selection.Cells
Dashes = Split(" " & C & " ", "-")
For x = 0 To UBound(Dashes) - 1
If Dashes(x) Like "*[!0-9]##" And Dashes(x + 1) Like "#####[!0-9]*" Then
TargetSheet.Cells(iTargetRow, 1) = Right(Dashes(x), 2) & "-" & Left(Dashes(x + 1), 5)
iTargetRow = iTargetRow + 1
End If
Next
Next C


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.

Newest Tips
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.