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: Deleting Everything Up to a Character Sequence.

Deleting Everything Up to a Character Sequence

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 28, 2013)

Steven has a worksheet that has lots of text in it. In the cells in column A he wants to delete everything that may occur before a given sequence of characters, such as everything before =XX=. There may be multiple instances of these characters in each cell, but Steven only wants to delete everything before the first occurrence.

One way to do this is to use a formula. For instance, the following formula will evaluate whatever is in cell A1 and simply return everything up to the =XX= characters. If the characters are not found in the cell, then the entire cell is returned:


If you want, instead, to not return the first occurrence of =XX=, all you need to do is change the +1 near the end of the formula to -3.

If you prefer a macro-based solution you could use a routine like the following. It examines all the cells that are currently selected and then deletes everything before the =XX= sequence.

Sub DeleteToSequence()
    Dim rCell As Range
    Dim sSeq As String
    Dim x As Long

    sSeq = "=XX="
    For Each rCell In Selection
        x = InStr(rCell.Value, sSeq)
        If x > 0 Then
            rCell.Value = Mid(rCell, x)
        End If

    Set rCell = Nothing
End Sub

You should be aware that this macro can cause some errors, particularly when what you are searching for begins with an equal sign (as in =XX=). When a string beginning with an equal sign is stuffed back into the cell, you'll get a #NAME? error because Excel tries to parse the cell as if it contains a formula.

If you want to delete everything up through the character sequence, use this line in the middle of the routine:

rCell.Value = Mid(rCell, x + Len(sSeq))

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7696) 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: Deleting Everything Up to a Character Sequence.

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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