How to Quickly Master VBA Wildcards in 3 Minutes (Excel)
Written by Kasper Langmann
Mastering VBA wildcards in Excel can be a game-changer for your productivity. These powerful tools allow you to manipulate and analyze data with precision and speed. Whether you’re a seasoned Excel user or a beginner, this guide will help you understand and apply VBA wildcards effectively.
Understanding VBA Wildcards
The term “wildcard” in VBA refers to special characters that can represent other characters or groups of characters. They are used in string comparisons and searches, enabling you to find and manipulate data based on partial matches or flexible criteria.
There are two primary wildcards in VBA: the asterisk (*) and the question mark (?). The asterisk represents any number of characters, while the question mark represents a single character. For example, the pattern “te*t” would match “test”, “text”, “teapot”, and so on, while “te?t” would only match “text” and “tent”.
The Asterisk (*) Wildcard
The asterisk (*) wildcard is incredibly versatile. It can represent any number of characters, including none. This means it can match any string, regardless of length. For example, the pattern “*test*” would match “test”, “pretest”, “testing”, and “retest”.
When using the asterisk wildcard, it’s important to remember that it can match any character, not just alphanumeric ones. This includes spaces, punctuation, and special characters. For example, the pattern “*test*” would also match “test!”, ” test “, and “test@”.
The Question Mark (?) Wildcard
The question mark (?) wildcard is more specific. It represents exactly one character. This makes it useful for matching strings of a certain length or format. For example, the pattern “te?t” would match “tent” and “text”, but not “testing” or “teat”.
Like the asterisk, the question mark can match any character, not just alphanumeric ones. However, it will only match one character. For example, the pattern “te?t” would also match “te t”, “te!t”, and “te@t”.
Using VBA Wildcards in Excel
Now that you understand what VBA wildcards are and how they work, let’s look at how to use them in Excel. The most common use case is in the VBA functions Like and Replace, which allow you to search for and replace strings based on wildcard patterns.
Before you can use these functions, however, you need to enable VBA in Excel. This involves opening the VBA editor (Alt + F11), inserting a new module (Insert > Module), and writing your VBA code in the module’s code window.
Using the Like Function
The Like function allows you to compare a string to a wildcard pattern. If the string matches the pattern, the function returns True; otherwise, it returns False. For example, the following code would return True:
Dim str As String str = "test" If str Like "te*t" Then MsgBox "Match found!" End If
This code checks if the string “test” matches the pattern “te*t”. Since the asterisk can represent any number of characters, the pattern matches the string, and the message box displays “Match found!”.
Using the Replace Function
The Replace function allows you to replace occurrences of a wildcard pattern in a string with another string. For example, the following code would replace all occurrences of “test” in the string “pretest and retest” with “exam”:
Dim str As String str = "pretest and retest" str = Replace(str, "test", "exam") MsgBox str
This code replaces “test” with “exam” in the string “pretest and retest”, resulting in the string “preexam and reexam”. The message box then displays this new string.
Advanced VBA Wildcard Techniques
While the asterisk and question mark are the most commonly used VBA wildcards, there are other wildcard characters and techniques that can provide even more flexibility and power.
The Number Sign (#) Wildcard
The number sign (#) wildcard represents exactly one digit (0-9). This makes it useful for matching strings that contain specific numbers or number formats. For example, the pattern “###-##-####” would match a US social security number format.
The Square Brackets () Wildcards
The square brackets () wildcards allow you to specify a range or list of characters to match. For example, the pattern “[a-z]” would match any lowercase letter, while the pattern “[aeiou]” would match any vowel.
The Exclamation Point (!) Wildcard
The exclamation point (!) wildcard, when used inside square brackets, inverts the character set. For example, the pattern “[!a-z]” would match any character that is not a lowercase letter.
Mastering VBA wildcards in Excel can greatly enhance your data manipulation and analysis capabilities. By understanding and applying these powerful tools, you can perform complex tasks with ease and speed. Whether you’re searching for specific strings, replacing text, or validating data, VBA wildcards can make your work more efficient and accurate.
Remember, practice makes perfect. So, don’t hesitate to experiment with different wildcard patterns and functions. The more you use them, the more comfortable and proficient you’ll become. Happy coding!