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Edit button, please

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This is a long overdue article, my apologies.

The basis of the article surrounds a question in the comments section of an article on Chandoo.org (comment #75) written about the hyperlink() method I discovered and wrote about here. In Chandoo’s example, when a user rolls over different “hotspots” representing different datasets, the corresponding data comes into view on a graph below. In other words, the rollover technique tells Excel to change the data currently being fed into the chart. One of the respondents to his post attempted an associated technique that would create a dynamic hyperlink to the dataset. The goal, essentially, was to create an “edit” button that could bring the user to the dataset in view.

The problem he (and I) ran into was that whenever we updated the link in the Hyperlink formula, the hyperlink's friendly name, “Edit,” would be replaced by the address of the actual link. This resulted in an Edit hyperlink that read something like “Sheet!A1” instead of “Edit Sales.” While the link worked, the result was ugly. We needed to try something different.

So here's my solution. It’s nothing really fancy, but it does require you to keep track of two components: (1) the tab that holds your associated data; and (2) the beginning cell of your associated data. There are, indeed, many ways to keep track of this information, but some planning and organization helps out a lot. One of the easiest organization techniques is to have your data in the same cell for each tab. If your “Sales” data begins in cell B1, then any other data you'd like to use for this technique should also start in B1. Moreover, if you're interested in information from your sales tab, name your tab “Sales” (and your other tabs “expenses,” “income,” etc.).  Similarly, if you are pulling from different databases, tab one could be Database1, tab two Databse2, etc. Alas, not all data can be organized in this manner, but you get the picture. Such organization makes a significant difference when implementing this technique and my example below assumes you have data from tabs Database1, Database2, and Database3.

A Quick Refresher


The dashboard above works the same way as the example used in Chandoos’ post. The cell’s with the down arrows are the rollover hotspots and they contain the required hyperlink formulas.


For example, when the user places his or her mouse of cell B5, C5, or D5 the following code is executed.

Public Function ChangeSelection(i As Integer)
     Range("valSelOption") = i

End Function




Hopefully this is all review for you. If not – or, for a quick refresher – read these:
1. Rollover b8 ov1
2. Interactive Dashboard in Excel using Hyperlinks

On to the Good Stuff

So now we need a button that, when clicked, will take us to the location where the data resides. As you might have noticed from my example above, I placed a textbox on my dashboard with the label “Edit.” This is my edit “hyperlink.” But instead of actually “hyperlinking” to the data, I’ll instead tell Excel to take me to the data with a macro. In my module I’ve written the following code and have assigned it to the textbox.


Public Sub GoToData()

Dim wsCurrent As Excel.Worksheet
Set wsCurrent = Worksheets("Database" & Range("valSelOption"))
wsCurrent.Activate
wsCurrent.Range("B2").Activate
End Sub


Here’s what’s going on. In the earlier code section – my ChangeSelection function – I told excel to change the named range, valSelOption, to an index representing the location where my data resides. But I’ve also named my tabs Database1, Database2, and Database3. Since I placed my data starting in range B2 for each tab, I can use valSelOption to direct Excel to the correct tab. In the above code, I create a worksheet object and assign it to the correct worksheet by concatenating “Database” with valSelOption. In other words, if I valSelOption is 1, then the database we want will be Database1...and so forth.

Also, notice that my code first activates the tab we want before activating the range within it.  This is an important step that must come first or you will surely get an error.

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So what if your data isn't organized in an easy, uniform way? Well, in my example, you might change cells B3 to D3 to the name of your tabs. And in your ChangeSelection() function you would have a string argument instead of an integer. That could help your program identify the tab housing your data. Again there are different ways to do this.

But if you find that your data is all over the place – consider reorganizing!

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(I’ll have the file up with this example soon.)

My Top 5 VBA Development Environment Tips

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So you've got a project that requires VBA – you’re ready and excited – and you jump right in! But here come the headaches! With every syntax error the visual basic environment interrupts your programming mojo with an annoying popup. You remembered to place comments in your code – but where are the ones you’re looking for? When did Excel programming become so frustrating?

Below, I’ll describe how I've customized my editor to minimize annoyance and maximize efficiency. It might not help you become a better programmer…but then again, it really might! Your best work probably comes from a space you can call your own. So season your VBA developer environment to taste.

Tip #1: Change the Font
The problem is that the default font, Courier New, does a poor job differentiating between colors - especially when your eyes quickly scan the screen. Don’t believe me? See the difference for yourself with my personal font choice: Consolas, 9pt.

Go to Tools > Options, then click on the “Editor Format” tab to try out a new font. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to keep these things in mind:
  • You want a font that makes a significant contrast between colors.
  • You want a fixed-width font. If you choose a font that is not fixed-width, you’ll have trouble using Tab to align your code. Some well known fixed-width fonts are: Consolas and Lucida Console.
  • Pick something readable. Stay away from Mistrel.

Tip #2: Change your Comment Formatting
Make a statement with bold comments! Seriously though, the default comment formatting blends right in with the rest of the code. And that’s a pain – especially, when you’re on the hunt for some code you had commented to save for later.  I like my comments with a light-blue highlight in the background and a dark-blue foreground. They really stand out.

Go to Tools > Options, then click on the “Editor Format.” Select “Comment Text” from the list to get started.

Tip #3: Use the Immediate window, immediately
The Immediate window should be your best friend, but some folks didn’t even know it exists. Go to View > Immediate window if it’s not already open.

Why is it so great? Well, the immediate window allows you to print essential information to the screen while your program is running. Let’s say you need to iterate through tons of data and would like to know your intermediate progress but only temporarily. You can print to the immediate window by using Debug.Print(). Go ahead, try Debug.Print “foo!” in a Sub.

But wait, there’s more: you can also gain information even when you’re not running anything. Go place a shape onto an empty spread sheet and make sure you’ve selected it. Now go to your Immediate window and type Msgbox Selection.Width. Hit Enter.

Is your UserForm stuck in an endless loop? (it happens sometimes) Do a CTRL+Break and type “Unload Me” into the Immediate window to return everything to normal.

Tip #4: No more syntax error pop-ups
Sometimes you’re typing an IF/THEN but see some code above it that needs fixing. You click-off to go fix the code but you’re stopped by an annoying popup message. I mean, it’s nice of VBA to let you know there’s an error, but it didn’t need to ruin your flow.

So get rid of those nasty pop-ups by going to Tools > Options and unchecking Auto Syntax Check. The environment will still tell you that you have an error by highlighting the offending script in red - but the pesky popup box will bother you no more.

Tip #5: Opt for Option Explicit By putting Option Explicit at the top of your code, you are helping yourself so much. Seriously, I’m such an advocate of Option Explicit that I named my blog after it.

What does it do? It requires that you declare your variables. If you don’t write "Dim i as integer,” you will not be allowed to use i for anything. Without explicit declaration, VBA assumes that any new variable introduced is a variant type.

Explicit declaration might sound like more work, but trust me you’ll save yourself some headache. You’ll find that you might not always spell your variables correctly, for example, “RecordCount” might accidently be spelled as “RecrodCount.” When your program doesn’t give the correct output (because it assumes “RecrodCount” is actually a new variable), you’ll be forced to scour through your code looking for the problem, which you might not even realize is a typo. And if you missed the typo when you first typed it out, it’s likely that your quick scanning will miss it again. By requiring explicit declaration, undeclared variables will result in a runtime error, so you can fix your variables before they become hidden within your code.

Don’t make Option Explicit optional. Go to Tools > Options and proudly check “Require Variable Declaration.”


Your developing environment is just as important and personal as any other. Make sure you use the features and options within the Visual Basic Environment to customize to the fullest.

One Size Fits All

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Anyone who has a made a dashboard in Excel before has probably experienced this problem: a dashboard that fits nicely on your screen but not so nicely on your client’s. Yes, it’s the age old problem of differing monitors, resolutions, font-sizes and other settings that make what looks great on your screen look too small or too big on another’s. I’ve seen a few ideas to get around this problem that include resizing the spreadsheet controls to resizing the Excel window. Here’s my idea.

Most likely, your current Dashboard is already zoomed to its “best view.” By that I mean your current spreadsheet is at the proper zoom level such that your dashboard is displayed most effectively. If it’s not, go ahead and set it to the optimal zoom for your screen. Use the picture below as a guide for your dashboard and adjust the zoom levels (down in the lower-right corner) accordingly.




In this next step you’ll want to take note of the columns spanning your screen. Above, you’ll see that I’ve selected columns “A1:Z1,” but left the final column, “AA1” unselected. I would suggest highlighting all except for the last column as I did above—when we are finished, the last column will act as a nice margin. Jot down your selection; we’ll be using it in a moment.

Fire up the Visual Basic editor. Since we want our Dashboard to be in the correct view whenever someone opens the file (otherwise, what’s the use?) we’re going to add some code to be executed right when the workbook is first opened. In the upper-left hand corner of the Visual Basic Editor you’ll see a box labeled Project, which contains your Microsoft Excel objects. Double click ThisWorkbook—the workbook object belonging to our project.




In the code window, select “Workbook” from the object dropdown on the left. Then select the “Open” method from the method dropdown on the right. The Workbook_Open() procedure should appear on the screen as shown below.



Now enter the following code into your new procedure. Remember the range I said to jot down for later? Use that range in the quotes as I have for “A1:Z1.”
Now to see if our code actually works! Go back to the spreadsheet and, for testing purposes, zoom really far out to a level that your dashboard should never go. Now save and quit. (Make sure you save it as a .xlsm macro enabled workbook.)

Open your dashboard! Neat, huh? If you want to make your dashboard super snazzy, take the row selection you jotted down above and do Merge and Center on it. Now add a nice title to it for a nifty dashboard banner.

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There are a few things I should mention. The user might have to hit “Enable Macros” before the code takes effect, but there’s not a ton you can do about that. And if Excel wasn’t closed correctly on a previous use, that box showing unsaved files will most likely appear and your dashboard, left with less screen real estate, will probably not zoom correctly. Finally, sometimes Excel will not open to a maximized state – but you can fix this with some VBA code.

I’ve found this to be a good workaround in my projects– but I haven’t worked with every different client computer, either. Let me know what you guys think – was this useful? How do you get around displaying the same thing on different screens?

Completing the Square aka The "Most" Squares Method

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Now that I actually have some traffic to this blog, it's probably time I started adding posts.

A while ago, I was wondering how to make the cells in Excel exactly square, like the squares on graph paper.  I came across this post from Mr. Excel.  I wasn't in love with his solution because it requires users to first find their desired width by dragging a column, then writing it down (keep in mind it's in pixels, so you might not have an easy round number), and then entering it into an input box.

So, without further ado, I present my solution that doesn't require you to write anything down:

Private Sub AutoSize()

    Dim cels As Range
    Set cels = Me.Cells
 
    cels.ColumnWidth = 1  'Adjust me
    cels.RowHeight = cels(1, 1).width
 
    Set cels = Nothing

End Sub

To get different sized squares, simply adjust your ColumnWidth.  For further reading, checkout why widths in Excel are so tricky.

How to Create a Rollover Effect in Excel: Execute a Macro When Your Mouse is over a Cell

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"Rollover B8 OV1" (like Rollover Beethoven...? get it?)

Update 17 July 2011: This blog entry was featured in Chandoo's latest post. So if you're coming here from his site -- welcome!

original post:
This post was inspired by Chandoo's post on hyperlinks in Excel. If you haven't checked his website out yet - you should. It's excellent.

In this post, I suggest a method for creating a "Rollover" effect for your mouse on an Excel spreadsheet. Rollover techniques (also called "Mouseovers") are useful to (1) display quick information to the user; (2) to execute a function when a user puts their mouse over a specific region; and (3) to make neat graphical effects.

For item 1, my technique isn't really necessary. If you want to display brief information to the user when he or she rolls over a cell, the best way to do this is to insert a comment.

But comments are pretty limited. You can only write so much information in a comment before it becomes too cluttered to be useful. Moreover, comments are static. What if you want the information concerning the "target" cell (that is, the cell to be rolled over) to change based on different items in your spreadsheet? We can use the in-cell Hyperlink() formula to accomplish this.

The Hyperlink() formula looks like this:

=Hyperlink(location, [Friendly Text])
location - Here you write the intended address of your hyperlink. This can be a webpage (i.e. "http://www.google.com") or a file on your computer.
[Friendly Text] - This is an optional field that provides a caption to your hyperlink. If you leave it blank, it will simply display the address in the previous parameter.

To begin our example, you'll need to create a User Defined Function (UDF) to be executed when the rollover event is initiated. So go into the Visual Basic Environment, create or find a free module and create a UDF that looks something like this.

Public Function MyMouseOverEvent()
Sheet1.Range("A1").Value = "Event Fired!"
End Function
I can understand if you're puzzled at this point. UDFs are not really allowed to change values in other cells. However, since we'll be calling this function from within the Hyperlink() formula, you'll see this limitation no longer exists.

So now go to Sheet1 and click on cell A2. In that cell, type in the following formula:

=HYPERLINK(MyMouseOverEvent(),"Click here")
Upon hitting Enter, you should get a #VALUE! error, but ignore it for a second. Roll your mouse over cell A2 - and viola! - Cell A1 should now say "Event Fired!"

But what about that pesky #VALUE! error? Remember the limitation that UDFs can't change other cells? Well, even though Excel let's you change a value from within your UDF, it still recognizes that it wasn't supposed to! To get rid of that error is pretty simple. Just rewrite the function in your cell as follows:

=IFERROR(HYPERLINK(MyMouseOverEvent(),"Click here"), "Click here")

And that's it. If you like this technique and find some cool uses for it, drop me an email and show me.

Here's some graphical fun I created using this technique. Putting the mouse inside the black rectangle creates a fading snake-like pattern based on your mouse movements. Check out the screen capture:


Make sure to check out my latest (and greatest) example of this technique, here: