Excel corrupts certain workbooks in migrating from 2003 to 2007

I got a email from a client asking for help because Excel was “destroying,” to use his terminology, his 2003 workbook after conversion to the 2007 format. And, after analyzing the kind of change Excel made, I had to agree.

The following in 2003

badnames 1
Figure 1

becomes, in 2013 (and in 2010),

badnames 5
Figure 2

The basic problem is that names that are legitimate names in Excel 2003 may become unacceptable in 2007 (or later). But, a more devastating problem is with a formula using a name with a dot in it. Even though it is completely legitimate, Excel changes the dot to a colon. This causes the formula =SW1.SW2 to become =SW1:SW2. Don’t ask me why. It just does. The result is the formula is all wrong and destroys the integrity of the workbook.

It appears that the cause may be Excel trying to help manage the transition of a XLS workbook into the newer format. In 2007, Microsoft increased the number of columns from 256 to 16,384. Consequently, the reference to last column went from IV to XFD. So, a name such as SW1, completely OK in 2003, became unacceptable in 2007. On converting a XLS file to a XLSX file, Excel will convert such names by adding an underscore at the start of the name. But, it seems to go beyond that, converting formula references to certain names with dots in them to a colon. This happens if both the tokens to the left and to the right of the dot could be legitimate cell references. So, Excel converts the formula =XFD1.XFD2 to =XFD1:XFD2 but it will leave =XFD1.XFE2 alone.

To replicate the problem:

  • Start with Excel 2003. Create a workbook and add the names shown in the Figure 1. Save and close the workbook.
  • Open the workbook in Excel 2013. Save it as a XLSX file. Acknowledge the warning message (see Figure 3),

    badnames 3
    Figure 3

  • Close and reopen the new XLSX workbook. The formulas will have the errors shown in Figure 2.

The safest way to work around this problem is to add an underscore before every name in the workbook before making the transition to the 2007 format. Obviously, the quickest way to do this would be with a very simple VBA procedure. But, through trial and error I discovered the code will not work in 2003. It runs without any problems but it doesn’t do anything!

So, the correct way to use the code is the following sequence.

  • Open the XLS file in 2013 (or 2010).
  • Run the macro below.

    Option Explicit

    Sub fixNames()
    Dim aName As Name
    For Each aName In ActiveWorkbook.Names
    With aName
    If Left(.Name, 1) <> "_" Then _
    .Name = "_" & .Name
    End With
    Next aName
    End Sub

  • Now, save the file in the newer format. If your original workbook had no code in it, save the file as a XLSX file and acknowledge the warning that the VB project will be lost.
  • Close and reopen the file. You should see the correct data with all the names now starting with an underscore.

    badnames 7
    Figure 4

Tushar Mehta

The Range.Find method and a FindAll function

Two things that could be better about the Range.Find method have been 1) up-to-date and correct documentation, and 2) adding the UI’s ‘Find All’ capability to the Excel Object Model. As of Office 2013 neither has happened.

Consequently, every time I want to use the Find method, I continue to have to jump through hoops to figure out the correct values for the different arguments.

I also discovered that FindNext does not work as expected when one wants to search for cells that meet certain format criteria. Consequently, I updated my long available FindAll function so that it works correctly with format criteria.

For a version in a page by itself (i.e., not in a scrollable iframe as below) visit http://www.tushar-mehta.com/publish_train/xl_vba_cases/1001%20range.find%20and%20findall.shtml

Tushar Mehta

Minimum and maximum values of numeric data types

There has been many an occasion when I have wanted programmatic access to the maximum or minimum or smallest value of a data type. Some programming languages have built-in support through names like MaxInt. VBA, unfortunately, is not one of them.

I decided to “translate” the documentation defining the different data types into code. The functions Max{datatype}, Min{datatype}, and Smallest{datatype} return the appropriate value. The Max and Min functions should be self-evident. The Smallest function returns the smallest non-zero value supported by the data type. Since this is simply 1 for all data types associated with integers (Byte, Integer, Long, LongPtr, LongLong, and Currency), Smallest is defined only for data types associated with real numbers (Single, Double, and Decimal).

For a version in a page by itself (i.e., not in a scrollable iframe as below) visit http://www.tushar-mehta.com/publish_train/xl_vba_cases/1003%20MinMaxVals.shtml

Tushar Mehta

Access data in a closed workbook containing a protected worksheet

In a LinkedIn group, someone wanted to access data in a shared server-based workbook that contained a protected sheet with locked cells that were not selectable. In addition to sharing an automated way of doing this, this post contains two other embedded tips.

The solution, as many know, is to enter a formula in the destination worksheet that references the source cell, e.g., =’C:\Temp\[Book2.xlsx]Sheet1′!$E$5

Given the high likelihood of making an error in entering long formulas, I decided to see if I could automate the process.

Tip 1: In doing so, I discovered that under certain circumstances Excel will make a very interesting correction. If the source workbook has a single worksheet, then one can use any sheet name in the formula and Excel will change it to the correct one! So, if book2.xlsx contains a single sheet named Sheet1, and one were to enter the incorrect formula =’C:\Temp\[Book2.xlsx]abc’!$E$5, Excel will correct it to =’C:\Temp\[Book2.xlsx]Sheet1′!$E$5.

That aside, since the cells in the source worksheet are not selectable, one cannot construct the formula using click-and-point. So, I decided that as long as one wants the values from the source cells to be in the same cell in the destination worksheet, why not select the cells in the destination worksheet? The code below does just that. Also, there is no longer a need to open the shared server workbook at all!

One final note. I rarely use so many different interactions with the consumer, preferring a userform. But, the below is easier to share. ;-)

Tip 2: The Inputbox method gets a single piece of information from the user, e.g., the sheet name in the code below. If the user were to cancel the resulting dialog box, the method returns False. The usual way to check for this is to compare the returned value with “False”. But, this precludes a legitimate response of “False”! So, I tend to check if the returned type is a boolean. The same applies to the GetOpenFilename method.

Enter the code below is a standard VBE module. Then, open the destination worksheet (or create a new one), and then run the linkToExternal subroutine. It will ask for the source workbook, the source worksheet, and then the destination cells. The code will add in each destination cell a formula that links to the same cell in the source worksheet.

Option Explicit

Sub linkToExternal()
If ActiveWorkbook Is Nothing Then
MsgBox "Please open the destination workbook before running this macro"
Exit Sub
End If
Dim FName
FName = Application.GetOpenFilename( _
Title:="Please select the source workbook")
If TypeName(FName) = "Boolean" Then Exit Sub
FName = Left(FName, InStrRev(FName, Application.PathSeparator)) _
& "[" & Mid(FName, InStrRev(FName, Application.PathSeparator) + 1) _
& "]"
Dim SheetName
SheetName = Application.InputBox("Please enter the name of the source sheet", Type:=2)
If TypeName(SheetName) = "Boolean" Then Exit Sub
FName = "='" & FName & SheetName & "'!"
Dim Rng As Range
On Error Resume Next
Set Rng = Application.InputBox( _
"Please select the destination cells into which you want the corresponding source cell values", _
On Error GoTo 0
If Rng Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
Dim aCell As Range
For Each aCell In Rng
aCell.Formula = FName & aCell.Address(True, True)
Next aCell
End Sub