Most Valuable Professional

View Jan Karel Pieterse's profile on LinkedIn subscribe to rss feed
Subscribe in a reader

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

File crashes Excel!!

Save my workbook!
The best tool for salvaging problematic workbooks.


Excel VBA Masterclass (English)
Excel VBA for Financials (Dutch)

Third party tools

Speed up your file

The best tool to optimise your Excel model!

What has changed?

PerfectXL Compare, for Spreadsheet Comparison
This Excel compare tool is fast, reliable, and easy to use. Compare two Excel files now and see for yourself!
Home > English site > Articles > Select a range (VBA)
Deze pagina in het Nederlands

Getting a range from the user with VBA (Bug in Application.InputBox function)

Applies to

This bug applies to all excel versions as from Excel 5/95. It has been fixed in Excel 2007.


This article describes a bug recently discovered by Ron de Bruin and also reported here.

The Application.InputBox function is very useful to get a range from the user. Unfortunately, this function exposes a bug in Excel (all current versions up to and including 2003!). If the sheet on which a (range of) cell(s) is selected contains conditional formatting using the : "Formula Is" option, the function may fail, returning an empty range.

How to reproduce the bug

Use this sample code on a worksheet with elaborate conditional formatting (see download below for an example):

Option Explicit

Sub ProblemCode()
    Dim oRangeSelected As Range
    On Error Resume Next
    Set oRangeSelected = Application.InputBox("Please select a range of cells!", _
                                              "SelectARAnge Demo", Selection.Address, , , , , 8)
    If oRangeSelected Is Nothing Then
        MsgBox "It appears as if you pressed cancel!"
        MsgBox "You selected: " & oRangeSelected.Address(External:=True)
    End If
End Sub

If you run this code and the user selects a range on a worksheet with conditional formatting which uses a "Formula Is" setting, the code may return an empty range object, even if the user selected a valid area and hit OK. An example formula for the CF might be:

=OR($AL1=1, $AL1=3)

There are two possible workarounds.

Method 1: use a userform.

I included a userform with two controls: A dropdown to select the workbook and a refedit control to select ranges. Note that the refedit control has been causing some havoc with some users, due to updates to Office versions. A foolproof way to overcome trouble which users might have with your file is opening the file in Excel 2000 and saving it again, before distributing.

The userform looks like this:

Userform to select a range

Selecting a range using the userform

The code that shows the form:

' Module    : modWorkaround1
' Company   : JKP Application Development Services (c)
' Author    : Jan Karel Pieterse (
' Created   : 23-2-2009
' Purpose   : Workaround for the application.inputbox (type 8) bug
Option Explicit

Sub Test()
    Dim oRangeSelected As Range
    If SelectARange("Please select a range of cells!", "SelectARAnge Demo", oRangeSelected) = True Then
        MsgBox "You selected:" & oRangeSelected.Address(, , , True)
        MsgBox "You cancelled"
    End If
End Sub

Function SelectARange(sPrompt As String, sCaption As String, oReturnedRange As Range) As Boolean
    Dim frmSelectCells As ufSelectCells
    Set frmSelectCells = New ufSelectCells
    With frmSelectCells
        .PromptText = sPrompt
        .CaptionText = sCaption
        If TypeName(Selection) = "Range" Then
            .StartAddress = Selection.Address(External:=True)
        End If
        If .OK Then
            Set oReturnedRange = .ReturnedRange
            If oReturnedRange Is Nothing Then
                SelectARange = False
                SelectARange = True
            End If
            SelectARange = False
        End If
    End With
    Unload frmSelectCells
    Set frmSelectCells = Nothing
End Function

The code behind the form:

Option Explicit

Private mbOK As Boolean
Private moReturnedRange As Range
Private msPromptText As String
Private msCaptionText As String
Private msStartAddress As String

Public Sub Initialise()
    Dim oBk As Workbook
    cmbOK.Enabled = False
    lblQuestion.Caption = msPromptText
    Me.Caption = CaptionText
    refSelectCells.Text = StartAddress
    For Each oBk In Workbooks
        If oBk.Windows(1).Visible Then
            cbxWorkbooks.AddItem oBk.Name
        End If
    cbxWorkbooks.Value = ActiveWorkbook.Name
End Sub

Private Sub cbxWorkbooks_Change()
End Sub

Private Sub cmbCancel_Click()
    OK = False
End Sub

Private Sub cmbOK_Click()
    If refSelectCells.Text <> "" Then
        If TypeName(Selection) = "Range" Then
            If IsValidRef(refSelectCells.Text) Then
                OK = True
            End If
        End If
    End If
End Sub

Public Property Get OK() As Boolean
    OK = mbOK
End Property

Public Property Let OK(ByVal bOK As Boolean)
    mbOK = bOK
End Property

Public Property Get ReturnedRange() As Range
    Dim sRef As String
    Dim oSh As Worksheet
    On Error Resume Next
    sRef = refSelectCells.Text
    If OK And IsValidRef(sRef) Then
        If InStr(sRef, "!") Then
            Set oSh = ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets(Application.Substitute(Left(sRef, InStr(sRef, "!") - 1), "'", ""))
            Set oSh = ActiveSheet
        End If
        Set moReturnedRange = oSh.Range(Mid(sRef, InStr(sRef, "!") + 1))
        Set ReturnedRange = moReturnedRange
    End If
End Property

Public Property Set ReturnedRange(oReturnedRange As Range)
    Set moReturnedRange = oReturnedRange
End Property

Public Function IsValidRef(sRef As String) As Boolean
' Procedure : IsValidRef Created by Jan Karel Pieterse
' Company   : JKP Application Development Services (c) 2005
' Author    : Jan Karel Pieterse
' Created   : 21-12-2005
' Purpose   : Checks of argument is a valid cell reference
    Dim sTemp As String
    Dim oSh As Worksheet
    Dim oCell As Range
'    On Error GoTo LocErr
    IsValidRef = False
    On Error Resume Next
    sTemp = Left(sRef, InStr(sRef, "!") - 1)
    sTemp = Replace(sTemp, "=", "")
    If Not IsIn(ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets, sTemp) Then
        IsValidRef = False
        Exit Function
    End If
    Set oSh = ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets(sTemp)
    If oSh Is Nothing Then
        Set oSh = ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets(Replace(sTemp, "'", ""))
    End If
    sTemp = Right(sRef, Len(sRef) - InStr(sRef, "!"))
    Set oCell = oSh.Range(sTemp)
    If oCell Is Nothing Then
        IsValidRef = False
        IsValidRef = True
    End If
End Function

Function IsIn(vCollection As Variant, ByVal sName As String) As Boolean
' Procedure : funIsIn Created by Jan Karel Pieterse
' Company   : JKP Application Development Services (c) 2005
' Author    : Jan Karel Pieterse
' Created   : 28-12-2005
' Purpose   : Determines if object is in collection
    Dim oObj As Object
    On Error Resume Next
    Set oObj = vCollection(sName)
    If oObj Is Nothing Then
        IsIn = False
        IsIn = True
    End If
    If IsIn = False Then
        sName = Replace(sName, "'", "")
        Set oObj = vCollection(sName)
        If oObj Is Nothing Then
            IsIn = False
            IsIn = True
        End If
    End If
End Function

Public Property Let PromptText(ByVal sPromptText As String)
    msPromptText = sPromptText
End Property

Private Sub refSelectCells_Change()
    If IsValidRef(refSelectCells.Text) Then
        cmbOK.Enabled = True
        cmbOK.Enabled = False
    End If
End Sub

Public Property Get CaptionText() As String
    CaptionText = msCaptionText
End Property

Public Property Let CaptionText(ByVal sCaptionText As String)
    msCaptionText = sCaptionText
End Property

Private Sub UserForm_QueryClose(Cancel As Integer, CloseMode As Integer)
    If CloseMode <> vbFormCode Then
        Cancel = True
    End If
End Sub

Public Property Get StartAddress() As String
    msStartAddress = Mid(msStartAddress, InStr(msStartAddress, "]") + 1)
    StartAddress = msStartAddress
End Property

Public Property Let StartAddress(sStartAddress As String)
    msStartAddress = sStartAddress
End Property

Method 2: Use Application.InputBox anyway

The second method was suggested by Peter Thornton (also an Excel MVP).

It does use the Application.InputBox method, but uses type 0 instead of 8 and a helper function to extract a proper range from the entered string. Funny thing is, even though one uses type 0, the box still enables you to select cells.

The returned formula normally requires a little parsing before it will be recognized as a valid Range address. Therefore it makes sense to wrap all this in a function. This demo wrapper has two bonus features. Firstly, the developer has the option to re-activate the Input range. Secondly, if the user types an address instead of selecting cells, the user can make a couple of incorrect typo attempts without having to start all over, it happens!

The code to accomplish this is copied below:

Option Explicit
'Courtesy Peter Thornton (Excel MVP)

Sub TestGetInput()
    Dim bGotRng As Boolean
    Dim bActivate As Boolean
    Dim rInput As Range
    bActivate = False   ' True to re-activate the input range
    bGotRng = GetInputRange(rInput, "Please select a range of cells!", _
                            "SelectARAnge Demo", "", bActivate)
    If bGotRng Then
        MsgBox rInput.Address(External:=True)
        MsgBox "You pressed cancel"
    End If
End Sub

Function GetInputRange(rInput As Excel.Range, _
                       sPrompt As String, _
                       sTitle As String, _
                       Optional ByVal sDefault As String, _
                       Optional ByVal bActivate As Boolean, _
                       Optional X, Optional Y) As Boolean
' rInput:    The Input Range which returns to the caller procedure
' bActivate: If True user's input range will be re-activated
' The other arguments are standard InputBox arguments.
' sPrompt & sTitle should be supplied from the caller proccedure
' but sDefault will be completed below if empty
' GetInputRange returns True if rInput is successfully assigned to a Range

    Dim bGotRng As Boolean
    Dim bEvents As Boolean
    Dim nAttempt As Long
    Dim sAddr As String
    Dim vReturn

    On Error Resume Next
    If Len(sDefault) = 0 Then
        If TypeName(Application.Selection) = "Range" Then
            sDefault = "=" & Application.Selection.Address
            ' InputBox cannot handle address/formulas over 255
            If Len(sDefault) > 240 Then
                sDefault = "=" & Application.ActiveCell.Address
            End If
        ElseIf TypeName(Application.ActiveSheet) = "Chart" Then
            sDefault = " first select a Worksheet"
            sDefault = " Select Cell(s) or type address"
        End If
    End If
    Set rInput = Nothing    ' start with a clean slate
    For nAttempt = 1 To' give user 3 attempts for typos
        vReturn = False
        vReturn = Application.InputBox(sPrompt, sTitle, sDefault, X, Y, Type:=0)
        If False = vReturn Or Len(vReturn) = 0 Then
            Exit For    ' user cancelled
            sAddr = vReturn
            ' The address (or formula) could be in A1 or R1C1 style,
            ' w/out an "=" and w/out embracing quotes, depends if the user
            ' selected cells, typed an address, or accepted the default
            If Left$(sAddr, 1) = "=" Then sAddr = Mid$(sAddr, 2, 256)
            If Left$(sAddr, 1) = Chr(34) Then sAddr = Mid$(sAddr, 2, 255)
            If Right$(sAddr, 1) = Chr(34) Then sAddr = Left$(sAddr, Len(sAddr) - 1)
            '  will fail if R1C1 address
            Set rInput = Application.Range(sAddr)
            If rInput Is Nothing Then
                sAddr = Application.ConvertFormula(sAddr, xlR1C1, xlA1)
                Set rInput = Application.Range(sAddr)
                bGotRng = Not rInput Is Nothing
                bGotRng = True
            End If
        End If

        If bGotRng Then
            If bActivate Then   ' optionally re-activate the Input range
                On Error GoTo errH
                bEvents = Application.EnableEvents
                Application.EnableEvents = False
                If Not Application.ActiveWorkbook Is rInput.Parent.Parent Then
                    rInput.Parent.Parent.Activate    ' Workbook
                End If
                If Not Application.ActiveSheet Is rInput.Parent Then
                    rInput.Parent.Activate    ' Worksheet
                End If
                rInput.Select    ' Range
            End If
            Exit For
        ElseIf nAttempt < 3 Then
            ' Failed to get a valid range, maybe a typo
            If MsgBox("Invalid reference, do you want to try again ?", _
                      vbOKCancel, sTitle) <> vbOK Then
                Exit For
            End If
        End If
    Next    ' nAttempt
    On Error Resume Next
    If bEvents Then
        Application.EnableEvents = True
    End If
    GetInputRange = bGotRng
    Exit Function
    Set rInput = Nothing
    bGotRng = False
    Resume cleanUp
End Function

Both methods are demonstrated in this download.


Showing last 8 comments of 60 in total (Show All Comments):


Comment by: None (28-12-2013 11:54:31)

Method 2 is working only within the same "Excel" - Application Object.

It's not possible to select a range from a second (running) MS Excel instance.

If you use InputBox with the Type 8 .. this is possible.


Comment by: Jaap (24-1-2014 10:30:57)

Hello Jan Karel,

This is a good tool. I would like to use the selection to print a selection of the sheet.
I think i must replace "MsgBox "You selected:" & oRangeSelected.Address(, , , True)" with a print command.
Please tell me how to do this.

Thanks in advance


Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (24-1-2014 13:56:09)

Hi Jaap,

You're close:



Comment by: John (31-1-2014 05:26:31)

Jan Karel I am really grateful for your work on this horrible issue. Has this bug really been fixed 2007 onwards? Unfortunately I have a task that might be opened in 2003.

At first I wanted to use Method 2 but then I found it didn't handle the selection of entire rows but I found your Method 1 did.



Comment by: Bill (8-4-2014 16:23:05)

Hi Jan Karel,
I am using a VBA macro to retrieve the contents of a status field in an Excel worksheet. If the status field contains a value less than 255 characters, it returns the entire status. When the status field contains 255 characters or more, it returns #VALUE!. How can I retrieve the entire status field?

This is part of the code:

Option Explicit

Global Proj_Status As Variant

Sub GetProjectData()
Dim filename As String
Dim filepath As String
Dim i As Integer
Dim r As Long
For i = 2 To r
filepath = ""
filepath = Sheet1.Cells(i, 1)
filename = Sheet1.Cells(i, 4)
path = Sheet1.Cells(i, 5)
Stage = Sheet1.Cells(i, 3)

Call MetaData(filepath, filename, path, Stage)
End Sub

Sub MetaData(filepath As String, filename As String, path As String, Stage As String)
Proj_Status = GetInfoFromClosedFile(path, filename, "MR5 - Monthly Status Report", Left(Columns(14).Address(, 0), 1) & 30)
End Sub

Private Function GetInfoFromClosedFile(ByVal wbPath As String, wbname As String, _
wsName As String, cellRef As String) As Variant
Dim arg As String

GetInfoFromClosedFile = ""
If Right(wbPath, 1) <> "\" Then wbPath = wbPath & "\"
If Dir(wbPath & "\" & wbname) = "" Then Exit Function
arg = "'" & wbPath & "[" & wbname & "]" & _
wsName & "'!" & range(cellRef).Address(True, True, xlR1C1)
On Error Resume Next
GetInfoFromClosedFile = ExecuteExcel4Macro(arg)
If GetInfoFromClosedFile = "Total" Then Exit Function
If GetInfoFromClosedFile = "" Or GetInfoFromClosedFile = " " Then
GetInfoFromClosedFile = 0
End If
End Function



Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (9-4-2014 07:20:52)

Hi Bill,

The function you are using to get info from a closed file has limitations; one of them obviously is the number of characters in the cell you have it return. One way to overcome this is by placing a direct formula link in a cell to the workbook in question. Do this manually the first time like so:

- Open file in question
- hit = on a cell in the macro file and navigate to the other file, click on the cell you need and press enter
- CLose the file with the source data
- now look at the formula you just created

This will tell you how to build the formula from code.


Comment by: Michael (6-5-2018 16:21:14)

Just wanted to say thanks a million for an absolutely fantastic site and sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. I've learned a great deal from your site.


Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (7-5-2018 07:26:50)

Hi Michael,

Thanks! And you're welcome.


Have a question, comment or suggestion? Then please use this form.

If your question is not directly related to this web page, but rather a more general "How do I do this" Excel question, then I advise you to ask your question here:

Please enter your name (required):

Your e-mail address (optional, will only be used to inform you when your comment is published or to respond to your question directly):

Your request or comment (max 2000 characters):

To post VBA code in your comment, use [VB] tags, like this: [VB]Code goes here[/VB].

I give permission to process this data and display my name and my comment on this website accoring to our Privacy Policy.