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Home > English site > Articles > Select a range (VBA)
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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 (12/28/2013 11:54:31 AM)

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 (1/24/2014 10:30:57 AM)

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 (1/24/2014 1:56:09 PM)

Hi Jaap,

You're close:



Comment by: John (1/31/2014 5:26:31 AM)

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 (4/8/2014 4:23:05 PM)

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 (4/9/2014 7:20:52 AM)

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 (5/6/2018 4:21:14 PM)

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 (5/7/2018 7:26:50 AM)

Hi Michael,

Thanks! And you're welcome.


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