Modifying Error Alerts Received

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 3, 2018)


Excel has an alert feature for possible errors in a cell. This alert shows as a green triangle in the top-left corner of a cell. This is helpful in some instances but a real bother in others. For example, Peter has a list of addresses in a worksheet. In one column he has the ZIP Codes formatted as text. Excel constantly tells him that all the cells in this column are numbers formatted as text, a fact that (in his case) is intentional. Peter wonders if there is a way to suppress that particular alert for just that column. He tried selecting the column and clicking "Ignore error," but that only works temporarily. If he edits a cell the alert returns, and if he closes and reopens the workbook the alert returns.

Excel allows you to adjust which errors it flags and which it ignores. You can do so by following these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box, click Formulas. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Formulas settings in the Excel Options dialog box.

  4. Near the bottom of the dialog box, clear the Numbers Formatted As Text or Preceded by an Apostrophe check box.
  5. Click OK.

Now, Excel will not mark these types of potential errors as you are using the program. If you wanted to, you could handle this process by using a macro. This would allow you to turn this error checking off while using the worksheet, but back on if you go to another worksheet. You would do this by using the Worksheet_Activate and Worksheet_Deactivate event handlers, in this manner:

Private Sub Worksheet_Activate()
    Application.ErrorCheckingOptions.NumberAsText = False
End Sub
Private Sub Worksheet_Deactivate()
    Application.ErrorCheckingOptions.NumberAsText = True
End Sub

You can get to the code window where these event handlers are entered by right-clicking on the worksheet tab and choosing the Code option from the resulting Context menu.

Of course, Peter asked that the errors only be suppressed on the single column. This gets a bit trickier, but can still be done. Unfortunately, VBA only allows you to set the error checking options on a cell-by-cell basis, which means that it becomes unworkable to change the setting for the entire column. If you wanted to do it for a range of cells in a particular column, you could do it in this manner:

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    Dim c As Range

    For Each c In Worksheets("Retail Figures").Range("A1:A100")
        c.Errors(xlNumberAsText).Ignore = True
End Sub

Note that this is the Workbook_Open event handler, which is placed in the code window for the ThisWorkbook object. It runs when the workbook is opened, and it sets the error checking for the A1:A100 range on the Retail Figures worksheet. You'll obviously want to change the range to reference the cells you want to affect.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (5229) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is six more than 8?

2018-02-04 10:57:22

John Mannn

Thank you. I've been irritated by the error "formula referring to empty cells". I had forgotten about this set of options, even though I had been certified in Excel 2010 quite a few years ago.

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