Randomly Assigning Names to Items

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 4, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021

Gary has two lists in a worksheet. One of them, in column A, contains a list of surplus items in our company and the other, in column G, contains a list of names. There is nothing in columns B:F. Gary would like to assign names, randomly, to the list of items. Each name from column G should be assigned only once. If there are more names than items, then some names won't get used. If there are fewer names than items, then some items won't have associated names.

There are a couple of ways that this can be done. Perhaps the easiest, though, is to simply assign a random number to each item in column A. Assuming that the first item is in cell A1, put the following in cell B1:

```=RAND()
```

Double-click the fill handle in cell B1, and you should end up with a random number (between 0 and 1) to the right of each item in column A.

Now, select all the cells in column B and press Ctrl+C to copy them to the Clipboard. Use Paste Special to paste values right back into those cells in column B. (This converts the cells from formulas to actual static values.)

Sort columns A and B in ascending order based on the values in column B. If you look across the rows, you'll now have items (column A) associated randomly with a name (column G).

Even though it is not necessary, you could also follow these same steps to add a random number to the right of each name and then sort the names. (I say it isn't necessary because randomizing the items should be enough to assure that there are random items associated with each name.)

The technique discussed so far works great if you have to do the random pairing only once in a while. If you need to do it quite often, then a macro may be a better approach. There are, of course, many different macro-based approaches you could use. The following approach assumes the item list is in column A and the name list in column G. It also assumes that there are header cells in row 1 for each column.

```Sub AssignNames()
Set srItems = Range("A2").CurrentRegion
Set srNames = Range("G2").CurrentRegion
NameCount = srItems.Rows.Count - 1
ItemCount = srNames.Rows.Count - 1

'Randomize Names
ReDim tempArray(NameCount, 2)
For x = 0 To NameCount - 1
tempArray(x, 0) = Range("G2").Offset(x, 0)
tempArray(x, 1) = Rnd()
Next x

'Bubble Sort
For i = 0 To NameCount - 2
For j = i To NameCount - 1
If tempArray(i, 1) > tempArray(j, 1) Then
tempItem = tempArray(j, 0)
tempName = tempArray(j, 1)
tempArray(j, 0) = tempArray(i, 0)
tempArray(j, 1) = tempArray(i, 1)
tempArray(i, 0) = tempItem
tempArray(i, 1) = tempName
End If
Next j
Next i

'AssignNames
Range("B2") = "Assigned"
AssignCount = NameCount
If NameCount > ItemCount Then AssignCount = ItemCount
For x = 0 To AssignCount
Range("B2").Offset(x, 0) = tempArray(x, 0)
Next x
End Sub
```

If there are more names than items the macro randomly assigns names to items. If there are more items than names it randomly assigns some items to names and randomly leaves "holes" (items without names). It stores them in column B, overwriting whatever was there.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (5682) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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 nine minus 3?

2023-11-26 15:50:39

J. Woolley

The AssignNames5 macro in my most recent comment below randomly shuffles the List array. My Excel Toolbox now includes the following function to return a range or array with all rows and/or columns randomly shuffled:
=Shuffle(RangeArray, [RowsOnly], [ColsOnly])
If RowsOnly is True, columns will remain with their shuffled rows.
If ColsOnly is True, rows will remain with their shuffled columns.
Default for both RowsOnly and ColsOnly is FALSE. An error is returned if both are TRUE; otherwise, they apply only when RangeArray is 2D.

2023-11-24 12:25:19

J. Woolley

Re. the AssignNamesX macros in my three previous comments below, here is yet another version. This one is the simplest.

Sub AssignNames5()
Dim ItemCount, NameCount, ListCount, List, Temp, i, n
If Range("A2") = "" Or Range("G2") = "" Then Exit Sub
ItemCount = Range("A2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
NameCount = Range("G2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
ListCount = IIf(NameCount < ItemCount, ItemCount, NameCount)
List = Range("G2").Resize(ListCount).Value '2D base-1 column of names
List = WorksheetFunction.Transpose(List) '1D base-1 array (row vector)
'When more items than names, assign blank names
For i = NameCount + 1 To ListCount 'Skipped if ListCount = NameCount
List(i) = ""
Next i
'Randomly shuffle the values in List array
For i = 1 To ListCount
n = Int((ListCount * Rnd) + 1) 'Random number 1 to ListCount
Temp = List(i)
List(i) = List(n)
List(n) = Temp
Next i
'Assign randomized values from List to items
For i = 1 To ItemCount
Range("B1").Offset(i) = List(i)
Next i
'Clear any remainder plus one cell
For i = ItemCount + 1 To ListCount + 1
Range("B1").Offset(i) = ""
Next i
End Sub

See http://www.cpearson.com/excel/ShuffleArray.aspx

2023-11-13 10:01:34

J. Woolley

Re. the AssignNames3 macro in my previous comment below, here is yet another version. This one uses a SortedList that is automatically sorted by its random number Keys.

Sub AssignNames4()
Const REPEAT_NAMES = False 'True to repeat names; False to assign blanks
Dim ItemCount, NameCount, ListCount, Key, i, n
If Range("A2") = "" Or Range("G2") = "" Then Exit Sub
ItemCount = Range("A2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
NameCount = Range("G2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
ListCount = IIf(NameCount < ItemCount, ItemCount, NameCount)
Dim List As Object
Set List = CreateObject("System.Collections.SortedList")
'Associate each name with a random number Key in List sorted by Key
For i = 1 To ListCount
Do
Key = Rnd 'Random number 0 to 1
Loop While List.ContainsKey(Key) 'Avoid duplicate Key
If i > NameCount Then
If REPEAT_NAMES Then
'When more items than names, randomly repeat names
n = Int((NameCount * Rnd) + 1) 'Random number 1 to NameCount
Else
'When more items than names, assign blank names
End If
Else 'Next name in column G
End If
Next i
'Assign randomized names (List is base-0 sorted by random number Keys)
For i = 1 To ItemCount
Range("B1").Offset(i) = List.GetByIndex(i - 1)
Next i
'Clear any remainder plus one cell
For i = ItemCount + 1 To ListCount + 1
Range("B1").Offset(i) = ""
Next i
End Sub

If there is any difficulty with the following statement
Set List = CreateObject("System.Collections.SortedList")
enable Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 using Control Panel as described here:
https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/framework/install/dotnet-35-windows

2023-11-08 14:59:22

J. Woolley

Re. the AssignNames2 macro in my previous comment below, if the list of names (NameCount) is less than the list of items (ItemCount), then random names are assigned to the first NameCount items and blank names are assigned to the remaining items. The following AssignNames3 version assigns the blank names for this case randomly as suggested in the Tip's last paragraph.

Sub AssignNames3()
Const REPEAT_NAMES = False 'True to repeat names; False to assign blanks
Dim ItemCount, NameCount, NumberCount, i, j, k, temp
If Range("A2") = "" Or Range("G2") = "" Then Exit Sub
ItemCount = Range("A2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
NameCount = Range("G2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
NumberCount = IIf(NameCount < ItemCount, ItemCount, NameCount)
'Associate a random number with each name
ReDim tempArray(1 To NumberCount, 1 To 2)
For i = 1 To NumberCount
If i > NameCount Then
If REPEAT_NAMES Then
'When more items than names, randomly repeat names
k = Int((NameCount * Rnd) + 1) 'Random number 1 to NameCount
tempArray(i, 1) = Range("G1").Offset(k)
Else
'When more items than names, assign blank names
tempArray(i, 1) = ""
End If
Else
tempArray(i, 1) = Range("G1").Offset(i) 'Name from list
End If
tempArray(i, 2) = Rnd 'Random number 0 to 1
Next i
'Bubble sort random number values to randomize associated names
For i = 1 To NumberCount - 1
For j = i + 1 To NumberCount
If tempArray(i, 2) > tempArray(j, 2) Then
For k = 1 To 2
temp = tempArray(j, k)
tempArray(j, k) = tempArray(i, k)
tempArray(i, k) = temp
Next k
End If
Next j
Next i
'Assign randomized names
For i = 1 To ItemCount
Range("B1").Offset(i) = tempArray(i, 1)
Next i
'Clear any remainder plus one cell
For i = ItemCount + 1 To NumberCount + 1
Range("B1").Offset(i) = ""
Next i
End Sub

Notice the method for randomizing names assures a name is only assigned once as specified in the Tip's first paragraph. But if the following statement
Const REPEAT_NAMES = False 'True to repeat names; False to assign blanks
is replaced by this statement
Const REPEAT_NAMES = True 'True to repeat names; False to assign blanks
then when NameCount is less than ItemCount, names will be repeated randomly to avoid assigning any blank names to the remaining items. REPEAT_NAMES is ignored if NameCount >= ItemCount.

2023-11-06 10:10:39

J. Woolley

The Tip's macro has several issues. Here is an improved version:

Sub AssignNames2()
Dim ItemCount, NameCount, AssignCount, i, j, k, temp
If Range("A2") = "" Or Range("G2") = "" Then Exit Sub
ItemCount = Range("A2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
NameCount = Range("G2").End(xlDown).Row - 1
'Randomize Names
ReDim tempArray(1 To NameCount, 1 To 2)
For i = 1 To NameCount
tempArray(i, 1) = Range("G1").Offset(i)
tempArray(i, 2) = Rnd()
Next i
'Bubble Sort
For i = 1 To NameCount - 1
For j = i + 1 To NameCount
If tempArray(i, 2) > tempArray(j, 2) Then
For k = 1 To 2
temp = tempArray(j, k)
tempArray(j, k) = tempArray(i, k)
tempArray(i, k) = temp
Next k
End If
Next j
Next i
'AssignNames
AssignCount = IIf(NameCount > ItemCount, ItemCount, NameCount)
For i = 1 To AssignCount
Range("B1").Offset(i) = tempArray(i, 1)
Next i
k = IIf(NameCount < ItemCount, ItemCount, NameCount)
For i = AssignCount + 1 To k + 1
Range("B1").Offset(i) = ""
Next i
End Sub

This macro assumes the following:
1. Row 1 has column headings assigned by the user.
2. The list of items is from cell A2 to the first blank cell in column A.
3. The list of names is from cell G2 to the first blank cell in column G.
4. The list of names assigned to items is in column B starting at cell B2 overwriting any previous content including blank cells down to one row below the list of items and names.

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