Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Understanding Macros.

Understanding Macros

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 16, 2019)

A macro is similar to a computer program. It consists of a series of instructions that the computer follows in a sequence you specify. The macro is given a name that is used to run the instructions it contains. Excel provides two general ways to create a macro. The first (and easiest) method is to record a macro using the macro recorder. The other method is to write a macro from scratch using the VBA Editor. While writing from scratch is perfectly acceptable, it is often a good idea, especially for smaller macros, to record the basic steps you want performed and then edit the recorded macro to create the final instructions.

Anything you do in Excel that is of a repetitive nature is a good candidate for a macro. For instance, you might have the job of creating financial analysis reports for your company and you want to create a macro that will enter the company name in the current cell and format it using the proper font. Such a task is easily done with a macro.

When you create a macro, you have the opportunity to store it in any of three places. Where you store a macro determines when it is available and how it can be later used. The following are the storage options available in Excel:

  • Personal Macro Workbook. The macro is stored in a special workbook that contains only macros. This workbook is open all the time but is hidden. The filename for this workbook is Personal.xlsb.
  • This Workbook. The macro is stored as a part of the current workbook. (This is the default storage location used by Excel.)
  • New Workbook. A new workbook is created, and the macro is stored within it.

Remember that macros are only available if the workbook in which they are stored is open. Thus, only those stored in your Personal Macro Workbook will be available at all times. This works because the Personal Macro Workbook is always open (even if it is not visible). Macros you store in other workbooks are only available if that workbook is open.

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 (8148) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Understanding Macros.

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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