Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Setting a Length Limit on Cells.

Setting a Length Limit on Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 22, 2015)

Craig is developing a worksheet and wants to know if there is a way to specify the maximum number of characters that can be entered in any given cell. He doesn't want to use Data Validation to impose the limitation.

There is no way to do this directly in Excel without (as Craig mentions) using Data Validation. There are a few things you can try to achieve the desired effect, however. First, you can using a formula to check the length of any cell, and then display an error message, if desired. For instance, if the cells you want to check are in column C, you could use a formula such as the following:

=IF((LEN(C1)>15),"Cell is Too Long","")

Place the formula in the cell to the right of the cell being checked (such as in cell D1), and then copy it down as many cells as necessary. When an entry is made in C1, and if it is more than 15 characters, then the message is displayed.

If such a direct approach is undesirable, then you'll need to use macros to do the checking. The following is a simple example that is triggered whenever something is changed in the worksheet. Each cell in the worksheet is then checked to make sure it is not longer than 15 characters. If such a cell is discovered, then a message box is displayed and the cell is cleared.

Private Sub Worksheet_SelectionChange(ByVal Target As Range)
    For Each cell In UsedRange
        If Len(cell.Value) > 15 Then
            MsgBox " Can't enter more than 15 characters"
            cell.Value = ""
        End If
    Next
End Sub

A more robust approach is to check in the event handler to see if the change was made somewhere within a range of cells that need to be length-limited.

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
    Dim rng As Range
    Dim rCell As Range
    Dim iChars As Integer
    On Error GoTo ErrHandler

    'Change these as desired
    iChars = 15
    Set rng = Me.Range("A1:A10")

    If Not Intersect(Target, rng) Is Nothing Then
        Application.EnableEvents = False
        For Each rCell In Intersect(Target, rng)
            If Len(rCell.Value) > iChars Then
                rCell.Value = Left(rCell.Value, iChars)
                MsgBox rCell.Address & " has more than" _
                  & iChars & " characters." & vbCrLf _
                  & "It has been truncated."
            End If
        Next
    End If

ExitHandler:
    Application.EnableEvents = True
    Set rCell = Nothing
    Set rng = Nothing
    Exit Sub

ErrHandler:
    MsgBox Err.Description
    Resume ExitHandler
End Sub

To use this macro, you simply need to change the value assigned to iChars (represents the maximum length allowed) and the range assigned to rng (currently set to A1:A10). Because the macro checks only for changes within the specified range, it is much faster with larger worksheets than the macro that checks all the cells used.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10003) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Setting a Length Limit on Cells.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Creating a List

You can format both numbered and bulleted lists very easily in Word. The tools available on the Formatting toolbar make it a ...

Discover More

Using FIM Barcodes

Adding a Facing Identification Mark (FIM) barcode to your envelopes.

Discover More

Selective Headers and Footers

Want to print different headers or footers on different parts of your worksheet? Excel has no inherent way to do this, but a ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Changing Limited Relative References to Absolute

Do you need to change whether a particular reference in a formula uses a relative or absolute reference? If so, you may ...

Discover More

Displaying an Input Format in a Cell

Want to show a user, in a cell, what you expect their input to look like? Unfortuantely it cannot be done natively in Excel. ...

Discover More

Entering Info into Multiple Cells

Want to make an entry of the same value into a group of selected cells? It's easy to do with just one small change in how you ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four less than 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.