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 March 19, 2019)

2

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.

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 (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

Changing the Type of Page Numbers Used in Headers or Footers

Like to have your page numbers displayed using different types of numbers? Here's how you can choose from the several ...

Discover More

Making Spell Check Ignore Characters

The rules of professional editing often require that editorial changes in a quote be noted with brackets. These brackets, ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Your Windows 7 Password

When you get rid of your Windows login password, you accomplish two things. First, you make it easier to log onto your ...

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)

Finding Unused Names

After months or years of naming things (such as cell ranges), you may find your workbook cluttered with a bunch of names ...

Discover More

Combining Multiple Rows in a Column

Do you need to concatenate the contents of a range of cells in the same column? Here's a formula and a handy macro to ...

Discover More

Pasting Leading Zeroes

Paste information into a worksheet, and you may be surprised to see leading zeroes disappear before your eyes. Here's how ...

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 9 - 6?

2019-03-19 09:57:20

Dave Bonin

@Jens:

Yes, you could put such a formula in conditional formatting to, say, shade the cell red if it's contents are too long. This has the advantage of not requiring a second cell to hold the formula of the first cell you are checking.

Going a step further, you can put multiple data checks into conditional formats. Maybe checking the overall text length, verifying the first three letters are upper case, no spaces in the text, etc., etc. If you need to do multiple data integrity checks it may be helpful to give the user a specific error message based on what they entered wrong. In that case, you would need an extra cell to hold the message.


2019-03-19 05:37:25

Jens Holme Bjørneboe

If it's possible to put in a formula, then would it be possible to put in Conditional formatting?


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.