Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 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: Setting a Length Limit on Cells.

Setting a Length Limit on Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 13, 2021)

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 use 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, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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. ...

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What is 7 - 7?

2021-02-16 08:34:54

CJ

Willy, it seems that your approach assumes the event is triggered by having the same value pasted into multiple cells, but that's just one scenario. If the values differ then a loop must be used.


2021-02-13 12:16:36

Willy Vanhaelen

If you enter the same value in more than one cell a the time by pressing Ctrl+Enter, the second macro has an annoying behavior of displaying the message box for each of the cells because a For Each loop is used, which has no sense in this case. When you enter something to long in several cells at the time, Excel enters the full entry in all cells. Then Excel runs the event macro Worksheet_ChangeWorksheet_Change. My version of the macro hereafter checks if the first value in the range is to long and if so it truncates the whole range in one go:

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
Const iChars As Integer = 15 'change as disired
Dim rng As Range
Set rng = Intersect(Target, Range("A1:A10")) 'change range as disired
If rng Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
If Len(rng(1)) <= iChars Then Exit Sub
On Error GoTo ErrHandler
Application.EnableEvents = False
rng = Left(rng(1).Value, iChars)
MsgBox "Range " & rng.Address & " has more than " & iChars _
& " characters." & vbCrLf & "It has been truncated."
ExitHandler:
Application.EnableEvents = True
Exit Sub
ErrHandler:
MsgBox Err.Description
Resume ExitHandler
End Sub

I removed Set rCell = Nothing and Set rng = Nothing because after that the macro finishes and the memory they might use is then freed anyway.


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