Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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: Limiting Number of Characters in a Cell.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 13, 2016)
Chris has a need to limit the number of characters that can be typed into a cell. For example, he needs to limit the input to no more than 20 characters per cell, whether they are typed or pasted into the cell. If the user tries to put in more than 20 characters, then they need to be alerted and the input disallowed. Chris wonders how he can enforce such a limitation.
Excel's Data Validation feature has a built-in way to check for the length of whatever is being entered into a cell. All you need to do is select the cell you want to limit and follow these steps:
Figure 1. The Data Validation dialog box.
This works fine if you are entering text into a cell, but it can be a little funky if someone is entering a numeric value. (This may not be a real problem, as entering more than 20 digits as a number is a very unusual circumstance in Excel.)
It also is a problem if you want to make sure that pasted information is checked for its length; pasting something into a cell that uses Data Validation eliminates the Data Validation on the cell. In that case you'll want to use a macro to do the length checking. You can find such a solution already at ExcelTips, in a tip entitled Setting a Length Limit on Cells. (You can search for this tip title using the search box at the upper-right of any page.)
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12329) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Limiting Number of Characters in a Cell.
Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!
Want to convert the text in a cell so that it wraps after every word? You could edit the cell and press Alt+Enter after each ...Discover More
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 make ...Discover More
When setting up a worksheet for others to use, you might want to make some limitations on what can be entered in certain ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
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.