Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Extracting a Pattern from within Text.

# Extracting a Pattern from within Text

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 22, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021

Tom has a worksheet that contains about 20,000 cells full of textual data. From within these cells he needs to extract a specific pattern of text. The pattern is ##-##### where each # is a digit. This pattern does not appear at a set place in each cell. Tom wonders if there is a way to extract the desired information.

There are several ways that you can approach this problem, and the correct solution for your needs will depend on the characteristics of the data with which you are working. If you know that the only place in your data that you will have a dash is within your pattern, then you can key off of the presence of the dash by using a formula such as the following:

```=MID(A1,FIND("-",A1)-2,8)
```

This finds the dash and then grabs the two characters to the left of the dash. This obviously will not work if there are dashes in other places in the text or if it is possible to have "patterns" that include non-digits (such as 12-34B32) and you want those excluded. In that case you'll need a much more complex formula:

```=IF(ISERROR(INT(MID(A1, FIND("-", A1, 1)-2, 2)) & INT(MID(
A1, FIND("-", A1, 1)+1, 5))), "", MID(A1, FIND("-", A1)-2, 8))
```

This includes an error-checking component that finds out if the characters just before the dash and just after the dash contain anything other than digits. If they do, then nothing is returned.

The one thing that these formulaic approaches don't do is to handle those situations where there may be more than one occurrence of the pattern within the same cell. In that case, a macro is the best approach. The following will extract the valid patterns and place them in a new worksheet called "Results."

```Sub ExtractPattern()
On Error Resume Next
Set SourceSheet = ActiveSheet
Set TargetSheet = ActiveWorkbook.Sheets("Results")
If Err = 0 Then
Worksheets("Results").Delete
End If
ActiveSheet.Name = "Results"
Set TargetSheet = ActiveSheet
Cells(1, 1).Value = "Found Codes"
Cells(1, 1).Font.Bold = True
iTargetRow = 2

SourceSheet.Select
Selection.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeLastCell).Select
Range(Selection, Cells(1)).Select

For Each c In Selection.Cells
If c.Value Like "*##-#####*" Then
sRaw = c.Value
iPos = InStr(sRaw, "-")
Do While iPos > 0
If iPos < 3 Then
sRaw = "  " & sRaw
iPos = iPos + 2
End If
sTemp = Mid(sRaw, iPos - 2, 8)
sRaw = Mid(sRaw, iPos + 6, Len(sRaw))
If sTemp Like "##-#####" Then
TargetSheet.Cells(iTargetRow, 1) = sTemp
iTargetRow = iTargetRow + 1
Else
sRaw = Mid(sTemp, 4, 5) & sRaw
End If
iPos = InStr(sRaw, "-")
Loop
End If
Next c
End Sub
```

Note that the macro uses the Like operator in two places. The first instance determines if the pattern occurs anywhere in the cell, and the second instance is used to determine if the extracted characters exactly match the desired pattern.

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 (12332) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Extracting a Pattern from within Text.

##### 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

Stubborn Highlighting

When you make extensive edits to a document and those edits include changing the formatting of numbered or bulleted ...

Discover More

Different Layout for a Portion of a Page

Got a document layout that requires a portion of the page to be in one layout and another portion to be in a different ...

Discover More

Turning a Cell Red when a Threshold is Exceeded

Excel provides a great conditional formatting capability that allows you to change how a cell appears based on critiera ...

Discover More

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!

##### More ExcelTips (ribbon)

How Operators are Evaluated

Operators are used in formulas to instruct Excel what to do to arrive at a result. Not all operators are evaluated in the ...

Discover More

Returning Least-Significant Digits

Do you ever have a need to return just a few digits out of a number? This tip shows different formulas you can use to ...

Discover More

Calculating Monthly Interest Charges

Trying to calculate how much people owe you? If you charge interest or service charges on past-due accounts, there are a ...

Discover More
##### Subscribe

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

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. Youâ€™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 eight more than 2?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your commentâ€”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.