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: Selecting Random Names.

# Selecting Random Names

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 4, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021

A common task for many people is to pick a number of random names from a large list. For instance, you may be running a contest for your community, and you have 1,000 people that have entered. With their names in each row of a table, you may be wondering how to select a certain number of the names randomly.

As is often the case with Excel, there are a number of different approaches you can take. Each approach examined in this tip assumes that the names you need to select from are listed in cells A1 through A1000. Of course, your range of names could be shorter or longer, but the point is that they are in contiguous cells in column A. The examples also assume that you need to select 15 names at random from the list.

The first approach is to use the INDEX function. Enter the following formula in cells B1:B15:

```=INDEX(A:A,INT((RAND()*1000)+1),1)
```

A similar formula uses the OFFSET function:

```=OFFSET(\$A\$1,ROUNDUP(RAND()*1000,0),0,1,1)
```

It is possible, but not probable, that you will get the same name twice in the resulting list. (The improbability comes because of the size of the original list. The larger the list, the less probable there will be duplicates in the extracted list.) If you do get a duplicate name, then simply force a recalculation of your worksheet by pressing F9. Each time you recalculate, the list of extracted names is regenerated.

Another potential approach requires the use of multiple columns. Simply follow these steps:

1. Enter =RAND() in cell B1.
2. Enter the following formula in cell C1:
3. ```     =RANK(B1,\$B\$1:\$B\$1000)
```
4. Select the range B1:C1, and fill down to row 1000.
5. Select the range B1:C1000.
6. Press Ctrl+C to copy the range to the Clipboard.
7. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
8. Click the down-arrow under the Paste tool and then select Paste Special. Excel displays the Paste Special dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
9. Figure 1. The Paste Special dialog box.

10. Make sure the Values radio button is selected.
11. Click on OK. You now have static values in B1:C1000, which means they won't change every time the worksheet is recalculated.
12. Select a cell in column C.
13. Display the Data tab of the ribbon.
14. Click the Sort tool. Excel displays the Sort dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
15. Figure 2. The Sort dialog box.

16. Click on OK. The table (range A1:C1000) is sorted according to the values in column C.

The result is that column C now contains a ranking of all the random numbers in column B. The first 15 rows contain your random names.

In this approach you could also have left out column C completely and simply sorted your list based on the static random values in column B. Again, the top 15 would be your random names.

Of course, there are any number of macro solutions you could use for this problem. The coding of any macro will be similar, relying on VBA's RND function to generate random numbers. Of all the possible macro solutions, perhaps the following is the most unique and offers some advantages not available with the workbook solutions discussed so far:

```Sub GetRandom()
Dim TempDO As Variant
Dim iRows As Integer
Dim iCols As Integer
Dim iBegRow As Integer
Dim iBegCol As Integer
Dim sCells As String
Dim J As Integer
Dim iWantRow As Integer

Set TempDO = New DataObject

iRows = Selection.Rows.Count
iCols = Selection.Columns.Count
iBegRow = Selection.Row
iBegCol = Selection.Column

If iRows < 16 Or iCols > 1 Then
MsgBox "Too few rows or too many columns"
Else
Randomize Timer
sCells = ""
For J = 1 To 15
iWantRow = Int(Rnd() * iRows) + iBegRow
sCells = sCells & Cells(iWantRow, iBegCol) & vbCrLf
Next J
TempDO.SetText sCells
TempDO.PutInClipboard
End If
End Sub
```

You should note that this macro defines—right after the variables are declared—a new DataObject and assigns it to the TempDO variable. If the macro bombs out on this line of code, it simply means that you need to tell VBA to reference the proper library:

1. In the VBA Editor, choose References from the Tools menu. VBA displays the References dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
2. Figure 3. The References dialog box.

3. Scroll through the list of references until you see one called Microsoft Forms Object Library. (There may be a version number included in the reference name, such as Microsoft Forms 2.0 Object Library.)
4. Make sure the check box to the left of the object library is selected.
5. Click on OK.

In order to use the macro, just select the names from which you want to select the 15 random names. In the examples thus far, you would select the range A1:A1000. The macro then pulls 15 names at random from the cells, and puts them in the Clipboard. When you run the macro, you can then paste the contents of the Clipboard where ever you want. Every time the macro is run, a different group of 15 is selected.

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 (12475) 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: Selecting Random Names.

##### 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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