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: Automatically Moving from Cell to Cell when Entering Data.

Automatically Moving from Cell to Cell when Entering Data

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 10, 2014)

Sheila has a worksheet in which a series of four-digit numbers needs to be entered. She would like a way where Enter or Tab doesn't need to be pressed between each entry. In other words, after each fourth digit is pressed, Sheila wants Excel to automatically advance to the next cell.

Excel does not provide this type of data entry as an option. You can, however, create a macro to handle the data entry. One way is to us a simple macro that prompts the user for a string of characters. When the user presses Enter (to signify that the string is complete), then the macro takes each successive four-character chunk and puts them in consecutive cells.

Sub FourCharEntry1()
    Dim str As String
    Dim x As Integer
    Dim y As Integer

    str = InputBox("Enter string")
    y = 0
    For x = 1 To Len(str) Step 4
        ActiveCell.Offset(0, y) = "'" & Mid(str, x, 4)
        y = y + 1
    Next
End Sub

Notice that the macro, as it is putting four-character chunks into cells, makes sure that each chunk is preceded by an apostrophe. The reason for this is to handle those instances when the four-character chunk may consist of only numbers and those numbers begin with one or more zeroes. Adding the apostrophe makes sure that Excel treats the cell entry as text and the leading zeroes won't be wiped out.

You could, as well, avoid the use of an InputBox by simply allowing someone to enter text into a cell in the worksheet. The person could type away as much as desired (thousands of characters, if necessary). Then, with the cell selected, you could run a macro that will pull the information from the cell and perform the same task—breaking it up into four-character chunks. The following macro does just that:

Sub FourCharEntry2()
    Dim str As String
    Dim x As Integer
    Dim y As Integer

    str = ActiveCell.Value
    y = 0
    For x = 1 To Len(str) Step 4
        ActiveCell.Offset(0, y) = "'" & Mid(str, x, 4)
        y = y + 1
    Next
End Sub

Another approach is to use a custom user form for the user input. The form provides a much richer interaction with VBA, so you can actually have it stuff information into cells after every fourth character is entered.

Start by creating a user form (as described in other issues of ExcelTips) that contains two controls—a text box and a button. Name the text box vText and associate the following code with it:

Private Sub vText_Change() 
    If Len(vText) = 4 Then
        ActiveCell = vText
        ActiveCell.Offset(0, 1).Activate
        UserForm1.vText.Value = ""
    End If
End Sub

This simply runs every time the contents of the text box change (i.e., when you type each character) and then checks the length of whatever it contains. When the length reaches 4 the code takes those characters and stuffs them into a cell. The contents of vText are then emptied.

The name of the button you create in the user form doesn't really matter. It will be used as a way to close the user form, and should have the following code associated with it:

Private Sub Cancel_Click()
    Unload UserForm1
End Sub

When you are ready to use the user form, simply select the cell where you want input to start and then run the following macro:

Sub Start()
    UserForm1.Show
End Sub

The user form appears and you can start typing away. When you are done, just click the button and the user form is closed.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13102) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Automatically Moving from Cell to Cell when Entering Data.

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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