Making Modal Dialog Boxes Appear in Front of Workbooks

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 23, 2020)

Don tends to work on two monitors and have multiple workbooks open on the same instance of Excel. He also maximizes his windows. (He describes himself as a "see everything in one shot" type of guy.) Recently, when Don has done something that opens a modal dialog box, the box opens behind the workbook, which stops him from seeing the dialog box or interacting with it. He wonders if there is a way he can get the modal dialog boxes to appear in front of the workbook.

Before answering, it should be pointed out that dialog boxes can be of two types: modal and modeless. A modeless dialog box is one that is virtually independent of the program to which it belongs. A good example of such a dialog box is the Find and Replace dialog box. On the other hand, a modal dialog box (the ones that Don is having problems with) must be responded to or closed before you can continue working with the program to which the dialog box belongs.

It is unclear whether Don's problem is with modal dialog boxes generated by Excel itself or if they are dialog boxes generated by macros over which Don has control. If it is the former, then there is very little that can be done; the layered location of the dialog box is controlled entirely by the program (and the programmers that created it). In other words, it would take a code change to make the dialog box appeared layered on top of the workbook instead of under it.

Understand that there is a scenario in which the problem may not be due to an Excel programming problem. It could be that you have a third-party application running on the system which affects the layering of dialog boxes and their parent windows. The typical culprits in this scenario are memory-resident utilities that force themselves to always appear on top of whatever else is on the screen. The only way to see if this is the culprit is to disable the loading of such utilities and, within Excel, display a modal dialog box. If the behavior returns to normal, you then know the source of the problem.

If it is the case, however, that the dialog box is generated by a macro Don developed then the solution is to adjust the code that generates the modal dialog box. (In Excel macros these types of dialog boxes are typically implemented through userforms.).

The problem with userform placement in multiple screen scenarios is overcome by the manual placement of the userform within its initiating code. For instance, you can use some variation on this:

Load UserForm1
UserForm1.StartUpPosition = 0
UserForm1.Top = Application.Top + 25
UserForm1.Left = Application.Left + 25
UserForm1.Show

You may need to experiment with the placement but setting the StartUpPosition property to 0 is required so that VBA knows you want to manually location the userform.

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 (13349) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

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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