Finding Positions of Formatted Characters in a Cell

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 19, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Gary has a worksheet that contains unstructured text strings that he needs to parse into component elements. Sometimes he needs to search for types of text rather than a specific character. For example, he might want to find the first, the Nth, or the last occurrence of any bold character (or any italics character) in the cell.

There is no intrinsic function or tool in Excel to accomplish this task. The regular Find and Replace feature returns matches for formatting, but not the position at which those matches occur. To get that specific about what you want to find, you'll need to use a macro. You can get the positioning information back into your worksheet if you implement the macro as a user-defined function.

The following macro accepts a range (intended to be a specific cell), an indicator of whether you want bold or italic (or both), and the occurrence of that formatting.

Function FindNth(r As Range, sType As String, N As Integer) As Integer
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim iCount As Integer
    Dim sStyle As String
    
    If r.Count = 1 Then
        FindNth = 0
        iCount = 0
        For J = 1 To Len(r.Text)
            sStyle = r.Characters(J, 1).Font.FontStyle
            If LCase(sStyle) = LCase(sType) Then
                iCount = iCount + 1
                If N = 0 Then
                    FindNth = J
                Else
                    If N = iCount Then
                        FindNth = J
                        Exit For
                    End If
                End If
            End If
        Next J
    Else
        FindNth = -1
    End If
End Function

In order to use the macro, use one of the following formulas in your worksheet:

=FindNth(A1, "bold", 2)
=FindNth(A1, "italic", 3)
=FindNth(A1, "bold italic", 1)

In each case the third parameter specifies which occurrence of the given formatting you want to find. The function returns the character position of that occurrence within the cell. If there is no such occurrence, then 0 is returned. If you specify multiple cells in the first parameter of the function, it returns a -1. If you specify an occurrence of 0, then the character position of the last occurrence of the specified format is returned.

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 (13402) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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