Finding Positions of Formatted Characters in a Cell

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 17, 2020)

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, 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Auto Creation of an Acronym List

If you use a lot of acronyms in your documents, you may want a quick way to compile those acronyms and their definitions ...

Discover More

Automatically Saving Changes to Defaults

Have you ever started a new document only to find that the settings in Word seem to be different than what you expected? ...

Discover More

Leap Years and Fiscal Periods

Need to figure out when a fiscal year ends when that period does not correspond to the calendar year? Here are some ways ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Deleting a File in a Macro

Macros give you a great deal of control over creating, finding, renaming, and deleting files. This tip focuses on this ...

Discover More

Swapping Two Strings

Strings are used quite frequently in macros. You may want to swap the contents of two string variables, and you can do so ...

Discover More

Finding the Path to the Desktop

Figuring out where Windows places certain items (such as the user's desktop) can be a bit frustrating. Fortunately, there ...

Discover More
Subscribe

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

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

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}] in your comment text. You’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 four more than 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—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.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

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

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.