Skip to content

Dear Internet Explorer user: Your browser is no longer supported

Please switch to a modern browser such as Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to view this website's content.

VBA: List all formulae in an Excel workbook

Described is a convenient method for using VBA scripts to extract every formula from a Microsoft Excel workbook and create a list of them in a separate sheet for later reference or backup.

I spend a lot of time using shared Microsoft Excel worksheets in the workplace. I have become quite proficient at writing lengthy equations to complete complicated calculations, but occasionally things go awry. Only one person needs to go into a spreadsheet and overwrite a cell and something could break.

That’s why I have compiled the following script: to ‘back-up’ my equations and store them in a safe place in case I need to restore my work.

How it works

This script will complete the following general tasks:

  1. Using a dialogue box, ask the user to select a file from which to extract all formulae
  2. Open the selected file, then scan every sheet for formulae
  3. Compile those formulae in lists within new temporary worksheets
  4. Transfer those worksheets, compile them into a single sheet and delete the temporary sheets
  5. Number each equation and prompt the user to save the sheet somewhere.

Important prerequisites

It is important that the only Excel workbook that’s open is the one that contains the VBA script. This script can extract formulae from multiple sheets but only one workbook at a time.

The script also assumes that data is linearised or stored in a matrix with headers in Row 1 and formulae in Row 2 that are consistent for the length of the table (this represents best practice). Therefore it only scans Row 2 and odd formulae in other locations will be missed. (This can be changed but will considerably slow the script).

The process

In order to get this to work, I assembled the script from a series of smaller sub-scripts:

1. Open a workbook

The workbook that contains the VBA script is called “Formulae_Extractor.xlsm”.

We must commence by opening the workbook that contains the formulae that we wish to extract. The following script triggers an open file dialogue box to enable the user to choose the file. If no file is selected, a dialogue box appears stating “No file selected”.

Sub OpenSheets()
'Opens a file selection dialogue box

Dim sImportFile As String, sFile As String
Dim sThisBk As Workbook
Dim vfilename As Variant
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
Application.DisplayAlerts = False
Set sThisBk = ActiveWorkbook
sImportFile = Application.GetOpenFilename( _
fileFilter:="Microsoft Excel Workbooks, *.xls; *.xlsx", Title:="Open Workbook")
If sImportFile = "False" Then
MsgBox "No file selected"
End 'was Exit Sub

vfilename = Split(sImportFile, "\")
sFile = vfilename(UBound(vfilename))
Application.Workbooks.Open Filename:=sImportFile, ReadOnly:=True

End If

Application.ScreenUpdating = False
Application.DisplayAlerts = False

End Sub

2. Create the loop

In order to function, Visual Basic for Applications needs to loop through every worksheet in the chosen Excel file and extract the formulae from each. Here’s how I set-up my loop:

Sub LoopSheets()
'Loops through the worksheets

Dim wbk As Workbook, rngToCopy As Range, rngToPaste As Range

For Each wbk In Workbooks
	If wbk.Name <> ThisWorkbook.Name Then 'Excludes the workbook that hosts the script from the loop
End If

'Activate the workbook containing the formulae

'Run the script that lists all formulae

'Activate the other workbook
For Each wb In Workbooks
If wb.Name <> ThisWorkbook.Name Then x = wb.Name
Next wb

'Run the script that transfers the formula sheets

End Sub

You will notice that this sub references two other scripts; ListAllFormulae and MoveWorksheets. These are detailed later on, but need to be included in this loop for the process to function.

3. List all of the formulae

In order to achieve this, I modified a brilliant script written by Debra Dalgleish which looks through a workbook, extracts all of the formulae and places them into a series of new sheets called “F_(name of original sheet)”.

I adjusted the script so that it only passed through Row 2 for two reasons:

Sub ListAllFormulae()
'Modified from

Dim lRow As Long
Dim wb As Workbook
Dim ws As Worksheet
Dim wsNew As Worksheet
Dim c As Range
Dim rngF As Range
Dim strNew As String
Dim strSh As String
On Error Resume Next
Application.DisplayAlerts = False

Set wb = ActiveWorkbook
strSh = "F_"

For Each ws In wb.Worksheets
  lRow = 2

  If Left(ws.Name, Len(strSh)) <> strSh Then
    Set rngF = Nothing
    On Error Resume Next
    Set rngF = ws.Rows(2).Cells.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeFormulas, 23)
    If Not rngF Is Nothing Then
      strNew = Left(strSh & ws.Name, 30)
      Set wsNew = Worksheets.Add
      With wsNew
        .Name = strNew
        .Columns("A:F").NumberFormat = "@" 'text format
        .Range(.Cells(1, 1), .Cells(1, 6)).Value _
            = Array("ID", "Workbook", "Sheet", "Cell", "Formula A1", "Formula R1C1")
        For Each c In rngF
          .Range(.Cells(lRow, 1), .Cells(lRow, 6)).Value _
            = Array(lRow - 1, wb.Name, ws.Name, c.Address(0, 0), _
              c.Formula, c.FormulaR1C1)
          lRow = lRow + 1
        Next c
        .Rows(1).Font.Bold = True
      End With 'wsNew
      Set wsNew = Nothing
    End If
  End If
Next ws
Application.DisplayAlerts = True

End Sub

4. Move the formula sheets

The second sub in the loop moves all of the individual sheets that are created through Debra Dalgleish’s script from the file containing the formulae to Formulae_Extractor.xlsm:

Sub MoveWorksheets()
'Moves worksheets to Formulae_Extractor.xlsm

    Dim ws As Worksheet
    Application.DisplayAlerts = False
    For Each sh In Workbooks(2).Worksheets
        If sh.Name Like "F_*" Then
            sh.Move Before:=Workbooks("Formulae_Extractor.xlsm").Sheets(1)
        End If
    Application.DisplayAlerts = True
End Sub

5. Combine the formula sheets into one

The next step was to combine the different formula sheets into one long sheet for convenience. To do this, I modified a script by Allen Wyatt which was written for that very purpose.

Sub Combine()
'Modified from
    Dim J As Integer

    On Error Resume Next
    Worksheets.Add ' add a sheet in first place
    Sheets(1).Name = "Formulae"

    ' copy headings
    Selection.Copy Destination:=Sheets(1).Range("A1")

    ' work through sheets
    For J = 2 To Sheets.Count - 1 ' from sheet 2 to second last sheet
        Sheets(J).Activate ' make the sheet active
        Selection.CurrentRegion.Select ' select all cells in this sheets

        ' select all lines except title
        Selection.Offset(1, 0).Resize(Selection.Rows.Count - 1).Select

        ' copy cells selected in the new sheet on last line
        Selection.Copy Destination:=Sheets(1).Range("A65536").End(xlUp)(2)
End Sub

Allen Wyatt advises that this script may not work in Excel 2007/2010/2013 but it worked fine for me in Excel 2010. If you encounter problems, consider using this version instead.

6. Delete the individual formula sheets

Next I wanted to delete all of those individual formula sheets. I used a Worksheets(1).Activate script to activate the correct workbook and then ran a sub designed to delete all of those unwanted sheets. Because their names all start with “F_”, they were easy to target.

Sub DeleteFormulaSheets()
'Deletes all sheets with formulas in them
Dim ws2 As Worksheet
Application.DisplayAlerts = False
For Each sh In Workbooks("Formulae_Extractor.xlsm").Worksheets
    If sh.Name Like "F_*" Then
    End If
Application.DisplayAlerts = True
End Sub

7. Fix the ID numbering problem

Debra Dalgleish’s script inserts a column called “ID” on the left of the formula sheets and numbers them sequentially. Although nice, the sequence of numbers is destroyed when multiple formula sheets are combined. This script starts the numbering from 1 and continues down every row that has data in it, thus restoring sequential numbering.

Sub NumberRows()
'Removes the "Number stored as text" error throughout the sheet
    Application.ErrorCheckingOptions.NumberAsText = False
'Starts the numbering at 1
    Range("A2").Value = "1"
'Activates cell A2 in Formulae sheet
'Numbers each row sequentially
    Dim lastrow As Long
    lastrow = Worksheets("Formulae").Range("A2").End(xlDown).Row
    With Worksheets("Formulae").Range("A2")
        .AutoFill Destination:=Range("A2:A" & lastrow&)
    End With
End Sub

8. Clean up the mess

My next step was to insert two more columns that I felt would be useful. Because I work in a shared environment, I wanted to know:

  1. Which person compiled the list of formulae
  2. The time that the script was run

I also wanted to tidy the sheet by adjusting the column widths. This script adds those two columns and then does the “clean up”. Part of this sub utilises code written by “Von Pookie“.

Sub Cleanup()
'Insert two columns

[B1].Value = "UserID"
[C1].Value = "Date"

ActiveCell.FormulaR1C1 = Environ("username")

ActiveCell.Value = Format(Now(), "dd-MM-yyyy")

'Capture the last row
    Dim myLastRow As Long
    myLastRow = Range("A65536").End(xlUp).Row

'Autofill columns B & C
    Columns("B:C").NumberFormat = "@"
    Range("B2").FormulaR1C1 = Environ("username")
    Range("B2:B" & myLastRow).FillDown
    Range("C2").FormulaR1C1 = Format(Now, "dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm:ss")
    Range("C2:C" & myLastRow).FillDown

'Fix column widths so it looks pretty
    Columns("A:B").ColumnWidth = 6
    Columns("C").ColumnWidth = 20
    Columns("D").ColumnWidth = 50
    Columns("E").ColumnWidth = 30
    Columns("F").ColumnWidth = 6
    Columns("G:H").ColumnWidth = 70
End Sub

9. Prompt the user to save the sheet

Once the sheet containing the complete list of formulae had been cleaned-up, I wanted Excel to prompt the user to save the sheet in a new workbook (and not as part of “Formulae_Extractor.xlsm”). Here’s how this is achieved:

Sub SaveSheet()
'Directs a prompt for saving the formulae sheet
Application.DisplayAlerts = False
Application.DisplayAlerts = True

Dim IntialName As String
Dim fileSaveName As Variant
InitialName = Format(Now, "yyyymmdd") & "_" "Formulae_from_" & Range("D2")
fileSaveName = Application.GetSaveAsFilename(InitialFileName:=InitialName, _
    fileFilter:="Excel Files (*.xlsx), *.xlsx")

If fileSaveName <> False Then
    MsgBox "Save as " & fileSaveName
End If
End Sub

You will notice that the suggested file name is “YYYYMMDD_Formulae_from_(name of source sheet).xlsx”, but this can be changed. Importantly, if the user declines the offer to save the sheet in a new workbook, they’ll still be able to see their formulae in “Book2”.

The final step is to run another bit of code to close the workbook that contained the formulae originally: Workbooks(2).Close SaveChanges:=False

10. Stitching it all together

Because I am running a series of subs, I inserted them into a “master” script as follows:

'Excel formulae extractor
'Written by Adam Dimech -
Sub FormulaeExtract()
Workbooks(2).Close SaveChanges:=False
End Sub

Implimentation and output

This script (along with the other subs) are simply inserted into a module for “Formulae_Extractor.xlsm” within Visual Basic for Applications. Instructions for this are available here.

Insert FormulaeExtract first, then the others either into the same module or separately (it doesn’t matter).

In “Formulae_Extractor.xlsm”, insert a button to trigger the FormulaeExtract script. Go to Developer > Insert > Button (Form Control), then select “FormulaeExtract”.

The final output should look something like this:

Screen capture of Excel spreadsheet displaying formulae

A summary of every formula contained in the “Source-of-Formulae” workbook.

Now in order to record all of the formulae contained in a Microsoft Excel workbook, a user needs only open “Formulae_Extractor.xlsm”, click the “start” button to activate FormulaeExtract and wait a few seconds to receive their list. Easy!



2 responses to “VBA: List all formulae in an Excel workbook”

On 10 June 2018, Chuck Hamdan wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

Excellent tool Debra well done!


On 30 November 2022, Luis Contreras wrote: Hyperlink chain icon

Wow. This is one of the best, most cleanly written tips I’ve ever seen–and I frequently look at different macros and coding tips. Great work. Thank you for sharing.


Have Your Say

The following HTML is permitted:
<a href="" title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments will be published subject to the Editorial Policy.