Record and Test an Excel Macro

How to record and test a short macro. This tutorial is for absolute beginners, and will help you get started with Excel programming


If you don't know anything about Excel VBA, where should you start? In this tutorial you'll take these first steps in using Excel VBA:

  1. Understand what Excel can do without macros
  2. Think of a simple, repetitive, Excel task that you have to repeat every day
  3. Use the Macro Recorder to automate that simple routine

Watch this short video to see the steps, and the written instructions are below the video.

NOTE: There's another video below, that shows how to record and run a simple macro, to format an Excel file.

What Can Excel Do Without Macros?

Excel can do all kinds of amazing things, without macros. Get to know Excel's powerful built-in features, such as:

If you use those built-in features, you might not need a macro. For example, instead of checking each cell in a column, and manually colouring the cell green if it's over 50, use conditional formatting to highlight the cells automatically.

conditional formatting

Identify an Excel Task to Automate

If you use Excel every day, you probably have a few tasks that you repeat daily, weekly or monthly. To get started with Excel VBA, you could focus on one of those tasks, and try to automate it.

In this example, you have a list of stationery orders, in a workbook named Orders.xlsx. You can download the sample Orders file, or use a file of your own.

Every day, in your imaginary job, you open that Orders file and filter the list of orders, to find all the orders for binders. Then you copy the orders, and paste them into a new workbook.

Here's a summary of the steps that you follow every morning:

  1. Open the orders file
  2. Filter the list for binder orders
  3. Copy the binder orders
  4. Create a new workbook
  5. Paste the binder orders into the new workbook.

Instead of doing that task manually every day, you could automate it, by creating an Excel macro.

Get Ready to Record

Now that you've decided to automate this task, you'll use Excel's Macro Recorder tool to create the Excel VBA code. Before you start recording, you'll get everything into position. For example:

  • Do you want the macro to open a specific workbook, or will that workbook already be open?
  • Should you select a cell or worksheet before the macro runs, or will selecting the cell be part of the macro?

In this example, you want the macro to open the Orders workbook for you, and then filter and copy the data. So, the Orders workbook should be closed when you start recording. You don't need to select a specific cell or worksheet before recording; any cell selection will be done during the macro recording.

Start Recording

Once everything is in position, you can get ready to start recording.

  1. Open a new blank workbook, which is where you'll store the macro.
  2. At the bottom left of the Excel window, click the Record Macro button.
  3. click the Record Macro button

  4. In the Record Macro dialog box, type a one word name for the macro, CopyDailyRecords
  5. type a one word name for the macro

  6. From the Store Macro In drop down, select This Workbook as the workbook where you'd like to store the VBA code. Later, you can open this workbook every morning, to run the macro.
  7. run the macro

  8. In the Description box, you can type a brief note about what the macro will do. This is optional, and you can leave the Description box empty, if you prefer.
  9. macro Description

  10. The Shortcut Key is also optional. Leave that empty for now, and you can create a shortcut later.
  11. Click OK, to start recording.

Perform the Macro Steps

While the Macro Recorder is on, you'll perform the steps that you want to automate. In this example, these are the steps that you should do now:

  1. Open the orders file - Orders.xlsx
  2. On the Data sheet in the Orders file, use an AutoFilter to view the binder orders
  3. Copy the filtered binder orders, including the heading row.
  4. Create a new blank workbook
  5. Paste the binder orders into the new workbook, in cell A1 on Sheet1.

If you make a mistake - no problem! Just stop the recording (instructions below), close the files without saving, and start over again.

Stop the Recording

Once you finished all the steps, follow these steps to turn off the Macro Recorder and save the macro file.

NOTE: When saving a file that contains macros, you must choose Binary (xlsb) or Macro-Enabled (xlsm) file format in the Save window.

  1. Click the Stop Recording button at the bottom left of the Excel window.
  2. Stop Recording button

  3. Close the workbook where you pasted the binder orders, without saving the changes.
  4. Close the Orders.xlsx workbook, without saving the changes
  5. Save the workbook where you stored the macro:
    • Name: BinderCode.xlsm
    • File Type: Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook *.xlsm or Excel Binary Workbook *.xlsb
  6. Close the BinderCode.xlsm file.

Get Ready to Test the Macro

To prepare to test the macro, make sure that the Orders.xlsx workbook is closed.

Add the Developer Tab

To run the macro, you'll use the Developer tab on the Excel Ribbon. You can add the Developer tab to the Excel Ribbon, if it's not there already.

To add the Developer tab in Excel 2010:

  1. Right-click on the Ribbon, and click Customize Ribbon
  2. Add a check mark beside Developer, in the list at the right.
  3. Click OK, to close the Excel Options window.

To add the Developer tab in Excel 2007:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Excel Options.
  2. Click the Popular category, and add a check mark to Show Developer tab in the Ribbon
  3. Click OK, to close the Excel Options window.
  4. Show Developer tab in the Ribbon

Video: Add the Developer Tab in Excel 2010

Follow the steps in this video, to add the Developer tab in Excel 2010.

Macro Security Settings

If you haven't run macros before, you might need to change your macro security level. (You may have to clear this with your IT department.)

  1. On the Ribbon, click the Developer tab, and in the Code group, click Macro Security.
  2. In the Macro Settings category, under Macro Settings, click Disable all macros with notification
  3. Click OK.
  4. If you changed the setting, close the workbook, and then reopen it.

Test the Macro

Now that the Developer tab is visible, you can get ready to test the macro. Open the Macro File First you'll open the file where the recorded macro is stored, and enable macros, by following these steps:

  1. Open the file (BinderCode.xlsm) where you stored the macro that you recorded.
  2. If a security warning appears at the top of the worksheet, click the Options button.
  3. security warning

  4. Click Enable This Content, to allow the workbook's macros to run, and click OK.
  5. Enable This Content

Run the Recorded Macro

Now, follow these steps to run the macro, to see if it works the way you want.

  1. On the Ribbon, click the Developer tab, and in the Code group, click Macros.
  2. click Macros

  3. In the Macro dialog box, click the macro that you want to run - CopyDailyRecords.
  4. Click Run.
  5. run the macro

If you see an error message, click the End button, and try recording the macro again. If everything went as expected, great! You can close all 3 workbooks used by the macro, without saving the changes.

Create a Macro Shortcut

To make it easier to run a macro, you can create a keyboard shortcut for it.

  1. On the Ribbon, click the Developer tab, and in the Code group, click Macros.
  2. In the Macro dialog box, click the macro for which you want to create a shortcut- CopyDailyRecords.
  3. Click Options.
  4. click Options

  5. In the Macro Options window, click in the Shortcut Key box
  6. Press the Shift key, and type a letter to use for your shortcut --R in this example.
    NOTE: The Shift key is not required, but it's safer to use it, to avoid overwriting one of the built-in Excel shortcuts.
  7. click Options

  8. Click OK to complete the shortcut
  9. Click Cancel in the Macros window, to close it

Record a Macro to Format an Excel File

Here's another video that shows how to record and run a simple macro in Excel, to automate the task of formatting an Excel file every day.

The video includes a few Excel tips too, like using the F4 key to repeat the last action, and adding a button to the Quick Access Toolbar.

Get the Workbook

To follow along with the Order Workbook video and tutorial, download the sample Orders file, or use a file of your own. The sample file is in Excel 2007 format, and is zipped.

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Last updated: June 19, 2022 3:21 PM