Excel Is Our Friend – Part V

Blog Post created by rkoonce on Dec 14, 2016

Excel Is Our Friend – Part V

Congratulations! You have escaped Interface Island! And if you are ever caught on another similar island, you have developed the survival skills to survive and eventually escape. The bad news is that some of your toolbox was left behind on that island. When you find yourself in need the tools there, you could always swing by there and get a “copy” You left your shelter behind, it will have to be rebuilt. On a new island, project references will need to be re-added, functions re-created in the new Island’s project. But what if there was a way to take the recyclables with you? Like that user defined function? That might come in handy anywhere. So, the good news is that you can have your cake and eat it too.

How to: Making Your Custom Spreadsheet Functions Available Anywhere

To use a custom function, the workbook containing the module in which you created the function must be open. If that workbook is not open, you get a #NAME? error when you try to use the function. Even if the workbook is open, if you use the function in a different workbook, you must precede the function name with the name of the workbook in which the function resides. For example, if you create a function called DISCOUNT in a workbook called Personal.xlsb and you call that function from another workbook, you must type =personal.xlsb!discount(), not simply =discount().

You can save yourself some keystrokes (and possible typing errors) by selecting your custom functions from the Insert Function dialog box. Your custom functions appear in the User Defined category:


In the instructions, a workbook type of xlsb is referenced above. But the screenshot has an xlsm… my workbook was created long ago, originally as an .xls (I am a dinosaur).

* Tip: An even easier way to make your custom functions available at all times is to store them in a separate workbook and then save that workbook as an add-in. You can then make the add-in available whenever you run Excel. Detailed instructions are found at the office.microsoft.com site linked here. This varies slightly from my own “old skool” methods, but I agree with the authors that this new way seems an easier way. I’ll be converting to an add-in when I get the chance.

Note: An .xlsb extension indicates Excel Binary Format. The .xlsm extension denotes a macro enabled workbook. An .xlam extension indicates Add-in. All of these formats require a trust for location and/or a much more complicated trust for publisher.

  • How to: Let Excel Teach You VBA

All of us can learn a lot of VBA by using the “Record Macro” function. After recording your actions within Excel, just examine the VBA code afterward and learn. It’s like pulling the curtain back on the Wizard of Oz. Prior to VBA, I was using Excel 4’s macro language, and the macro recorder was instrumental for me, personally, when first learning VBA. I still use it on occasion.

* On the Developer Ribbon, click “Record Macro”.
* Note the Macro Name and location.
* Perform some actions within the workbook, select a range of cells, change the font, change the number format, type some text or a formula.
* Click the Stop Recording button (same location as above).
* Examine the code that was generated.


  • FizzBlog Exercise:

  • Create a new macro-enabled workbook.
  • Copy the mySplitter function into this new workbook (the functions that we created earlier in this blog series).
  • Save this workbook as an Excel Add-In > “MyFunctions.xlam”
  • In Excel>File>Options> Add-ins>Load the newly created add-in in Excel.
  • Create a new workbook. Click Insert Function
  • FizzBlog Challenge:

  • In the dialog to select the user defined functions, is the function name prepended with the add-in worksheet name? workbook name? Or none? Prove it with a screenshot.
  • Were you able to make it work with a regular workbook? Or does it only work in macro-enabled workbooks?
  • Did you have to do anything special to make it work? (Did I leave out any significant steps in the FizzBlog Exercise?) If so, please explain.
  • Sharing your recyclables:

  • If you have a useful reusable function(s), please share it below.
  • Perhaps you just had an idea for one, please post it as a comment! (Santa might be reading this thread?)

This entry concludes my blog series for "Excel Is Our Friend" (perhaps I will append it someday). I hope that some of you have learned a few things along the way. Regardless, I really hope you enjoyed the series.

I plan to begin another series soon, but first I will have to choose my next destination. I have several ideas that I have been kicking around, but I would welcome any suggestions regarding any "islands" you would like to explore.

Cheers! (from the grass hut)