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VBA code: check what is currently selected in Excel

VBA Code Snippets

Often we want to determine what type of object has been selected in Excel. It helps with error checking prior to running a piece of code.

Basic code

This action is just a just a single line of code:

Sub testSelection()

MsgBox TypeName(Selection)

End Sub

Incorporate the check into a Select statement

If you want to treat selection types differently a case statement similar to the one below may be useful.

Sub testSelection()

Select Case TypeName(Selection)

    Case "ChartArea", "ChartTitle"
        'Do something to the Chart
    Case "Range"
        'Do something to the range
    Case Else
        'Oh dear, not an acceptable selection.
        'Do something else.

End Select

End Sub

Allowing any part of an object to be selected

Some objects, such as Charts can be difficult to select. Depending where the users clicks, the Selection might be on the Series, Legend or ErrorBars. All of these are parts of the ChartObject. To work with the chart no matter where the user clicked, move up the Document Object Model until the TypeName is “ChartObject”. Look at the code below for an example.

'Create a variable called tempSelection to hold the selection
Dim tempSelection As Object
Set tempSelection = Selection

'Loop keep finding the parent of the tempSelection until it reaches
'the top of the Document Object Model.
Do While TypeName(tempSelection) <> "Application"

    'If the tempSelection equals ChartObject exit the loop
    'else find the parent of the tempSelection and loop again
    If TypeName(tempSelection) = "ChartObject" Then
        Exit Do
        Set tempSelection = tempSelection.Parent
    End If


'If any part of an embedded chart was selected the MsgBox will show "ChartObject"
'if not it will show "Application"
MsgBox TypeName(tempSelection)

Charts can also be sheets, rather than embedded.  Their behaviours are slightly different, so differentiating between a chart sheet and embedded chart is important.

A chart sheet has the following Document Object Model structure.

Application -> Workbook -> Chart -> ChartArea ...

An embedded chart has the following Document Object Model structure.

Application -> Workbook -> Worksheet -> ChartObject -> Chart -> ChartArea ...

There is an easy way to tell the difference between the two types of Charts.

  • Only embedded charts have a ChartObject
  • If the parent of the Chart is a Workbook it is a chart sheet,

The code below will show a message of Chart if the selection is a chart sheet.

Dim tempSelection As Object 
Set tempSelection = Selection

Do While TypeName(tempSelection) <> "Application"
    If TypeName(tempSelection) = "Chart" And _
        TypeName(tempSelection.Parent) = "Workbook" Then
        Exit Do
        Set tempSelection = tempSelection.Parent
    End If


MsgBox TypeName(tempSelection)

A list of all possible selections

Based on information within the Object Browser, I believe the complete list of possible selections would be:

  • Axis
  • Axis Title
  • Chart
  • ChartArea
  • ChartObject
  • ChartObjects
  • Charts
  • ChartTitle
  • DataLabel
  • DataLabels
  • DataTable
  • DisplayUnitLabel
  • DownBars
  • DropLines
  • ErrorBars
  • Floor
  • Gridlines
  • HiLoLines
  • LeaderLines
  • Legend
  • LegendEntry
  • ListColumn
  • ListObject
  • ListRow
  • OLEObject
  • OLEObjects
  • PlotArea
  • Point
  • Range
  • Series
  • SeriesLines
  • Shape
  • ShapeRange
  • Sheets
  • TextRange2
  • TickLabels
  • Trendline
  • UpBars
  • Walls
  • Worksheet
  • Worksheets
  • Shapes
  • PivotTable

It is not necessary to treat each selection differently, similar objects can be treated in the same way.  See the Select Case example in the code above.

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About the author

Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.

My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.

In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).

Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?

I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you're still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise.  List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don't go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

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