Automating Repetitive Tasks
Podcast: Play in new window  Download
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts  Android  RSS
Three week ago I visited the Newton Excel Bach web site where I spotted the Dynamically Defined Dancing Pendulums NewtonExcelBach.
Having noticed that Doug had done a nice animation in Strand7 (a Finite Element Analysis program) Strand7, I thought “I can do that in Excel” and so I did.
This post will not go through the logic of constructing and animating the pendulums in Excel as I have described that over at Excelhero.com and readers who are interested are encouraged to visit there and explore the techniques used.
During the Pendulum project I came across two subprojects which I felt are worthy of a post here at Chandoo.org as they are a great demonstration of some basic VBA techniques as well as demonstrating the ability of VBA to quickly simplify repetitive tasks.
Sample files are attached for Excel 972003 and Excel 2007/10 users to follow through the examples.
PENDULUM SIDE PROJECTS
The Pendulum project consists of 16 Pendulums. Each Pendulum requires 4 Named Formulas, meaning that the projects needs 64 Named Formulas for the 16 Pendulum, as well as adding 16 Series to the chart.
(The above animated GIF is a very poor representation of the smooth scrolling achieved in the Excel animation)
I thought it would be a great idea to see if these jobs could be automated and hopefully save some time during the process.
The result was 2 simple VBA routines which will be described below:
NAMED FORMULAS
Each Pendulum in the project was based around 4 Named Formulas
Named Formula for each Pendulum
p1Len =’1′!$B$9 The Length is stored on the worksheet.
p1o =OMax*SIN(SQRT(g/p1Len)*t) Current angular position of Pendulum 1 at time t
p1x =p1Len*SIN(p1o)*{0;1} Current orthogonal X position of Pendulum 1 at time t
p1y =p1Len*COS(p1o)*{0;1} Current orthogonal Y position of Pendulum 1 at time t
The only difference between the formulas for Pendulum 1 and Pendulum 2 etc is the replacement of the names of p1 with p2 in the various Named Formulas and of the associated formulas.
On a worksheet Named Formulas a number of formulas were written which display the Named Formulas as required above. Then a small VBA routine was written which loads the Named Formulas.
How
On the Named Formulas worksheet, I have added two columns of formulas for the various Named Formulas required.
For the Pendulum Length Named Formulas
For the Pendulum Angular Position Named Formulas
For the Pendulum X Position Named Formulas
For the Pendulum Y Position Named Formulas
When the formula above are copied down they adjust for the various pendulums numbered 1 to 16 based on the row numbers.
I then setup a VBA routine, Load_Named_Ranges, shown below which loads the Named Formulas.
To Use
Select some or all of the required Named Formulas from the Name Column. That is the code will only load the Selected Named Formulas, allowing the user to load 1 or 2 Named Formulas, for testing purposes, or all the Named Formulas if you choose.
Then Execute the Load_Named_Ranges subroutine either using the Big Red Button or directly within the VBA Editor.
The following will load Named Formulas p3Len to p7Len.
The Load_Named_Ranges subroutine is shown below:
Sub Load_Named_Ranges() Dim c As Range For Each c In Selection ActiveWorkbook.Names.Add Name:=c.Text, RefersTo:=c.Offset(, 1).Text Next End SubWhat does the code do?
The code:
1. Defines the start and name of the subroutine,
Sub Load_Named_Ranges()
2. Defines a variable c as a Range object,
Dim c As Range
3. It then loops through each cell in the selection and assigns it to the variable ‘c’;
For Each c In Selection
4. It then adds a new Named Formula,extracting the Name from the Text Value of ‘c’ and extracts the formula from the cell directly to the right of cell ‘c’;
ActiveWorkbook.Names.Add Name:=c.Text, RefersTo:=c.Offset(, 1).Text
The Name and Formula (RefersTo) both use the Text of the cell, which is what is displayed.
5. It then loops through each cell in the selection until it has done them all;
Next
6. Defines the end of the subroutine;
End Sub
Lets Test It
To test the subroutine we will first delete all the Named Formulas beginning with “p”
Goto the Formula Ribbon Bar and select Name Manager
Select all the Named Formulas that begin with “P” and press the delete button
Accept any warnings
Try and Run the Pendulum’s
Nothing happens as there are no formulas
Ensure the Pendulum are turned off, as the code is still running behind the scenes.
Now Goto the Named Formulas Page
Select all the Named Formula Names in Name Column; B3:B66
Click the Load Named Formulas, button
Go back to Page 1 and try and run the Pendulums now.
ADD CHART SERIES
The second subproject was the addition of 16 Chart series to the Chart, 1 for each Pendulum.
Using the logic of the Named Formulas VBA code above, the 16 Chart Series Names, X Values and Y values were developed using formulas on the Add Cht Series worksheet and then loading into a chart using a simple VBA routine.
The Add_Cht_Series subroutine is in the Add Cht Series sheet object in the VBA editor.
How
On the Add Cht Series worksheet, I have added three columns of formulas for the various Named Formulas required.
For the Pendulum Name, X Range and Y Range.
When these formulas are copied down they adjust for the various pendulums numbered 1 to 16.
I have then setup a VBA routine, Add_Chart_Series, shown below which loads the Named Formulas.
To use Select some or all of the required Chart Series from the Pendulum Name column.
Then Execute the Add_Chart_Series subroutine using the big red button.
The Add_Chart_Series subroutine is shown below:
Sub Add_Cht_Series() Dim sNumb As Integer Dim c As Range Worksheets(“1”).ChartObjects(“Chart 5”).Activate For Each c In Worksheets(“Add Cht Series”).Range(“B19:b20”) sNumb = ActiveChart.SeriesCollection.Count + 1 ActiveChart.SeriesCollection.NewSeries ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(sNumb).Name = c.Text ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(sNumb).XValues = c.Offset(, 1).Text ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(sNumb).Values = c.Offset(, 2).Text Next End Sub
What does the code do?
The code:
1. Defines the start and name of the subroutine,
Sub Add_Cht_Series()
2. Defines a variable sNumb as an integer, and a variable c as a Range object
Dim sNumb As Integer Dim c As Range3. It then activates the Chart containing the pendulum
Worksheets(“1”).ChartObjects(“Chart 5”).Activate
4. It then loops through each cell in the Range defined by the Range, in this case B19:B20 and assigns it to the variable ‘c’; You can adjust the Range to suit.
For Each c In Worksheets(“Add Cht Series”).Range(“B19:B20”)
5. It then counts how many existing series are in the chart and sets the next Series Number sNumb to that value + 1.
sNumb = ActiveChart.SeriesCollection.Count + 1
6. The next 4 lines add a new series to the chart and setup the new series Name, X Value and Y Values. The Name, X Value and Y Values are retrieved from the Text of the cell c and the adjacent two cells using a Range Offset modifier
ActiveChart.SeriesCollection.NewSeries ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(sNumb).Name = c.Text ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(sNumb).XValues = c.Offset(, 1).Text ActiveChart.SeriesCollection(sNumb).Values = c.Offset(, 2).Text7. It then loops through each cell in the selection until it has done them all;
Next
8. Define the end of the subroutine;
End Sub
Lets Test It
To test the subroutine we will first delete a few of the Chart Series
Select the Chart
Select two Pendulums noting the series Number of the Bobs eg: 9 & 10
Goto the Add Chart Series Worksheet
Note the Range Corresponding to the 2 missing Pendulum B11:B12
Goto the VBA Editor
Adjust the Line
For Each c In Worksheets(“Add Cht Series”).Range(“B11:B12”)
With your cursor in the Subroutine press F5 once only
Go back to Page 1 and you should now have 2 New Pendulum
Run the Pendulums now.
You will have to manually set the shape of the Bobs to a Circle and size 15 and rearrange the order of the series to ensure they are in order, but you can practice that manually.
SUMMARY
The post has shown how using some very simple VBA and a bit of lateral thinking to put together some simple tools to simplify 2 common and repetitive tasks.
In the Named Formulas case, the code took less than 2 minutes for me to write and then another 5 minutes to do the formulas for the Named Formulas. I didn’t try but I am sure it would have taken a good 20+ minutes to enter 64 Named Formulas.
Writing this post took much longer than doing the whole Pendulum Project.
Two examples during my working career, where VBA code has been used to save massive amounts of time and money:
In the first case I wrote some code to combine data from several hundred workbooks with varying numbers of sheets up to 30 and differing quantities of data on each sheet, a task that could have taken weeks manually with the included opportunity for errors to be introduced, into a subroutine which took 30 minutes to run and gave a printout of the results including what files, sheets and rows of data were included in the import.
In a second case a Number of Workbooks, a Word template and some VBA code was used to replace a person whose sole job was to manage that data. This job saved the company $50k+ per annum and the task was given to a clerical person who could now do the task in their spare time.
LINKS
Huis Excel Hero Pendulum: http://www.excelhero.com/blog/
Pendulum Physics: http://hyperphysics.phyastr.gsu.edu/hbase/pend.html
Newton Excel Bach: http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/dancingpendulums2/
What could your simplify by using automation within Excel ?
What could you simplify or speedup using Excel automation?
Let us know in the comments below:
Hello Awesome...
My name is Chandoo. Thanks for dropping by. My mission is to make you awesome in Excel & your work. I live in Wellington, New Zealand. When I am not F9ing my formulas, I cycle, cook or play lego with my kids. Know more about me.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Visit Excel for Beginner or Advanced Excel pages to learn more or join my online video class to master Excel.
Thank you and see you around.

Leave a Reply
« We Want Your Ideas  Excel Links – Updates on Singapore Workshop Edition » 
17 Responses to “Automating Repetitive Tasks”
Something I'd love to automate is adding a new line, on several tables at once, with new dates in the first column. I'm not there yet, with VBA, though.
Thanks
Coolest post EVER
mind blowing! great job!
look forward to learn some VBA basics in future posts.
So cool!!
I have been using VBA to simplify many of my daily repetitive tasks. Each day, I export a large spreadsheet (from an even larger database) containing a couple hundred products from a couple dozen companies, with various data tagged to each product (about 40 columns of data). I use VBA to quickly apply filters to the data and produce a separate worksheet for each company that lists all their products and releveant associated data. I then use VBA and a couple of dashboard techniques from here to display (simply) the position of each product in its respective lifecycle in a flowchartstyle graph. Manually, this process used to take a couple of hours each day (and the flowchart graph didn't even exist). Once I got the code running, it now takes about 15 seconds to run completely, and it gives me instantaneous situational awareness into each product I track. Very nice when the boss asks for some obscure fact that would normally take 10 or 20 minutes to manually research and I can have the answer to him in seconds while he is still on the phone.
Did it simplify things for me? Yes. Automate? Not really; I still have to manually push the buttons that tell my code to run. Nothing I do compares to this post! This was amazing; I did not know Excel was capable of something like this. I still don't quite understand it all, but I plan to study it until I do. I guess I am a long way from being "awesome" yet!
Thanks for walking us through this technique!
Hui or Chandoo can we see a special post about Named Formulas. How they work and why use them. Documentation on the web is short about them.
Crikey! So flippin' cool! Chandoo always has the best Excel tricks!
taking away from the cool topic and general great work... this is one of the best written articles on here and many other blogs. Y? Whilst it gives full explanations I can skip over the bits I know easily.
on the animation: one negative! it's not 3 dimensional. the highest series always sits on top and thus you don't quite get a true 3d spinning effect.
So is there a way that you can promote/demote a series order using somekind of named formula or function or VBA trick!
@All
Many thanx for the kind words
I had a lot of fun making this project and am very proud of how it turned out.
I really appreciate the kind words.
@Stephen
Thanx for your comments, but the model and the real example isn't 3D.
It is a series of 2D stacked planes.
The way Excel Charts keep series in front/behind other series accurately models what happens in reality. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVkdfJ9PkRQ
@HUI
Now I understand the story, I see it works just as it should. However, it has got me thinking about the order of series. I produce a stacked column chart which needs to be stacked largest to smallest (always). The only way I've found to do it is to have a seperate series for each column! Any ideas?
Great!!
[...] Last week I published a post on constructing an Animated Pendulum at ExcelHero.Com with a sister post here at Chandoo.org on using simple VBA to Automate Repetitive Tasks. [...]
Hi chandoo,
Really impressing.. Great work
Please tel can we move emails in lotus notes which contains same words in subject to a particular folder by using macro.
For ex: DA125648 is mention in subject line this contain word is in 50 emails i want to select those emails & move in some folder.
Thanks in advance
Dear Chandoo,
I want to say sorry for posting comment on wrong post
i have many excel workbooks in my folder,in each
workbook has several rows contains specific word & i want to pick rows containing that specific word using macro.
i know you can make it.
i request you to please teach me how to do that
Thanks in Advance
shree
Mind Blowing...!!!
[…] The construction of these two projects is covered in detail at Chandoo.org. […]