Parse a text field in Excel

Posted on 2010-11-08
Last Modified: 2012-08-14
I have a text field in excel that contains a lot of comments. Within those comments is a 6 digit number that always begins with the number 3. It's not always in the same location in the text but I need to parse out this number to another cell. How would I go about setting a formula to do this?
Question by:Lawrence Salvucci
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LVL 39

Expert Comment

ID: 34089557
try, if your text is in cell A1

LVL 50

Expert Comment

ID: 34089562

if there is no other "3" before the 6 digits in the string, you could use


cheers, teylyn

Author Comment

by:Lawrence Salvucci
ID: 34089670
It looks like that would work but there's one problem. There are other numbers in the text but they don't begin with 3. So it's picking up any 3 no matter where it is in the field. For example:

887553 astm - Not what I want but it's in the field

330229 - What I want

So when I try that formula on this field it gives me:

3 astm

How can I make it just find any 6 digits together that only begin with 3?
LVL 50

Expert Comment

ID: 34089717
Are there maybe any specific characters in front of the string you want? Like: Is there always a space character in front?

If so, you could use

=MID(A1,FIND(" 3",A1)+1,6)

cheers, teylyn
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Author Comment

by:Lawrence Salvucci
ID: 34089730
Well there's supposed to be a space before the 3 but since there are so many hands in the cookie jar it's hard to keep the syntax correct when people enter the info. So to answer your question, there might be a space but then there might not be. Is there a way to locate a 6 digit number and then if it begins with a 3 give me that as the result?
LVL 92

Accepted Solution

Patrick Matthews earned 500 total points
ID: 34089741
lsalvucci,You could try using Regular Expressions, as explained in my article the RegExpFind function from that article (source code below), you could use an expression like this to get the first 6-digit string starting with 3 (or an empty string if none is found):=RegExpFind(A2,"\b3\d{5}\b",1)Patrick
Function RegExpFind(LookIn As String, PatternStr As String, Optional Pos, _

    Optional MatchCase As Boolean = True, Optional ReturnType As Long = 0, _

    Optional MultiLine As Boolean = False)


    ' Function written by Patrick G. Matthews.  You may use and distribute this code freely,

    ' as long as you properly credit and attribute authorship and the URL of where you

    ' found the code


    ' For more info, please see:



    ' This function relies on the VBScript version of Regular Expressions, and thus some of

    ' the functionality available in Perl and/or .Net may not be available.  The full extent

    ' of what functionality will be available on any given computer is based on which version

    ' of the VBScript runtime is installed on that computer


    ' This function uses Regular Expressions to parse a string (LookIn), and return matches to a

    ' pattern (PatternStr).  Use Pos to indicate which match you want:

    ' Pos omitted               : function returns a zero-based array of all matches

    ' Pos = 1                   : the first match

    ' Pos = 2                   : the second match

    ' Pos = <positive integer>  : the Nth match

    ' Pos = 0                   : the last match

    ' Pos = -1                  : the last match

    ' Pos = -2                  : the 2nd to last match

    ' Pos = <negative integer>  : the Nth to last match

    ' If Pos is non-numeric, or if the absolute value of Pos is greater than the number of

    ' matches, the function returns an empty string.  If no match is found, the function returns

    ' an empty string.  (Earlier versions of this code used zero for the last match; this is

    ' retained for backward compatibility)


    ' If MatchCase is omitted or True (default for RegExp) then the Pattern must match case (and

    ' thus you may have to use [a-zA-Z] instead of just [a-z] or [A-Z]).


    ' ReturnType indicates what information you want to return:

    ' ReturnType = 0            : the matched values

    ' ReturnType = 1            : the starting character positions for the matched values

    ' ReturnType = 2            : the lengths of the matched values


    ' If you use this function in Excel, you can use range references for any of the arguments.

    ' If you use this in Excel and return the full array, make sure to set up the formula as an

    ' array formula.  If you need the array formula to go down a column, use TRANSPOSE()


    ' Note: RegExp counts the character positions for the Match.FirstIndex property as starting

    ' at zero.  Since VB6 and VBA has strings starting at position 1, I have added one to make

    ' the character positions conform to VBA/VB6 expectations


    ' Normally as an object variable I would set the RegX variable to Nothing; however, in cases

    ' where a large number of calls to this function are made, making RegX a static variable that

    ' preserves its state in between calls significantly improves performance


    Static RegX As Object

    Dim TheMatches As Object

    Dim Answer()

    Dim Counter As Long


    ' Evaluate Pos.  If it is there, it must be numeric and converted to Long


    If Not IsMissing(Pos) Then

        If Not IsNumeric(Pos) Then

            RegExpFind = ""

            Exit Function


            Pos = CLng(Pos)

        End If

    End If


    ' Evaluate ReturnType


    If ReturnType < 0 Or ReturnType > 2 Then

        RegExpFind = ""

        Exit Function

    End If


    ' Create instance of RegExp object if needed, and set properties


    If RegX Is Nothing Then Set RegX = CreateObject("VBScript.RegExp")

    With RegX

        .Pattern = PatternStr

        .Global = True

        .IgnoreCase = Not MatchCase

        .MultiLine = MultiLine

    End With


    ' Test to see if there are any matches


    If RegX.Test(LookIn) Then


        ' Run RegExp to get the matches, which are returned as a zero-based collection


        Set TheMatches = RegX.Execute(LookIn)


        ' Test to see if Pos is negative, which indicates the user wants the Nth to last

        ' match.  If it is, then based on the number of matches convert Pos to a positive

        ' number, or zero for the last match


        If Not IsMissing(Pos) Then

            If Pos < 0 Then

                If Pos = -1 Then

                    Pos = 0



                    ' If Abs(Pos) > number of matches, then the Nth to last match does not

                    ' exist.  Return a zero-length string


                    If Abs(Pos) <= TheMatches.Count Then

                        Pos = TheMatches.Count + Pos + 1


                        RegExpFind = ""

                        GoTo Cleanup

                    End If

                End If

            End If

        End If


        ' If Pos is missing, user wants array of all matches.  Build it and assign it as the

        ' function's return value


        If IsMissing(Pos) Then

            ReDim Answer(0 To TheMatches.Count - 1)

            For Counter = 0 To UBound(Answer)

                Select Case ReturnType

                    Case 0: Answer(Counter) = TheMatches(Counter)

                    Case 1: Answer(Counter) = TheMatches(Counter).FirstIndex + 1

                    Case 2: Answer(Counter) = TheMatches(Counter).Length

                End Select


            RegExpFind = Answer


        ' User wanted the Nth match (or last match, if Pos = 0).  Get the Nth value, if possible



            Select Case Pos

                Case 0                          ' Last match

                    Select Case ReturnType

                        Case 0: RegExpFind = TheMatches(TheMatches.Count - 1)

                        Case 1: RegExpFind = TheMatches(TheMatches.Count - 1).FirstIndex + 1

                        Case 2: RegExpFind = TheMatches(TheMatches.Count - 1).Length

                    End Select

                Case 1 To TheMatches.Count      ' Nth match

                    Select Case ReturnType

                        Case 0: RegExpFind = TheMatches(Pos - 1)

                        Case 1: RegExpFind = TheMatches(Pos - 1).FirstIndex + 1

                        Case 2: RegExpFind = TheMatches(Pos - 1).Length

                    End Select

                Case Else                       ' Invalid item number

                    RegExpFind = ""

            End Select

        End If


    ' If there are no matches, return empty string



        RegExpFind = ""

    End If



    ' Release object variables


    Set TheMatches = Nothing


End Function

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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:Patrick Matthews
ID: 34089768
My approach above yields the following for these sample data:Input      Result887553 astm      ddd345678dd      ddd 345678 fff      345678ddd.311223.ddd      311223AFIU 456789      123456 398765 ff      398765The \b indicates a word boundary, and explains why the second example returns nothing.The pattern can be refined if needed.
LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:Patrick Matthews
ID: 34089884
lsalvucci,Glad to help!  If you have not already done so, I would really appreciate it if you could please return to my article click 'Yes' for the 'Was this helpful?' voting.Patrick

Author Comment

by:Lawrence Salvucci
ID: 34089889
No problem. Truly amazing work with that article. You've got my vote!

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