VBA in Excel: What is Visual Basic for Applications, How to Use

Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer... because it teaches you how to think." -Steve Jobs

I wish to extend the wise words of Steve Jobs and say everyone in the world should learn how to program a computer. You may not necessary end up working as a programmer or writing programs at all but it will teach you how to think.

What is Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)?

Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is an event-driven programming language implemented by Microsoft to develop Office applications. VBA helps to develop automation processes, Windows API, and user-defined functions. It also enables you to manipulate the user interface features of the host applications.

Before we go into further details, let’s look at what computer programming is in a layman’s language. Assume you have a maid. If you want the maid to clean the house and do the laundry. You tell her what to do using let’s say English and she does the work for you. As you work with a computer, you will want to perform certain tasks. Just like you told the maid to do the house chores, you can also tell the computer to do the tasks for you.

The process of telling the computer what you want it to do for you is what is known as computer programming. Just as you used English to tell the maid what to do, you can also use English like statements to tell the computer what to do. The English like statements fall in the category of high level languages. VBA is a high level language that you can use to bend excel to your all powerful will.

VBA is actually a sub set of Visual Basic 6.0 BASIC stands for Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.

Why VBA?

VBA enables you to use English like statements to write instructions for creating various applications. VBA is easy to learn, and it has easy to use User Interface in which you just have to drag and drop the interface controls. It also allows you to enhance Excel functionality by making it behave the way you want.

Personal & Business Applications of VBA in Excel

For personal use, you can use it for simple macros that will automate most of your routine tasks. Read the article on Macros for more information on how you can achieve this.

For business use, you can create complete powerful programs powered by excel and VBA. The advantage of this approach is you can leverage the powerful features of excel in your own custom programs.

Introduction to Visual Basic for Applications

Before we can write any code, we need to know the basics first. The following basics will help you get started.

  • Variable – in high school we learnt about algebra. Find (x + 2y) where x = 1 and y = 3. In this expression, x and y are variables. They can be assigned any numbers i.e. 1 and 3 respective as in this example. They can also be changed to say 4 and 2 respectively. Variables in short are memory locations. As you work with VBA Excel, you will be required to declare variables too just like in algebra classes
  • Rules for creating variables
    • Don’t use reserved words – if you work as a student, you cannot use the title lecturer or principal. These titles are reserved for the lecturers and the school authority. Reserved words are those words that have special meaning in Excel VBA and as such, you cannot use them as variable names.
    • Variable names cannot contain spaces – you cannot define a variable named first number. You can use firstNumber or first_number.
    • Use descriptive names – it’s very tempting to name a variable after yourself but avoid this. Use descriptive names i.e. quantity, price, subtotal etc. this will make your Excel VBA code easy to read
  • Arithmetic operators – The rules of Brackets of Division Multiplication Addition and Subtraction (BODMAS) apply so remember to apply them when working with expressions that use multiple different arithmetic operators. Just like in excel, you can use
    • + for addition
    • – for subtraction
    • * for multiplication
    • / for division.
  • Logical operators – The concept of logical operators covered in the earlier tutorials also apply when working with VBA. These include
    • If statements
    • OR
    • NOT
    • AND
    • TRUE
    • FALSE

How to Enable the Developer Tab

Below is the step by step process on how to enable the developer tab in Excel:

  • Create a new workbook
  • Click on the ribbon start button
  • Select options
  • Click on customize ribbon
  • Select the developer checkbox as shown in the image below
  • Click OK

Enable the Developer Tab

You will now be able to see the DEVELOPER tab in the ribbon

VBA Hello World!

Now we will demonstrate how to program in VBA programming language. All program in VBA has to start with “Sub” and end with “End sub”. Here the name is the name you want to assign to your program. While sub stands for a subroutine which we will learn in the later part of the tutorial.

Sub name()
End Sub

We will create a basic VBA program that displays an input box to ask for the user’s name then display a greeting message

This tutorial assumes you have completed the tutorial on Macros in excel and have enabled the DEVELOPER tab in excel.

  • Create a new work book
  • Save it in an excel macro enabled worksheet format *.xlsm
  • Click on the DEVELOPER tab
  • Click on INSERT drop down box under controls ribbon bar
  • Select a command button as shown in the image below

VBA Hello World Program

Draw the command button anywhere on the worksheet

You will get the following dialogue window

VBA Hello World Program

  • Rename the macro name to btnHelloWorld_Click
  • Click on new button
  • You will get the following VBA code window

VBA Hello World Program

Enter the following instruction codes

Dim name As String
name = InputBox("Enter your name")
MsgBox "Hello " + name


  • “Dim name as String” creates a variable called name. The variable will accept text, numeric and other characters because we defined it as a string
  • “name = InputBox(“Enter your name”)” calls the built in function InputBox that displays a window with the caption Enter your name. The entered name is then stored in the name variable.
  • MsgBox “Hello ” + name” calls the built in function MsgBox that display Hello and the entered name.

Your complete code window should now look as follows

VBA Hello World Program

  • Close the code window
  • Right click on button 1 and select edit text
  • Enter Say hello

VBA Hello World Program

  • Click on Say Hello
  • You will get the following input box

VBA Hello World Program

  • Enter your name i.e. Jordan
  • You will get the following message box

VBA Hello World Program

Congratulations, you just created your first VBA program in excel

Step by step example of creating a simple EMI calculator in Excel

In this tutorial exercise, we are going to create a simple program that calculates the EMI. EMI is the acronym for Equated Monthly Instalment. It’s the monthly amount that you repay when you get a loan. The following image shows the formula for calculating EMI.

Creating a Simple EMI Calculator in Excel

The above formula is complex and can be written in excel. The good news is excel already took care of the above problem. You can use the PMT function to compute the above.

The PMT function works as follows



  • “rate” this is the monthly rate. It’s the interest rate divided by the number of payments per year
  • “nper” it is the total number of payments. It’s the loan term multiplied by number of payments per year
  • “pv” present value. It’s the actual loan amount

Create the GUI using excel cells as shown below

Creating a Simple EMI Calculator in Excel

Add a command button between rows 7 and 8

Give the button macro name btnCalculateEMI_Click

Click on edit button

Enter the following code

Dim monthly_rate As Single, loan_amount As Double, number_of_periods As Single, emi As Double
monthly_rate = Range("B6").Value / Range("B5").Value
loan_amount = Range("B3").Value
number_of_periods = Range("B4").Value * Range("B5").Value 
emi = WorksheetFunction.Pmt(monthly_rate, number_of_periods, -loan_amount)
Range("B9").Value = emi


  • “Dim monthly_rate As Single,…” Dim is the keyword that is used to define variables in VBA, monthly_rate is the variable name, Single is the data type that means the variable will accept number.
  • “monthly_rate = Range(“B6”).Value / Range(“B5″).Value” Range is the function used to access excel cells from VBA, Range(“B6”).Value makes reference to the value in B6
  • “WorksheetFunction.Pmt(…)” WorksheetFunction is the function used to access all the functions in excel

The following image shows the complete source code

Creating a Simple EMI Calculator in Excel

  • Click on save and close the code window
  • Test your program as shown in the animated image below

Creating a Simple EMI Calculator in Excel

How to use VBA in Excel Example

Following steps will explain how to use VBA in Excel.

Step 1) Open your VBA editor

Under Developer tab from the main menu, click on “Visual Basic” icon it will open your VBA editor.

Use VBA in Excel

Step 2) Select the Excel sheet & Double click on the worksheet

It will open a VBA editor, from where you can select the Excel sheet where you want to run the code. To open VBA editor double click on the worksheet.

Use VBA in Excel

It will open a VBA editor on the right-hand side of the folder. It will appear like a white space.

Use VBA in Excel

Step 3) Write anything you want to display in the MsgBox

In this step we are going to see our first VBA program. To read and display our program we need an object. In VBA that object or medium in a MsgBox.

  • First, write “Sub” and then your “program name” (Guru99)
  • Write anything you want to display in the MsgBox (guru99-learning is fun)
  • End the program by End Sub

Use VBA in Excel

Step 4) Click on the green run button on top of the editor

In next step you have to run this code by clicking on the green run button on top of the editor menu.

Use VBA in Excel

Step 5) Select the sheet and click on “Run” button

When you run the code, another window will pops out. Here you have to select the sheet where you want to display the program and click on “Run” button

Use VBA in Excel

Step 6) Display the msg in MsgBox

When you click on Run button, the program will get executed. It will display the msg in MsgBox.

Use VBA in Excel

Download the above Excel Code


VBA Full Form : Visual Basic for Application. It’s a sub component of visual basic programming language that you can use to create applications in excel. With VBA, you can still take advantage of the powerful features of excel and use them in VBA.