How Difficult is it to Learn VBA?

Discover the power of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), the standard programming language created by Microsoft for Office programs. Learn how it can automate and simplify numerous computing tasks in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, and how mastering VBA can open up new career opportunities.

Key Insights

  • VBA, or Visual Basic Applications, is a programming language created by Microsoft to customize and automate tasks in Office programs such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.
  • VBA is used to automate several computing tasks such as data cleaning, formatting, capitalizing text, creating tables of contents, and more. It can also add functionality to Office apps and interact with users in a specific manner.
  • Learning VBA can be challenging at first, especially when dealing with scripts and handling the Microsoft Scripting Reference library. However, it can be more manageable with the support of a structured course.
  • VBA is often compared to Python for automation tasks. While Python is preferred for handling larger datasets, VBA is more suitable for tasks specific to Excel.
  • VBA is not only applicable to Excel but also in PowerPoint. It can be used to automate tasks, add missing features, and carry out basic PowerPoint tasks.
  • Mastering VBA can open new career opportunities. Noble Desktop offers hands-on VBA training including Excel Programming with VBA Bootcamp and other Excel courses designed for various skill levels.

Are you curious about learning VBA but worried it might be too hard? Of course, the difficulty that comes with learning a new skill is somewhat subjective. The challenges of learning VBA depend on factors like your prior experience working with Excel and other Microsoft applications and your computer programming background.

No matter your current schedule or comfort level with VBA, plenty of tools are available to help make learning more manageable than you might think.

What is VBA?

VBA, which is short for Visual Basic for Applications, is the standard programming language Microsoft created to be used in several Office programs, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. VBA provides Microsoft users additional customizable features beyond those typically included in Office apps. Although VBA isn’t a stand-alone program, it can alter various graphical-user-interface features, including menus, dialogue boxes, and toolbars. Additionally, VBA has applications for automating different computer calculations and processes, accessing Windows APIs, and designing user-defined functions.

Because VBA is an event-driven tool, it can tell the user’s computer to execute one or more actions. To do so, you create custom macros (which is short for macroinstructions) by entering commands into a module devoted to editing. Macros are comprised of various characters whose input causes an output (an additional series of characters) that is capable of accomplishing different computing tasks. When using a Microsoft app, VBA allows users to perform various functions that extend beyond word processing or spreadsheet management. By using macros, Microsoft users can make repetitive tasks easier to accomplish. There’s no need to purchase VBA software separately since it’s included with Microsoft Office.

Read more about what VBA is and why you should learn it

What Can You Do with VBA?

VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, is Microsoft’s internal programming language for apps like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. This versatile language allows users to further customize Office applications beyond the options typically available using host apps. VBA functions by manipulating features of the graphical user interface, like dialogue boxes, menus, and toolbars. It also has applications for creating user-defined functions and automating computer calculations and processes. 

Because it is an event-driven tool, you can use VBA to instruct the computer to perform one or multiple actions. By entering commands into an editing module, Office users can create custom macros or sets of characters that, when entered, result in a new output that can perform specific computing tasks. A few examples of repetitive tasks VBA can automate are data cleaning and formatting, capitalizing text, creating a table of contents, merging multiple worksheets, and solving complex calculations.

One of the main benefits of working with VBA is that almost all operations that users can perform in Microsoft Office with a dialogue box, keyboard, or mouse can also be accomplished using VBA. And, when something is done with VBA once, you can execute it just as efficiently hundreds of times. In addition to using VBA to perform everyday tasks faster, it also has applications for adding functionality to different Office apps, as well as interacting with those who use your documents in a manner that’s specific to your professional needs. Those working with VBA can write code to accomplish tasks like displaying a pop-up message reminding users to save their work to a specific network drive.

What Are the Most Challenging Parts of Learning VBA?

One of the main benefits of studying VBA is that you don’t have to be familiar with its syntax to write macros, but simply the logic behind the specific macro. Although learning VBA is considered to be easier than other programming languages, it still can be difficult for some to work with this language’s more advanced features. Some VBA users mention that they find it challenging to handle VBA scripts and note that it’s easier to construct a script in Python Perl than in VBA. That’s because the collections are built right into the programming language itself with languages such as these. However, when working with VBA, the dictionary is located in the Microsoft Scripting Reference library. It can be challenging for some users to get used to using the Microsoft dictionary to create and run lists, arrays, or sets.

Another challenge to working with VBA is that this language doesn’t support delegates and doesn’t treat functions as vital as they are treated in other languages. For example, when using VBA, users can’t pass a function from one procedure to another. Instead, you must pass the result of that function. This can make it challenging to implement VBA. This is just one reason that it can be difficult to learn VBA functions on your own without the support of a structured course.

VBA comes fully integrated into Excel and other Microsoft applications. Because most Excel users are familiar with this app’s interface, they can begin learning VBA relatively quickly since the coding language is mainly intuitive. However, suppose you want to learn more than basic VBA concepts. In that case, you may consider enrolling in an in-person or live online class that teaches more advanced VBA concepts, such as creating macros and macros sequences for solving automation tasks.

How Does Learning VBA Compare to Other Languages?

Those who work with VBA often use this programming language to automate tasks. Python is another popular coding language that people can use to automate repetitive actions. Some individuals who work with data can benefit from moving from Excel’s VBA to Python. Both languages are considered excellent languages for Data Analysts to work with for programming purposes, although they differ in some crucial ways.

Python is an object-oriented, open-source, interpreted programming language incorporating dynamic semantics. This language’s highly readable syntax is considered easier to learn than other programming languages. It is commonly used to create applications and websites, as well as to perform data analysis and automate various processes. Python comes out ahead of VBA for some data analytics tasks because it’s cleaner and offers better version control. Because VBA was designed exclusively for use in the Microsoft Office environment, particularly Excel, it has a more narrow range of automation capabilities than Python. Those who need to perform more complex automation are better off working with Python, which can handle much larger datasets than VBA. However, for those who are working exclusively in Excel, VBA is likely a better option.

The time it takes to learn VBA and Python depends on several factors, such as the learning method you select, your prior programming experience, and your basic familiarity with data analytics. On average, it’s possible to learn core Python programming skills in just a few weeks. However, most experts estimate that it will require between two to six months to fully become familiar with Python’s extensive libraries. On the other hand, students can learn VBA in a solid week of studying or over two months of gradual learning. Mastering more advanced VBA coding techniques can take significantly longer.

Why Learn VBA?

Often, those who work with Microsoft Excel don’t realize that this application can perform many of the tasks it is capable of executing. One such Excel skill that is sometimes under-utilized is VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, its built-in programming language. One of the main benefits of working with VBA is its ability to program actions and tasks in Excel and other Office apps. When working with Excel spreadsheets, for example, VBA has a range of applications for adding functions and customizing the document to fit your professional needs. 

The main benefit of working with VBA is that it is a powerful tool for task automation in the Excel environment. This language saves users valuable time by repeatedly performing programmed actions rather than requiring the user to set things up from scratch every time they wish to perform the task. For example, those with more advanced VBA programming skills can use VBA to set up a monthly summary report. By automating this procedure, you simply press a button, and the report is automatically created. Another widespread use of VBA is to customize Excel’s various commands and functions to be more effectively used by any member of an organization based on their specific spreadsheet needs.

Using VBA in PowerPoint

Although the most common use of VBA is in the Excel environment, this programming language is also included in most other Microsoft Office products. Here are just a few of the ways those working with PowerPoint can get the most out of working with VBA:

  • With the help of macros and add-ins, PowerPoint users can automate repetitive tasks. One example of VBA in action in this app is in the situation where you must unhide hidden objects in every slide in a presentation with more than 100 slides. This task could easily take hours to complete manually. However, it can just take a second with the help of PowerPoint’s VBA.
  • PowerPoint doesn’t always include the necessary features to complete all tasks. For example, if you delete the default layouts from a PowerPoint template, it can be pretty difficult to get them back. You can quickly do this with the help of the VBA code.
  • An assortment of basic PowerPoint tasks can also be carried out using VBA. This coding language can be used for repeated actions like opening, closing, or saving existing presentations and to refer to an active presentation. VBA also has applications for working with PowerPoint shapes and tables, establishing control properties, and creating custom dialog boxes and UserForms.

Learn VBA with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

A great way to learn about VBA is to sign up for in-person or live online VBA coursework. Noble Desktop’s Excel Programming with VBA Bootcamp is a hands-on course that teaches students fundamental VBA concepts, such as applying macros to real-world situations and performing Excel automation for repetitive tasks. This class is offered in the live online format and in-person in Manhattan. Although prior VBA knowledge isn’t necessary to take this course, participants should have intermediate Excel skills, such as familiarity with VLOOKUP, IF statements, and PivotTables. All participants have the option of a free class retake to brush up on course material. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how VBA is used in Excel, Noble also offers several live online and in-person Excel courses. Excel Programming with VBA teaches students how to create macros that automate Excel tasks, even ones in which the data isn’t consistently formatted. For beginners, Excel Level I: Fundamentals is also available, which covers essential Excel functions, formatting, and printing procedures. Excel Level II: Intermediate provides students with instruction on core Excel concepts, like summarizing data using PivotTables, functions such as VLOOKUP and SUMIFs, and performing Sort & Filter on databases. In addition, Excel Level III: Advanced is geared toward those with a solid background in using Excel but who want to learn complex database functions such as INDEX and MATCH, creating macros, and using What-If Analysis.

Yelp Facebook LinkedIn YouTube Twitter Instagram