VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, is a programming language used across Microsoft Office programs, such as PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Microsoft launched VBA in 1993 as a replacement for Excel’s macro language. Since then, it has become a widely used language for automating various Excel tasks and customizing other Office applications. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what VBA is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it so you can determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.
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.
How Do You Download/Get VBA? How Much Does it Cost?
VBA is included as a built-in feature in most Microsoft Office applications. When you purchase Microsoft Office or an individual Office application like Excel, VBA comes with the app. The Office suite includes many features and provides users with various options for manipulating, authoring, and formatting documents such as spreadsheets, presentations, databases, forms, and emails. VBA programming can be applied to nearly every operation executed with the keyboard, mouse, or dialogue box to automate the action so that it can be recorded and used for repetitive actions.
If you’re interested in using VBA exclusively on Excel, you can purchase this app from Microsoft for $160. The cost of purchasing Microsoft Office 2021 Home and Business is $250 for a one-time purchase. Apps for Business is currently available for $8.25/user/month, and Microsoft 365 Business Standard costs $12.50/user/month.
What Are the Benefits of Learning VBA?
Learning VBA opens many professional doors for those working in data analytics and can also help individuals advance in their current data-related careers. It has many applications for those who work with spreadsheet programs such as Excel. Because it can create automated solutions to many of Excel’s more tedious manual processes, VBA knowledge is an asset that spans professions and industries. Compared to other coding languages, VBA is easy to learn because it incorporates many intuitive features. Unlike other programming languages that require add-ons or additional software, VBA comes fully integrated into Office programs.
Another reason many professionals are interested in learning VBA is to improve work quality. When multiple employees are working on the same repetitive tasks, they may each use a different procedure to do so. VBA incorporates an automated system, reducing the margin of error and allowing tasks to be completed much faster than would otherwise be possible. Since work can be finished faster and with fewer errors using automated macros, it’s a cost-cutting skill that can drastically improve workplace efficiency and lead to a quicker investment return.
Read more about why you should learn VBA.
Because Microsoft Excel is widely used for data management across industries and professions, VBA knowledge is essential to many jobs. Marketing Analysts rely on this programming language to create customer segmentation models and understand their customer's buying habits. They also use this language to analyze customer surveys and create customer satisfaction dashboards. In addition, Human Resources Analysts also work with VBA for many daily tasks. They use it to analyze HR data and create reporting procedures based on attendance and time and prepare dashboards and reports that will be used for quarterly management reviews.
VBA knowledge also has applications for those working with sales compensation analytics. Professionals can use this programming language to apportion commission payments based on organizational compensation protocol, create financial reports that differentiate between the actual and projected payouts, and create sales incentive models. Supply Chain Analysts also work regularly with VBA to study procurement data to ensure that warehouses are prepared for new items to be stocked as necessary. They also work with VBA to study vendor performance and track forecast purchasing. VBA is also a standard tool used by Investment Banking Analysts for financial modeling and valuation analyses. Business Intelligence Analysts rely on VBA to establish key performance metrics and create analytical data views that showcase actionable insights to stakeholders.
How to Learn VBA
Learning VBA has never been easier, thanks to the number of study options currently available. There are a variety of in-person or live online VBA courses offered by top educational providers. Students who enroll in these courses can choose to study from their own space or use the provided computer labs equipped with the most up-to-date software. In addition, live online VBA classes provide many of the same benefits as in-person studies, such as access to an expert instructor in real-time and hands-on training. Because you can complete live online coursework remotely from your home or office space, it doesn’t require commuting to and from campus, battling traffic, or searching for parking. Noble also offers a tool to help interested learners locate VBA courses close to home.
Another way to study VBA is to study this programming language asynchronously. Self-paced VBA classes are a good alternative to in-person or live online study for those who need to balance learning VBA with full-time work or family commitments. Because asynchronous study is pre-recorded, it can be completed from any location, at any time. This means that learners can gain an overview of what VBA is, as well as the basics of this language, without having to take part in regularly occurring classes. However, because learners cannot access an instructor to field questions or provide guidance, it can be challenging to learn more complex programming concepts in this format.
For those who aren’t quite ready to commit to a full-time course or pay for self-paced VBA study, free learning options are also available, such as tutorials, blog posts, guides, and seminars. Because Excel users rely on VBA to automate various spreadsheet tasks, you may want to brush up on your Excel skills by watching Noble Desktop’s free Excel seminar, Top 10 Beginner Excel tricks You Need to Know. This free, pre-recorded webinar provides viewers with time-saving Excel tricks, such as splitting and joining text, using autofill, repeating commands, inserting comments, removing duplicates, and inserting screenshots. Noble Desktop also has a YouTube Excel channel with more than 70 short videos on useful Excel topics, such as naming cells and ranges, using count functions, and applying basic number formats.
Read the full guide on how to learn VBA.
A Brief History of VBA
Microsoft initially launched VBA with Excel in 1993. It was created to replace the macro language that had previously been included with Excel. Because of its power and capabilities that were far beyond the macro languages available at the time, VBA quickly became a success among Developers who designed custom Excel solutions. In 1994, Microsoft Project purchases began including VBA. Then, in 1995, VBA replaced Access Basic as the programming language included with Microsoft Access.
By 1996, VBA had replaced Word Basic in Microsoft Word. VBA 5.0 was launched in 1997 and was then included in the range of Office 97 products, including PowerPoint. In addition, in 1997, Microsoft began to license VBA to be used with other software. Within weeks of this significant announcement, more than 50 major software vendors opted to license VBA. In 1999, VBA 6.0 was launched, which included support for COM add-ins in Office 2000. With the release of Office 2007, VBA 6.5 was introduced, and when Office 2010 launched, it came with VBA 7.0. This version included new features for Developers. Following this version’s release, Microsoft discontinued VBA licensing for other applications. Office 2013, Office 2016, Office 2019, and Office 2021 each included VBA 7.1, the most current version available.
Comparable Programming Languages
A popular programming language that has many similar functions to VBA is Python. Both of these programming languages are extremely useful, and deciding which one is best for your needs depends ultimately on what you plan to do with it. Python is an open-source, object-oriented programming language that uses dynamic semantics. Because this language’s syntax is highly readable, it’s considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn. Python is often used to design websites and apps and for data analysis and automation purposes.
Because VBA was created to be used exclusively in the Microsoft Office environment, especially with Excel, it is often a better option when working with a Microsoft app. On the other hand, Python can handle much larger datasets and perform more complicated automation tasks than VBA. Python also has capabilities for scaling up projects and completing complex tasks. In addition, Python can perform calculations faster than VBA, even when working with complex formulas. Whereas VBA can only perform automation tasks in Microsoft Office, Python can run on any OS and accomplish a wide range of tasks. And because Python is an open-source language, many libraries have been written for Python to aid with different tasks and jobs that could not be handled using VBA.
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.
- VBA was initially launched in 1993. This programming language was designed to be used in various Microsoft Office programs, like Excel and PowerPoint.
- Because VBA is included in most Office apps, it does not require a separate download or fee to use.
- Python is a good alternative if you already work with VBA and want to study a similar programming language, as it has data analytics and task automation capabilities.
- You can receive comprehensive VBA training through an in-person or live online course with Noble Desktop.