Excel VBA File Dialog on a Mac

I’ve been creating Microsoft VBAs for years to solve different problems ranging from Finance to Engineering. These VBAs have been developed and hosted on Windows platforms using different versions of Microsoft Office products. Recently I had a VBA requirement where the client used Excel (365) on a Mac. For tis application the key differences between the two products/OSs were:

  • No userform development UI on Mac
  • Different file dialog
  • Full path filename parsing

To solve the the userform development UI issue, I just developed the userform on Windows. When the VBA executed on the Mac the userform was properly displayed without any issues. Any changes to the userform had to be done on a Windows platform.

The second problem was more difficult and required some research. Prevously I’ve accessed files using the Application.FileDialog function with the msoFileDialogFilePicker parameters. It’s straight forward and I have used this code many times. A code segment is shown below.

'Display a Dialog Box that allows to select a single file.
'The path for the file picked will be stored in fullpath variable
With Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFilePicker)
    'Makes sure the user can select only one file
    .AllowMultiSelect = False
    'Filter to just the following types of files to narrow down selection options
    .Filters.Add "CSV/CRC Files", "*.csv; *.crc", 1
    'Show the dialog box
    'Store in fullpath variable if file selected
    If .SelectedItems.Count <> 0 Then
        fullpath = .SelectedItems.Item(1)
        MsgBox ("No file selected. Exiting program...")
        Exit Sub
    End If
End With

The problem is Application.FileDialog is not supported by Excel on the MacOS. I am thankful someone else had already solved this problem using an Applescript. I was able to reuse the posted script without any modifications. I created a function for each operating system to create a file dialog window and return the user selected file. On a Mac, if the user doesn’t select a file, the string “-128” (error code userCanceledErr) is returned. So the Windows function also returns “-128” when the user doesn’t select a file.

Function BrowseMac(mypath As String) As String
  Dim sMacScript As String
  sMacScript = "set applescript's text item delimiters to "","" " & vbNewLine & _
    "try " & vbNewLine & _
    "set theFiles to (choose file " & _
    "with prompt ""Please select a file or files"" default location alias """ & _
    mypath & """ multiple selections allowed false) as string" & vbNewLine & _
    "set applescript's text item delimiters to """" " & vbNewLine & _
    "on error errStr number errorNumber" & vbNewLine & _
    "return errorNumber " & vbNewLine & _
    "end try " & vbNewLine & _
    "return theFiles"
  BrowseMac = MacScript(sMacScript)
End Function


Function BrowseWin() As String
    'Display a Dialog Box that allows to select a single file.
    'The path for the file picked will be stored in fullpath variable
    With Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFilePicker)
        'Makes sure the user can select only one file
        .AllowMultiSelect = False
        'Filter to just the following types of files to narrow down selection options
        .Filters.Add "Text Stock Files", "*.txt, 1"
        .Title = "Select Input Stock File"
        'Show the dialog box
        'Store in fullpath variable if file selected
        If .SelectedItems.Count <> 0 Then
            BrowseWin = .SelectedItems.Item(1)
            BrowseWin = "-128"  ' what Mac OS returns when file is not selected
        End If
    End With
End Function

Since I was developing on Windows 10 and testing using both operating systems, I used Application.OperatingSystem to determine the host OS to call the appropriate routine. On MacOS Application.OperatingSystem includes “Macintosh” in the returned string. The call to the Mac file browser also uses an Applescript to the provide the documents folder directory path.

' determine OS and get input file via dialog box
theOS = Application.OperatingSystem
If (InStr(1, theOS, "Macintosh", vbTextCompare) = 0) Then   ' not Mac
    ' Windows Version
    fullFilename = BrowseWin
    fileName = getWINFName(fullFilename)
    ' Mac Version
    fullFilename = BrowseMac(MacScript("return (path to documents folder) as String"))
    fileName = getMACFName(fullFilename)
End If
' check for a good file name
If fullFilename = "-128" Then
    MsgBox ("File not selected, no action taken.")
    Exit Sub
End If

The returned filename has the full path name. For this application I wanted to capture the filename only. So another difference between the operating sytsem is Windows uses the “\” character and MacOS used the “:” character to separate the path.

Function getWINFName(pf) As String: getWINFName = Mid(pf, InStrRev(pf, "\") + 1): End Function
Function getMACFName(pf) As String: getMACFName = Mid(pf, InStrRev(pf, ":") + 1): End Function

Working with the input file was the same for both Windows 10 and MacOS 10. Below is a small code snippet showing the opening the file, reading text line, and closing the file once finsihed.

Open fullFilename For Input As #1
Do Until EOF(1)
    ' get input record and separate items
    ' record data time, open, high, low, close, [volume]
    Line Input #1, textLine             ' input record
    inputSplit = Split(textLine, ",")   ' split on '

    < good code stuff >

Close #1

So my first experience developing an Excel VBA for MacOS had small, but solvable technical hurdles, which were solved by using a good search engine and leveraging other develper’s code.

Excel VBA to Update ThisWorkbook Code Module

At a previous job I designed an Excel template that was used to create program estimate to complete/estimate at completion. The template would be configured based on the program structure. VBAs were used to help configure the template, retrieve the latest financial data from a SharePoint document library, and check the workbook for errors. Because the VBAs were being updated over time I created a VBA in the ThisWorkbook module that updated the VBA source code, which was also stored on SharePoint.

This has worked well for many years up to the point where the SharePoint site was updated and moved off site. This isn’t a big issue. The file access now requires a web address and the module VBAs can be updated to point to the new addresses. But the VBA in ThisWorkbook module also needs updating since the VBA source files have moved with the financial data. Updating the template is simple, but there are many, many already configured program Excel files need updating. This requires updating the VBA code in the ThisWorkbook module.

To solve this problem I created a Excel VBA tool that uses a file dialog to select one or more files to update the macros in the ThisWorkbook module. This update is different than deleting modules and importing new VBA source code modules. This actually required deleting all the source lines in the ThisWorkbook module and adding the new file.

The code is straight forward. For each workbook assigned to the wb object, delete all the lines inthe code module and add from a file the new source code. I found several examples in my Internet search. I had issues with some of the sample code for DeleteLines that used StartLine and Count parameters as well as using parenthesizes on the method. It caused a compile syntax error requiring an “=” assignment. In the end I just used DeleteLines 1, CountOIfLines, which worked. A sample code snippet is shown below.

With wb.VBProject.VBComponents("ThisWorkbook").CodeModule
    .DeleteLines 1, .CountOfLines
    .AddFromFile "filename"
End With

Overall very simple approach to update the VBA code in the “ThisWorkbook” module using an external Excel VBA.

Bin Packing Problem

I saw an interesting project on Guru.com to look at pallet packing efficiency. The client input had job numbers/quantities and they wanted an optimized pallet loading. The loading was based on a minimum/maximum pallet quantities with a criteria that a job quantity can’t be split across pallets (a job must ship together). The client also had a “desired” quantity, which really didn’t provide additional information. The goal was to develop an Excel VBA to provide the optimized pallet loading for what I assumed to be their daily output.

Although I haven’t worked on bin packing algorithms, this sounded a lot like memory allocation schemes, which I have implemented; first, best, and worst fit algorithms. I performed some basic research and found that bin packing solutions are similar to memory management allocation schemes. The bin packing algorithms include next-fit, first-fit, and best-fit algorithms. There are also variations of these algorithms that pre-sorts the data in decreasing quantities sizes before apply the algorithm.

The next-fit algorithm checks to see if the the current bin can hold the quantity. If so, then place that quantity in that bin, else place the quantity in a new bin. With the next-fit algorithm you never go back to an earlier bin.

The first-fit algorithm scans open bins in order and places the quantity in the first bin that will hold it. If the quantity doesn’t fit in any bin, then start a new bin. The best-fit scans all bins for the best fit, if it doesn’t fit in an existing bin, then start a new one. The decreasing algorithm versions have the quantities sorted by size, largest to smallest, and then the algorithm is run.

Although not seen in the literature, I also included a worst fit algorithm which is the opposite of the best-fit algorithm where bins are scanned for the worst fit (most space left after adding the quantity to the bin). If the quantity doesn’t fit in an existing bin, start a new one.

I created an Excel VBA to run some trials where I could vary different parameters and create constrained random values. Random parameters includes the number of jobs and quantities per job. Fixed parameters are the min/max quantity on a pallet (in a bin) and the number of trials. After each trial the most efficient solution was selected (least number of pallets/bins) that met the minimum pallet quantity (i.e. a solution with the minimum number of pallets wasn’t selected if any pallet quantity was below the minimum threshold).

After varying a number of parameters and using uniform random numbers, generally the best fit or best fit decreasing algorithm was the most favorable. This experiment did not account for processor speed. One would expect that best and worst fit algorithms to require the most processing power since every open bin needs to be examined prior to placing a job in a bin.

Excel Selenium Element Test

During web scraping sometimes an expected element is not present. This recently happened during a web scraping project when the client input data was not correct causing the page to load with an error and didn’t have the expected data to scrape. The web scraping was being done in Excel using Selenium and Chrome browser. The error handling can be done a couple of different ways. I used the approach of assigning a webelement object to the expected element and then test if the object is Nothing.

Element Test Code

' class that has distance in miles
Set miClass = driver.FindElementByClass("mi", timeout:=0, Raise:=False)
If Not miClass Is Nothing Then
    {Element Present}
    { Element not Present, Error Handling}

This project required loading almost 20,000 web pages. Sometimes the web page url failed to load. Although not directly tied to testing for the present of an element this error case still needed to be handled. For this case Excel VBA error handing is used. Multiple attempts are made to load the url. If the web page loads then the “attempt loop” is exited early. If the maximum number of attempts is reached, then error handling is used.

In an Excel VBA, On Error is used to control the error handing. Before making the web page loading attempt On Error GoTo and Exit For are used to manage the multiple attempts.

Web Page Loading Error handling

' attempt to get website
On Error GoTo tryAgain    ' if error GoTo tryAgain
For try = 1 To Attempts   ' number of attempts to try (const)
    ' get website
    driver.Get url        ' attempt to load web page, if error GoTo tryAgain
    Exit For              ' web page loaded exit For
Next try                  ' next attempt
On Error GoTo 0           ' reset Error handling to stop on error
If (try <> (Attempts + 1)) Then   ' Test if maximum attempts were reached
    {Page Loaded, Do Stuff}
    {Page Didn't Load, Error Handling Stuff}

Excel Selenium Web Scraping Error 33

I’ve done Chrome web scraping in both Python and Excel using Selenium on a Windows 10 platform. I have also web scraped in Python using BeatifulSoup4. A new client had a requirement to find the distance between two zip codes. The client had created an Excel worksheet with a matrix of zip codes (vertical) and cities (horizontal). I found a web site that calculates the distance between two zip codes in a web page. The zip codes are part of the web page URL I converted the cities to city airport zip codes so I just needed to read rows and columns to create the URL and the scrape the results. Easy right?

Error 33

I implemented the VBA code and got a runtime error 33 when opening the Chrome browser. I checked other Excel scrapers that I had written and they all failed. So something was wrong with my Excel environment. An Internet search indicated that the version of Chrome and the chromedriver were not the same. I remembered that I had created a directory for Selenium webdrivers and added it to the system path. I updated the driver to match the Chrome version and I still got the same runtime error. I then tried one of my Python scrapers and they worked! So my problem was with Excel. I continued my search and couldn’t find a resolution until….

Excel Selenium Environment

To setup the Excel environment you need to add SeleniumBasic library, which I already had and the version hadn’t changed since 2016. To add the library to your VBA you need to select the Selenium Type Libary (editor Tools > References…). As I re-read the installation instructions I found that the driver needs to be placed in the same directory as the SeleniumBasic library, which for me was not the webdriver directory I had already updated. That was the difference. Excel did not use the system path for the webdriver.

Once I updated the chromdriver in the SeleniumBasic directory very thing started working again. Watch out for Chrome updates. For my environment I need to update the driver in two locations – the system path directory (Python) and the SeleniumBasic directory (Excel). A good description on setting up Excel to work with Selenium can be found at myOnlineTrainingHub.