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March 19, 2012

Excel VBA Oddity – Replace function not returning entire string

I just boomed into this funny oddity using VBA with Excel.

I wanted to generate data to a text file in the TEMP folder, so I used the FileSystemObject’s GetSpecialFolder() to obtain the TEMP folder name and I crafted a file name using the system time. Then I joined the 2 strings with the backslash character (\).

To avoid problems with double backslash characters, I used Replace() to replace them with single backslash. Since I did not want to replace them at the beginning of the string because I am not sure if the temp folder is not something like for instance in ‘\\server\share\...‘, I decided that I would start replacing from position 3 onwards, like in:

sFileName = VBA.Replace(sFileName, "\\", "\", 3, -1, vbTextCompare)

From Help, I read (and highlight only the relevant parts):


Replace(expression, find, replace[, start[, count[, compare]]])

The Replace function syntax has these named arguments:

Part Description

start Optional. Position within expression where substring search is to begin. If omitted, 1 is assumed.

Reading this, I presume that the Replace() statement above should start replacing only from position 3 onwards. Well, it does not. What happens is this:

Replace() replaces ‘find‘ in ‘expression‘ with ‘replace‘, starting at position ‘start‘ but returns a string that does not contain the characters up to ‘start‘.

In other words, it appears that VBA first Mid()‘s the string at position 3, then starts replacing, and finally returns the shortened string. See here as well (includes workaround).


PS: if you read Help to the end, it says «If start > Len(expression) then zero-length string is returned». This implicitly confirms that if you want something from the string back using Replace() then you should definitively set start to a value below Len(Expression). And I say that if you want back everything (obviously, with the replacements done), set start to 1.


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