VBA Help System Lacking in Excel 2011

by Gregory on December 14, 2010

Since never using the VBA Editor in Excel 2011 for Mac was a slight embarrassment, I thought to give it a whirl with a half-written function that was started in Excel 2010. I quickly found out the Editor’s windows have more of a free-floating style, but the programming looked to be quite the same.

VBA Editor Excel 2011

Until I wanted to find out whether to use the TypeName or VarType function and tried to access Help. This is something they make sufficiently hard enough that I didn’t find either function definition before giving up and deciding to write about the futility of being dropped into a maze.

But first I switched back to Excel 2010, selected VarType in the VBA Editor and activated Help, which quickly generated a nice pop-up window with all the facts I needed about the VarType Function, as you can see below.

VarType Excel Help

When you try this in Excel 2011, the following screen is the entrance to the maze.

VarType Excel Help 2011

click for larger image

Continuing on from this screen is when you start feeling that something’s all jumbled and confused in the Help system for VBA in Excel 2011. I don’t recommend going on any further unless you’re desperate.

Oh what a tangled web they weave.

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Richard Goldfarb December 14, 2010 at 9:53 am

Maybe you can help. I have a long list of fundamental VBA functions that work fine in Excel 2010 but don’t seem to exist in Excel 2011. As your post noted, it is useless to try and use Excel 2011’s Help, so I am truning to other frustrated users.

For instance, I have existing VBA code that uses the “Str()” function. It doesn’t work in Excel 2011 and doesn’t appear in help. Any thoughts?

Gregory December 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

I tested the Str() Function in Excel 2011 and it seems to work. Here’s what I did: Typed in the number 14 into cell A1, made sure the active cell was cell A1, opened the VBA Editor, inserted a module, opened the Immediate window and typed in the following VBA statements with question marks in front of them.

? vartype(activecell)
? vartype(str(activecell))
? typename(activecell.Value)
? typename(str(activecell.Value))

As you can see, the functions Str(), VarType(), and TypeName() all seem to work in Excel 2011.

As far as documentation for VBA Functions in Excel 2011 the best reference seems to be


which is still woefully inadequate.

Richard Goldfarb December 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Thanks for the reply. The problem turned out to be rather simple – the “standard” install of Office 2011 doesn’t install all of the VBA functionality. I just had to reinstall as a custom install and then the Str() function worked just fine. The “Help” still is useless (a search for Str returns nothing), but at least the function is there.

John Henry January 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

Thanks for this (and other) Excel 2011 posting. I converted both to a Mac (Air, very happy) and Excel 2011 (very unhappy) just before Christmas. I’m not a VBA developer, but could find my way around fine on 2007. I’m sick to death of Excel 2011 already.

Gregory January 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

The Excel 2011 articles get a lot of traffic. I intend to do more because there seems to be a void of information out there, I can’t even find a good reference book. Thanks for the comment.

David February 16, 2013 at 8:16 am

Thanks for this article… I thought I was doing something wrong, preventing myself from accessing the usually robust VBA help system.

It’s so awful in Excel 2011, I’m thinking about downgrading my operating system so I can go back to running Excel 2004. But Excel 2004 has its own drawbacks… so honestly the best solution is probably to go to the trouble of installing VirtualBox, Windows, and Excel 2010. 🙁

Gregory February 16, 2013 at 8:46 am

I have use Parallels, and there is also VMWare Fusion, which lets you run Windows on a Mac. But keep in mind those options come with drawbacks as well. For me, running Parallels was nice because you could switch quickly between Windows and Mac OS, but I had to turn off my Time Machine during those times because when it was backing up the system was unbearably slow.

Andrew B May 27, 2011 at 2:43 am

Does anyone know of a workaround for the loadpicture command?
It will load a jpg into a form.
It works fine in excel 2003 on a PC but Excel 2011 doesn’t know what it is.

Gregory May 27, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Loadpicture appears in all the Windows versions of Excel 2003, 2007, 2010 in the VBA library, but it’s not listed in the Mac version, Excel 2011. Don’t know the solution, but reiterate your question: Can anyone help with this?

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