Import csv files using VBA macros

It is now quite common that you can download data as csv files. It could be from your internet bank or maybe some Google service like Analytics.

Csv-files are just text files, where the values are separated with a comma, semicolon, tab or space.

It is easy to open a csv file in Excel, you just double-click the icon, and doing it with an Excel VBA macro is also straigthforward, unless it is a semicolon-delimited file.

The reason for this is fairly simple: "csv" stands for "comma separated values", and VBA "thinks the American way" and doesn't use the local settings (here: semicolon). If you use comma as decimal separator, using comma for separating values would make a mess.

Below are some examples on how to import csv files using VBA, and there is also an example on how to parse ("read") the file using code insted of using Excel's built-in import functions.

The macro recorder fails

If you save a spreadsheet as a csv file and open the file with Notepad, you will see that the values are separated with semicolons (depending on your local settings).

If you record a macro when opening the file, everything works fine. The file is imported correctly, and the recorded macro looks something like this (if you use a Danish Excel version):

Sub Makro1()
' Makro1 Makro
' Makro indspillet 23-11-2013 af Eric Bentzen

    Workbooks.Open Filename:="C:\csvtest\semikolon-csv.csv"
End Sub

However,if you execute the macro, you will see that all of the first row is put in cell A1 with the values separated by semicolons, the second row is put in cell A2 and so on. (The macro above will work just fine, if the values are separated by tabs.)

When you saved as csv, Excel used the local settings and put in semicolon as separator, but VBA does not use the local settings, unless you force it to do so by adding ", Local:= True". Like this:

Sub Makro1()
' Makro1 Makro
' Makro indspillet 23-11-2013 af Eric Bentzen

Workbooks.Open Filename:="C:\csvtest\semikolon-csv.csv", Local:=True
End Sub

If you add the ", Local:= True", the macro will import correctly. You can also use the OpenText method:

Sub OpenCsv()
Workbooks.OpenText Filename:= _ 
"C:\csvtest\semikolon-csv.csv ",Local:=True
End Sub

Because it is a csv file, you don't need to tell Excel that it is a delimited file - csv files are always delimited. However you need to do it, if it is a normal text file. In the example below we open a semicolon-separated text file placed in the same folder as the workbook:

Sub SemicolonSep()
Dim sPath As String
sPath = ThisWorkbook.Path & "\semicolonseparated.txt"
Workbooks.OpenText Filename:= _
sPath, DataType:=xlDelimited, Semicolon:=True, Local:=True
End Sub

Usually there is no "local confusion" with ordinary text files, but at times I have experienced formatting problems (e.g. with dates), so adding "Local:= True" is a sensible precaution and does no harm.

Macro to parse a csv or txt file

If for some reason you don't want to use Excel's built-in import functions, you can parse ("read") a csv or txt file using code.

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, and the following code, which I found on the internet, works just fine. I don't know the author, but he deserves the credit.

You can copy the code and insert it into a VBA module. Just highlight it with the mouse, press CTRL+C and insert with CTRL+V. If you are viewing this page on a small screen, some of the code lines may appear "broken," but they will be okay when you paste into a VBA module.

Option Explicit

Sub ImportFile()
Dim sPath As String
'Below we assume that the file, csvtest.csv,
'is in the same folder as the workbook. If
'you want something more flexible, you can
'use Application.GetOpenFilename to get a
'file open dialogue that returns the name
'of the selected file.
'On the page Fast text file import
'I show how to do that - just replace the 
'file pattern "txt" with "csv".
sPath = ThisWorkbook.Path & "\csvtest.csv"

'Procedure call. Semicolon is defined as separator,
'and data is to be inserted on "Sheet2".
'Of course you could also read the separator
'and sheet name from the worksheet or an input
'box. There are several options.
copyDataFromCsvFileToSheet sPath, ";", "Sheet2"

End Sub
Private Sub copyDataFromCsvFileToSheet(parFileName As String, _
parDelimiter As String, parSheetName As String)

Dim Data As Variant  'Array for the file values

'Function call - the file is read into the array
Data = getDataFromFile(parFileName, parDelimiter)

'If the array isn't empty it is inserted into
'the sheet in one swift operation.
If Not isArrayEmpty(Data) Then
  'If you want to operate directly on the array,
  'you can leave out the following lines.
  With Sheets(parSheetName)
    'Delete any old content
    'A range gets the same dimensions as the array
    'and the array values are inserted in one operation.
    .Cells(1, 1).Resize(UBound(Data, 1), UBound(Data, 2)) = Data
  End With
End If
Public Function isArrayEmpty(parArray As Variant) As Boolean
'Returns False if not an array or a dynamic array
'that hasn't been initialised (ReDim) or
'deleted (Erase).

If IsArray(parArray) = False Then isArrayEmpty = True
On Error Resume Next
If UBound(parArray) < LBound(parArray) Then
   isArrayEmpty = True
   Exit Function
   isArrayEmpty = False
End If

End Function
Private Function getDataFromFile(parFileName As String, _
parDelimiter As String, _
Optional parExcludeCharacter As String = "") As Variant
'parFileName is the delimited file (csv, txt ...)
'parDelimiter is the separator, e.g. semicolon.
'The function returns an empty array, if the file
'is empty or cannot be opened.
'Number of columns is based on the line with most
'columns and not the first line.
'parExcludeCharacter: Some csv files have strings in
'quotations marks ("ABC"), and if parExcludeCharacter = """"
'quotation marks are removed.

Dim locLinesList() As Variant 'Array
Dim locData As Variant        'Array
Dim i As Long                 'Counter
Dim j As Long                 'Counter
Dim locNumRows As Long        'Nb of rows
Dim locNumCols As Long        'Nb of columns
Dim fso As Variant            'File system object
Dim ts As Variant             'File variable
Const REDIM_STEP = 10000      'Constant

'If this fails you need to reference Microsoft Scripting Runtime.
'You select this in "Tools" (VBA editor menu).
Set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")

On Error GoTo error_open_file
'Sets ts = the file
Set ts = fso.OpenTextFile(parFileName)
On Error GoTo unhandled_error

'Initialise the array
ReDim locLinesList(1 To 1) As Variant
i = 0
'Loops through the file, counts the number of lines (rows)
'and finds the highest number of columns.
Do While Not ts.AtEndOfStream
  'If the row number Mod 10000 = 0
  'we redimension the array.
  If i Mod REDIM_STEP = 0 Then
    ReDim Preserve locLinesList _
    (1 To UBound(locLinesList, 1) + REDIM_STEP) As Variant
  End If
  locLinesList(i + 1) = Split(ts.ReadLine, parDelimiter)
  j = UBound(locLinesList(i + 1), 1) 'Nb of columns in present row
  'If the number of columns is then highest so far.
  'the new number is saved.
  If locNumCols < j Then locNumCols = j
  i = i + 1

ts.Close 'Close file

locNumRows = i

'If number of rows is zero
If locNumRows = 0 Then Exit Function

ReDim locData(1 To locNumRows, 1 To locNumCols + 1) As Variant

'Copies the file values into an array.
'If parExcludeCharacter has a value,
'the characters are removed.
If parExcludeCharacter <> "" Then
  For i = 1 To locNumRows
    For j = 0 To UBound(locLinesList(i), 1)
      If Left(locLinesList(i)(j), 1) = parExcludeCharacter Then
        If Right(locLinesList(i)(j), 1) = parExcludeCharacter Then
          locLinesList(i)(j) = _
          Mid(locLinesList(i)(j), 2, Len(locLinesList(i)(j)) - 2)
          locLinesList(i)(j) = _
          Right(locLinesList(i)(j), Len(locLinesList(i)(j)) - 1)
        End If
      ElseIf Right(locLinesList(i)(j), 1) = parExcludeCharacter Then
        locLinesList(i)(j) = _
        Left(locLinesList(i)(j), Len(locLinesList(i)(j)) - 1)
      End If
      locData(i, j + 1) = locLinesList(i)(j)
    Next j
  Next i
  For i = 1 To locNumRows
    For j = 0 To UBound(locLinesList(i), 1)
      locData(i, j + 1) = locLinesList(i)(j)
    Next j
  Next i
End If

getDataFromFile = locData

Exit Function

error_open_file:  'Returns empty Variant
unhandled_error:  'Returns empty Variant

End Function

That was it. It may seem like a lot of code to parse a csv or text file, but the macro as a whole is very allround and actually quite fast. And as I wrote earlier on, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.