Excel add-ins

Excel add-ins enable the extra features for MS Excel users. Add-ins enhance the Excel functionality that is not directly available to Excel users by adding them in MS Excel across different platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux operating systems.

Add-ins enable those features that MS Excel does not directly offer and users also need them rarely. Whenever the users need it, they can activate, install, and use them. Excel users have to perform some extra steps to activate an add-in.

Add-ins are optional, you can use them by installing if you need them. This chapter will discuss the Excel add-ins and how & when you can use them with your Excel application.

What are Excel add-ins?

Add-ins are additional features of Excel that are not immediately available to Excel users. The users have to activate them manually when they need. Excel offers some prebuilt add-ins and you can also create custom add-ins. Besides them, some website also offers downloadable Excel add-ins.

Add-ins are also called plugins. They provide additional features to Excel users.

An example of prebuilt Excel add-in to like Analysis ToolPak and some can be download from the Download center. These add-ins are designed by a third party.

Category of add-ins

You can put the Excel add-ins in three different categories –

  1. Excel prebuilt add-ins
  2. Downloadable add-ins
  3. Custom add-ins

Learn these categories in detail.

1. Excel prebuilt add-ins

MS Excel offers prebuilt add-ins, but they are not activated by default. You have to manually activate these add-ins when you need to use them. They come with the MS Excel application when you install it in your system.

You don’t need to explicitly download these add-ins. Excel prebuilt add-ins are – Analysis ToolPak and Solver. Analysis ToolPak is used when the user requires to do complex analysis of Excel data.

Follow the topic Activate prebuilt Excel Add-in in this chapter below to activate the prebuild add-ins to your Excel application.

2. Downloadable add-ins

Some add-ins are not available on MS Excel applications in offline mode. So, you have to manually download them from the internet and then activate them for your MS Excel application.

These Excel add-ins are also available on the internet. You have to download and then activate to use them. They do not come with MS Excel. These add-ins are also available on official site of MS Excel and several other websites also offer to Excel users.

Follow the topic Download and activate Add-in in this chapter below to activate the prebuild add-ins to your Excel application.

3. Custom add-ins

Sometimes, custom add-ins are designed by the developers and solution providers themselves to provide the solution according to user requirements. These custom add-ins like custom Component Object Model (COM), VBA add-ins, automation add-ins, or XLL add-ins.

You also have to install the custom add-ins to use them. Follow the topic Create a custom Add-in in this chapter below to activate the prebuild add-ins to your Excel application.

Activate prebuilt Excel add-inn

Excel has some prebuilt add-ins which are disabled by default as they are not usually needed. Sometimes, Excel users have the requirement of these add-ins. Excel allows its users to activate the prebuilt add-ins at any time.

Analysis ToolPak is one of the prebuilt add-ins of Excel. Analysis ToolPak is needed when the user requires to do complex analysis of Excel data. We will activate this add-in here in the below steps.

Following are the steps to activate/enable this add-in.

Step 1: Right-click on your Excel ribbon to customize it.

Excel add-ins

Step 2: On the right side of the panel, click the Add-ins option to show the related options.

Excel add-ins

Step 3: Now, make sure Excel Add-ins are selected under the Manage dropdown list, then click the Go button.

Excel add-ins

Step 4: Mark the Analysis ToolPak checkbox and click OK. This prebuilt add-in will insert inside the Data tab in the Excel ribbon.

Excel add-ins

Step 4: Navigate to the Data tab and see that the Analysis ToolPak has been added to this tab in the end.

Excel add-ins

Now, this add-in is available to use for complex data analysis. It is inserted for all the Excel workbooks.

Download and activate Add-in

We have downloaded an Excel to JSON converter add-in for Excel to convert the Excel data to JSON format from the internet. This add-inn is not directly activated when we download it from internet, we have to load and activate it manually. It is available inside the Developer tab under Add-ins option.

Follow the topic Download and activate Add-in in this chapter below to activate the prebuild add-ins to your Excel application.

See the following steps to download and add an add-in to your MS Excel application.

Step 1: Go to the Developer tab and click the Add-ins button here.

Excel add-ins

Step 2: You will see an Excel to JSON named add-in, click on it to select and then click Add.

Excel add-ins

Step 3: A message like this will show you once the add-in loads to Excel.

Excel add-ins

Note: Excel automatically creates a new tab for the downloaded add-in when the add-in is loaded to the Excel application. But you have to add it to the ribbon manually.

Step 4: Customize your Excel ribbon if this downloaded add-in is not included in the Excel ribbon as a new tab or in the existing tab. (Right-click on the ribbon to customize the ribbon)

Excel add-ins

Step 5: Now, to include the downloaded add-in to the Excel ribbon, select Main Tabs inside the dropdown list. Then Choose Excel-to-JSON tab and click Add button.

Excel add-ins

“By default, tab name is same as the add-inn name, i.e., Excel-to-JSON”

Step 6: Your downloaded add-in is now added to the Excel ribbon in a new tab. Now, click OK to keep the changes.

Excel add-ins

Step 7: Now, you can see that the Excel-to-JSON tab with Excel-to-JSON add-in is now added at the end of the Excel ribbon.

Excel add-ins

Similarly, you can download other add-ins available on the internet as per your requirement and activate them.

Create a custom Add-in

Excel allows the users to create custom add-ins by creating a macro. An Excel can be more useful when a user needs to run a macro in different workbooks.

Suppose you have an Excel worksheet containing some data. It might also contain some errors. You want to highlight the cells that have an error. With the help of a custom add-in, you can do it very easily with a button click. Create an add-in using programming. You have to follow these three steps for it:

Step 1: Write a code in VBA module

  1. To go to the VBA code editor, open your targeted Excel sheet and press Alt+F11.
  2. In this VBA Editor, you will see Sheet 1 (under Microsoft Excel Object) at the right side of the panel.
    Excel add-ins
  3. Right-click on Sheet 1 and click Insert, then choose Module.
    Excel add-ins
  4. Now, write the following code in your VBA code editor. It will highlight all the cells having an error.
Sub HighlightErrors()  Selection.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeFormulas, xErrors).Select  Selection.Interior.Color = vbGreen  End Sub  

Excel add-ins

Press Alt+F11 to go back to the Excel worksheet.

Excel add-ins

Step 2: Save and install add-in

After successfully inserting the code, you have to save this code and then install the add-in.

  1. Click File and then Save as
    Excel add-ins
  2. Provide a file name and choose the file extension .xlsm. (The file name will be your add-inn name). We have saved the file with Hightlight Error.xlsm.
    Excel add-ins
  3. You can note that the file location will get automatically changed.
    Excel add-ins
  4. Now, open the worksheet and go to the Developer tab > Add-ins section > Click the Excel Add-ins
    Excel add-ins
  5. In the Add-ins dialogue box, locate the file name of your add-inn that you use in step 2. Mark the checkbox and click OK.
    Excel add-ins
  6. Highlight Errors add-inn is now activated, but you may not see any tab or button added to your Excel ribbon right now.
  7. So, right-click on your Excel ribbon and click Customize Quick Access ribbon
    Excel add-ins
  8. Here, choose Macro from the Choose Command from the dropdown list and now click on the Highlight Errors then click Add
    Excel add-ins
  9. You may get an error dialogue box “This command needs to add-in a custom group”. So, you have to create a new group to add this HighlightErrors
    Excel add-ins
  10. To create a group, choose a tab like Home, Insert and then click New Group. We have chosen the Formula tab.
    Excel add-ins
  11. See that a new group is added. You can rename it. We have renamed it to Custom Addin.
    Excel add-ins
  12. Now, again try to add the HightlightErrors to this Custom Addin group inside the Formula You can see in the below screenshot that the HighlightErrors is added.
    Excel add-ins
  13. Go to the Formula tab and see a button HighlightErrors is added inside the newly created group Custom Addin.
    Excel add-ins

This add-in is now available for your all Excel workbooks. Use this custom add-inn “HightlightErrors” to check and highlight errors with green color in the Excel worksheet.


Next TopicIF() in excel

Previous articleWhat is Macros
Next articleExcel Substring formula