Inserting your favorite symbols


As an engineer I’m often inserting symbols in to Excel to represent variables in equations. These symbols can be inserted using the Symbol tool that ships with Excel, but it can be frustrating trying to find the particular symbol you’re after if you’ve not used it recently enough to have it show up in the Recently Used Symbols list.

Tip: The Symbol tool window can be stretched horizontally to make it wider, revealing a greater number of recently used symbols (up to 36). This will likely suffice for most users.

I’ve therefore written (my first ever) User Form and associated VBA code that I’ve installed as an Excel Add-In so that I can quickly access the symbols I commonly use from the Quick Access Toolbar.

While you’ll likely prefer a different symbol set, you might find this a useful starting position from which to taylor your own user form.


The workbook containing the relevant code can be downloaded here.


Note: The instructions below are for Excel 2016. These are just standard steps for adding an Excel add-in, so if you’re running a different version of Excel you should be able to follow along using a standard installation method specific to your version of Excel.

  1. Download Symbols.xlsm and open the workbook.
  2. Select File → Save As
  3. In the Save As window, use the drop down to change the Save As Type to Excel Addin (*.xlam) near the bottom of the list. This will automatically change the directory to something like;
  4. Select Save to save the workbook in the default directory
  5. Close Excel. You’ll be prompted to save the Workbook – select No (we’ve already saved it as an Add-In).
  6. Open Excel again.
  7. Go to File → Options → Add-Ins
  8. At the bottom of the window, ensure Excel Add-ins is selected in the Manage drop-down list, and then click the Go button.
  9. Locate Symbols in the Add-ins list, and check the tick box next to it and select OK. You may get a security warning informing you that the add-in contains marcos. Select Enable.
    This add-in will now load every time you launch Excel. But we still need to add an icon to the Quick Access Toolbar to enable you to quickly access it, as below.
  10. Go to File → Options → Quick Access Toolbar and from the Choose commands from dropdown, select Macros.
  11. Locate and select the macro called InsertFavSymbol and click the Add button.
  12. Use the Modify button to change the name and icon to your choosing. Here I’ve selected the Greek symbol for PI for the icon.
  13. Click OK

You’re now done. You should have an icon in the Quick Launch menu in the top left of the screen from which you can access the user form to select and copy the symbol of your choosing (or, at least, from the list that I’ve personally found useful!)


The workbook containing the relevant code can be downloaded here.


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