(C) 2009 - 2018 by Mourad Louha · All rights reserved

Get the path and file name for a file location using formulas or VBA in Excel

I am currently studying some Windows Registry accesses from Excel & Co. A formula in an Excel sheet helps me to split these entries into its components; meaning the path elements and the value. The location where a file is stored can be addressed in a similar manner like a registry key. So, I had the idea to write this article and use my formula for splitting a file location in its path and file name.

Excel 2010

The storage location of a file usually starts with a drive letter specification followed by a series of folder names separated by separator and ends with the filename. For a Windows operating system, the separator is a backslash.

Depending on where the file is located, the path is sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. To retrieve the file name with an Excel formula, we have to know the position of the last separator in the path. Then, we will be able to use the Excel function “Right()” and extract the file name.

The number of occurrences of a string in another string can be determined relatively easy in Excel. We have just to replace the searched string by an empty string and then calculate the length of the resulting string. If we subtract this value from the length of the original string and divide this result by the length of the searched string, we will exactly get the number of occurrences. If the length of the searched string is one character, we can use:

D7 = LEN($D$3)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;""))

The separator is stored in cell D4 and the location of the file in cell D3; in the figure above “C:\Users\Mourad\Documents\Sample.xls”.

The formula returns “4”, this corresponds exactly the count of backslashes in the text. The Excel function “Substitute()” allows to replace a given text by another and also allows in its last argument to specify which occurrence should be replaced. So, the formula should look like:

D9 = SUBSTITUTE("C:\Users\Mourad\Documents\Sample.xls"; "\"; "$$$"; 4)

If we replace the static values by the cell references, we obtain:

D9 = SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;$D$5;$D$7)

As you can see in the screenshot above, cell D9 now contains the value “C:\Users\Mourad\Documents$$$Sample.xls”. Of course, we can use any other text instead of “$$$”; the only condition is that the chosen text is not already present in the path and file name.

Now, it is very easy to get the path and the file name. The function “Find()” returns the position of a searched text in another text. We can use this position as arguments for the “Left()” and “Right()” functions:

D11 = LEFT($D$9;FIND($D$5;$D$9)-1)
D13 = RIGHT($D$9;LEN($D$9)-LEN($D$11)-LEN($D$5))

The first variant for getting the filename uses the result of the path extraction, if we would like to retrieve the file name independently from the path, we can use:

D13 = RIGHT($D$9;LEN($D$9)-FIND($D$5;$D$9)-LEN($D$5)+1)

Creating a formula without the use of helping cells

If a formula is needed, which directly extracts the path and file name and does not make use of the help cells, the first thing we can do, is to substitute the references to the help cells by the formulas. The formula for retrieving the path will then be:

D18 = LEFT(SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;$D$5;LEN($D$3) -

The first argument of the function “Left()” contains the formula for substituting the “\” with “$$$”. However, as the last backslash is searched, it does not matter if we use the substituted file location or the file location itself. So we can replace the formula in the first argument of “Left()” by the file location:

D19 = LEFT($D$3;FIND($D$5; 
      SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;$D$5;LEN($D$3) - 

Excel 2010

We can build the formula for extracting the file name in the same way like mentioned above. The result is, in a first step, a complex formula:

D21 = RIGHT(SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;$D$5;LEN($D$3) -
      LEN(SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;$D$5; LEN($D$3)- 
      SUBSTITUTE($D$3;$D$4;$D$5; LEN($D$3)-

This formula can also be optimized. Again, we can directly use the file location instead of the file location with the replaced text. This leeds to:

D22 = RIGHT($D$3;LEN($D$3)-FIND($D$5;

WHowever, we have not to subtract the length of the replacement text, as we are now using the original file location. The final formula is then:

D22 = RIGHT($D$3;LEN($D$3)-FIND($D$5;

At this point, thanks to Andreas, who provided some tips for me. And it is certainly possible to extend the formulas; for example by checking, if the function “Find()” results in an error or if the replacement text is already contained in the file location.

Using VBA to retrieve the path and filename

The path and the file name can also be retrieved by using the following two VBA functions:

Update on 09/21/2011: I had overseen that the new layout of the blog had an impact on some tags in this post. Therefore the formulas were only dispayed in one long line without any automatic breaks. I changed this and manually added some breaks.

This article has also been published on the German Version of the Excel Ticker blog.


Hi Susan…

Thanks, however, I am not sure, if I had completely understood the request. And I am also afraid, that some text missing at the end of your comment; may be it was cut by the blog software.

I can offer you to e-mail me at support(at)maninweb(dot)de and I will look, what I can do for you. Is it perhaps possible to attach a sample file, so that I can better retrace the steps you have done?

Best Regards 🙂

Hi Mourad,
Thanks for your article. It is a bit over my head but I can see the potential in it solving my problem. I guess I am not able to transfer your directions to use the substitute function because I already have a formula in the cell. The exercise was to create a table then on a separate sheet make the formulas and show them. Here is the situation:
The first sheet with the table worked fine. The next order of business is create a new sheet with formulas. Sure ok no problem; I double-click on the column divisions to make everything fit and look pretty.
My dilemma:
Before turning in any work, I like to preview. When in preview mode, not only is the formula showing but the file name appears before and after the formula. Ugg what happened, I have never seen these included in the formula and cannot figure out how to reduce it to the formula alone and hence, fit on the sheet. Any suggestions?
formula in non preview mode:
formula in preview mode (keyed in because of course I cannot copy it, nor can I see the end of it but I am making an educated guess…)

Mourad Louha

Hi Theo…

many thanks for your reporting; I will check it and update the download files 🙂

Best regards 🙂

Found your interesting article, and discovered a small error in the GetPath function.
Since you are calling GetFileName, you need to pass the delimiter to it, otherwise it won’t work with a different than “/” delimiter:

GetPath = Left(Data, Len(Data) – _
Len(GetFilename(Data,Delimiter)) – 1)

Trackbacks for this post

Leave a Reply