How to split text string in Excel by comma, space, character or mask

The tutorial explains how to split cells in Excel using formulas and the Split Text feature. You will learn how to separate text by comma, space or any other delimiter, and how to split strings into text and numbers.

Splitting text from one cell into several cells is the task all Excel users are dealing with once in a while. In one of our earlier articles, we discussed how to split cells in Excel using the Text to Column feature, Flash Fill and Split Names add-in. Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at how you can split strings using formulas and the Split Text feature.

How to split text in Excel using formulas

To split string in Excel, you generally use the LEFT, RIGHT or MID function in combination with either FIND or SEARCH. At first sight, some of the formulas might look complex, but the logic is in fact quite simple, and the following examples will give you some clues.

Split string by comma, colon, slash, dash or other delimiter

When splitting cells in Excel, the key is to locate the position of the delimiter within the text string. Depending on your task, this can be done by using either case-insensitive SEARCH or case-sensitive FIND. Once you have the delimiter's position, use the RIGHT, LEFT or MID function to extract the corresponding part of the text string. For better understanding, let's consider the following example.

Supposing you have a list of SKUs of the Item-Color-Size pattern, and you want to split the column into 3 separate columns:
Splitting the source text strings into 3 columns

  1. To extract the item name (all characters before the 1st hyphen), insert the following formula in B2, and then copy it down the column:

    =LEFT(A2, SEARCH("-",A2,1)-1)

    In this formula, SEARCH determines the position of the 1st hyphen ("-") in the string, and the LEFT function extracts all the characters left to it (you subtract 1 from the hyphen's position because you don't want to extract the hyphen itself).
    Use the LEFT function to extract the characters before the first hyphen.

  2. To extract the color (all characters between the 1st and 2nd hyphens), enter the following formula in C2, and then copy it down to other cells:

    =MID(A2, SEARCH("-",A2) + 1, SEARCH("-",A2,SEARCH("-",A2)+1) - SEARCH("-",A2) - 1)

    Use the MID function to extract the characters between the 2nd and 3rd hyphens.

    As you probably know, the Excel MID function has the following syntax:

    MID(text, start_num, num_chars)

    Where:

    • text - where to extract the text from.
    • start_num - the position of the first character to extract.
    • num_chars - the number of characters to extract.

    In the above formula, the text is extracted from cell A2, and the other 2 arguments are calculated by using 4 different SEARCH functions:

    • Start number (start_num) is the position of the first hyphen +1:

      SEARCH("-",A2) + 1

    • Number of characters to extract (num_chars): the difference between the position of the 2nd hyphen and the 1st hyphen, minus 1:

      SEARCH("-", A2, SEARCH("-",A2)+1) - SEARCH("-",A2) -1

  3. To extract the size (all characters after the 3rd hyphen), enter the following formula in D2:

    =RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2) - SEARCH("-", A2, SEARCH("-", A2) + 1))

    In this formula, the LEN function returns the total length of the string, from which you subtract the position of the 2nd hyphen. The difference is the number of characters after the 2nd hyphen, and the RIGHT function extracts them.
    (Use the RIGHT function to extract the characters after the 3rd hyphen.

In a similar fashion, you can split column by any other character. All you have to do is to replace "-" with the required delimiter, for example space (" "), slash ("/"), colon (";"), semicolon (";"), and so on.

Tip. In the above formulas, +1 and -1 correspond to the number of characters in the delimiter. In this example, it's a hyphen (1 character). If your delimiter consists of 2 characters, e.g. a comma and a space, then supply only the comma (",") to the SEARCH function, and use +2 and -2 instead of +1 and -1.

How to split string by line break in Excel

To split text by space, use formulas similar to the ones demonstrated in the previous example. The only difference is that you will need the CHAR function to supply the line break character since you cannot type it directly in the formula.

Supposing, the cells you want to split look similar to this:
The cells to be split by spaces.

Take the formulas from the previous example and replace a hyphen ("-") with CHAR(10) where 10 is the ASCII code for Line feed.

  • To extract the item name:

    =LEFT(A2, SEARCH(CHAR(10),A2,1)-1)

  • To extract the color:

    =MID(A2, SEARCH(CHAR(10),A2) + 1, SEARCH(CHAR(10),A2,SEARCH(CHAR(10),A2)+1) - SEARCH(CHAR(10),A2) - 1)

  • To extract the size:

    =RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2) - SEARCH(CHAR(10), A2, SEARCH(CHAR(10), A2) + 1))

And this is how the result looks like:
Splitting strings by the space character.

How to split text and numbers in Excel

To begin with, there is no universal solution that would work for all alphanumeric strings. Which formula to use depends on the particular string pattern. Below you will find the formulas for the two common scenarios.

Split string of 'text + number' pattern

Supposing, you have a column of strings with text and numbers combined, where a number always follows text. You want to break the original strings so that the text and numbers appear in separate cells, like this:
Splitting an alphanumeric string to text and number

The result may be achieved in two different ways.

Method 1: Count digits and extract that many chars

The easiest way to split text string where number comes after text is this:

To extract numbers, you search the string for every possible number from 0 to 9, get the numbers total, and return that many characters from the end of the string.

With the original string in A2, the formula goes as follows:

=RIGHT(A2,SUM(LEN(A2) - LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2, {"0","1","2","3","4","5","6","7","8","9"},""))))

To extract text, you calculate how many text characters the string contains by subtracting the number of extracted digits (C2) from the total length of the original string in A2. After that, you use the LEFT function to return that many characters from the beginning of the string.

=LEFT(A2,LEN(A2)-LEN(C2))

Where A2 is the original string, and C2 is the extracted number, as shown in the screenshot:
A column of strings is split to text and numbers

Method 2: Find out the position of the 1st digit in a string

An alternative solution would be using the following formula to determine the position of the first digit in the string:

=MIN(SEARCH({0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9},A2&"0123456789"))

The detailed explanation of the formula's logic can be found here.

Once the position of the first digit is found, you can split text and numbers by using very simple LEFT and RIGHT formulas.

To extract text:

=LEFT(A2, B2-1)

To extract number:

=RIGHT(A2, LEN(A2)-B2+1)

Where A2 is the original string, and B2 is the position of the first number.
Another way to split 'text-number' strings

To get rid of the helper column holding the position of the first digit, you can embed the MIN formula into the LEFT and RIGHT functions:

Formula to extract text:
=LEFT(A2,MIN(SEARCH({0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9},A2&"0123456789"))-1)

Formula to extract numbers:

=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-MIN(SEARCH({0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9},A2&"0123456789"))+1)

Split string of 'number + text' pattern

If you are splitting cells where text appears after number, you can extract numbers with the following formula:

=LEFT(A2, SUM(LEN(A2) - LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2, {"0","1","2","3","4","5","6","7","8","9"}, ""))))

The formula is similar to the one discussed in the previous example, except that you use the LEFT function instead of RIGHT to get the number from the left side of the string.

Once you have the numbers, extract text by subtracting the number of digits from the total length of the original string:

=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-LEN(B2))

Where A2 is the original string and B2 is the extracted number, as shown in the screenshot below:

Splitting a column of strings where numbers appear before text

Tip. To get number from any position in the text string, use either this formula or the Extract tool.

This is how you can split strings in Excel using different combinations of different functions. As you see, the formulas are far from obvious, so you may want to download the sample Excel Split Cells workbook to examine them closer.

If figuring out the arcane twists of Excel formulas is not your favorite occupation, you may like the visual method to split cells in Excel, which is demonstrated in the next part of this tutorial.

How to split cells in Excel with the Split Text feature

An alternative way to split a column in Excel is using the Split Text feature included with our Cell Cleaner add-in, which provides the following options:

To make things clearer, let's have a closer look at each option, one at a time.

Split cells by character

Choose this option whenever you want to split the cell contents at each occurrence of the specified character.

For this example, let's the take the strings of the Item-Color-Size pattern that we used in the first part of this tutorial. As you may remember, we separated them into 3 different columns using 3 different formulas. And here's how you can achieve the same result in 2 quick steps:

  1. Assuming you have the Cell Cleaner add-in installed (the trial version can be downloaded here), select the cells to split, and click the Split Text icon on the Ablebits Data tab.
    The Split Text option
  2. The Split Text pane will open on the right side of your Excel window, and you do the following:
    • Expand the Split by character group, and select one of the predefined delimiters or type any other character in the Custom box.
    • Choose whether to split cells to columns or rows.
    • Review the result under the Preview section, and click the Split button.

Splitting a string by the specified character

Tip. If there might be several successive delimiters in a cell (for example, more than one space character), select the Treat consecutive delimiters as one box.

Done! The task that required 3 formulas and 5 different functions now only takes a couple of seconds and a button click.
A column of strings is split into 3 different cells in a button click.

Split cells by string

This option lets you split strings using any combination of characters as a delimiter. Technically, you split a string into parts by using one or several different substrings as the boundaries of each part.

For example, to split a sentence by the conjunctions "and" and "or", expand the Split by strings group, and enter the delimiter strings, one per line:
Splitting cells by strings

As the result, the source phrase is separated at each occurrence of each delimiter:
The source string is separated at each occurrence of each delimiter

Tip. The characters "or" as well as "and" can often be part of words like "orange" or "Andalusia", so be sure to type a space before and after and and or to prevent splitting words.

And here another, real-life example. Supposing you've imported a column of dates from an external source, which look as follows:

5.1.2016 12:20
5.2.2016 14:50

This format is not conventional for Excel, and therefore none of the Date functions would recognize any of the date or time elements. To split day, month, year, hours and minutes into separate cells, enter the following characters in the Split by strings box:

  • Dot (.) to separate day, month, and year
  • Colon (:) to separate hours and minutes
  • Space to separate date and time

Splitting strings by 3 different delimiters

Hit the Split button, and you will immediately get the result:
Day, month, year, hours and minutes appear in separate cells

Split cells by mask (pattern)

Separating a cell by mask means splitting a string based on a pattern.

This option comes in very handy when you need to split a list of homogeneous strings into some elements, or substrings. The complication is that the source text cannot be split at each occurrence of a given delimiter, only at some specific occurrence(s). The following example will make things easier to understand.

Supposing you have a list of strings extracted from some log file:
A list of strings to be split by pattern

What you want is to have date and time, if any, error code and exception details in 3 separate columns. You cannot utilize a space as the delimiter because there are spaces between date and time, which should appear in one column, and there are spaces within the exception text, which should also appear in one column.

The solution is splitting a string by the following mask: *ERROR:*Exception:*

Where the asterisk (*) represents any number of characters.

The colons (:) are included in the delimiters because we don't want them to appear in the resulting cells.

And now, expand the Split by mask section on the Split Text pane, type the mask in the Enter delimiters box, and click Split:
Splitting strings by mask

The result will look similar to this:
The original strings are split into 3 columns.

Note. Splitting string by mask is case-sensitive. So, be sure to type the characters in the mask exactly as they appear in the source strings.

A big advantage of this method is flexibility. For example, if all of the original strings have date and time values, and you want them to appear in different columns, use this mask:

* *ERROR:*Exception:*

Translated into plain English, the mask instructs the add-in to divide the original strings into 4 parts:

  • All characters before the 1st space found within the string (date)
  • Characters between the 1st space and the word ERROR: (time)
  • Text between ERROR: and Exception: (error code)
  • Everything that comes after Exception: (exception text)

Splitting a column of strings into 4 columns

I hope you liked this quick and straightforward way to split strings in Excel. If you are curious to give it a try, here's the trial version to download. And if you are happy with the Split Text performance, you can buy this add-in individually or as part of our Ultimate Suite for Excel. Either way, be sure to grab the 15% off promotion code that we offer exclusively to our blog readers: AB14-BlogSpo

I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

Practice workbook for download

Excel Split Cells formulas (.xlsx file)

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166 Responses to "How to split text string in Excel by comma, space, character or mask"

  1. Sara says:

    I have output from a Qualtrics survey for "select all that apply" questions. I need to import it into a statistical package for analysis (SPSS). The data now have numeric codes for answer choices, but when imported into the stats package are read as string (alpha) and separated by commas. I am trying to use Exsel to separate these values into columns, but need a different column for each value. Some questions have up to 5 values, but users may have only checked 1, 2 or even 4 or 5 options, and so their values vary.

    Original Data: --> New array, where | | indicates a separate column
    1, 2, 5 becomes | 1 | 2 | | | 5| (i.e. the columns for the values 3 and 4 are left blank)
    2, 3, becomes | | 2 | 3 | | | (i.e. the columns for the values 1, 4 and 5 are left blank)
    4 becomes | | | | 4 | | (i.e. the columns for the values, 1, 2, 3 and 5 are left blank)

    Text to column separates them, but then I have a column with a mixture of answers (e.g. 1, 2, 4 based on example above) yet I need to create a dichotomous variable for answer choice 1, a separate one for 2, etc. Any ideas? Thank you.

    • Erik says:

      I don't know if you can do it other than with a formula:

      ______A___ | ____________B______________ ... ____________F______________
      1 | "1,2,5" | =if(iserr(find("1",A1)),"",1) ... =if(iserr(find("5",A1)),"",5)
      2 | ...
      3 | "4" ____| =if(iserr(find("1",A3)),"",1) ... =if(iserr(find("5",A3)),"",5)

    • Hello Sara!
      If I understand your task correctly, please try the following formula:
      For example, the value of cell A1 is 1,2,5
      Formula in cell B1
      =IFERROR(IF(--FIND("1",A1,1) > 0,1,""),"")
      Formula in cell C1
      =IFERROR(IF(--FIND("2",A1,1) > 0,2,""),"")
      Formula in cell D1
      =IFERROR(IF(--FIND("3",A1,1) > 0,3,""),"")
      Formula in cell E1
      =IFERROR(IF(--FIND("4",A1,1) > 0,4,""),"")
      Formula in cell F1
      =IFERROR(IF(--FIND("5",A1,1) > 0,5,""),"")
      I hope this will help, otherwise please do not hesitate to contact me anytime.

  2. gabriel says:

    Thank you!

  3. remco says:

    Hello,
    I'am looking for this function:
    I have a cell like this : XTORM SOLID BLUE MICRO USB CABLE 1MTR
    I want to split this cell (all cells with text) after the 3rd or 4rd space, like this
    XTORM SOLID BLUE
    MICRO USB CABLE
    1MTR
    Those words undernead in 1 cell
    Is this possible?? i hope thanks!!! greetz remco

    • Hello Remco!
      To divide the text into 3 cells after every third space, use the formulas

      =LEFT(C1,FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",3))-1)

      =MID(C1,FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",3))+1, FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",6)) -FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",3)))

      =IFERROR(MID(C1,FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",6))+1, FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",9))-FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",6))), MID(C1,FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",6))+1, LEN(C1)-FIND("*",SUBSTITUTE(C1," ","*",6))))

      I hope this will help

  4. Rahul Mopari says:

    Hi..
    Plz help me to count the frequency in the following
    1234567 = frequency is 7 than plz help me to find correct formula for count frequency in the following examples
    1.3..67 = 4 and
    7 = 1 and
    ...3...7 = 2

    Plz help

  5. michael olson says:

    I am working with power query and my results have jumbled together movie names with release dates, where the release date (format August 7, 2020) is combined with the movie name. the movie names of course are different lengths, and the dates are different lengths depending on the release date. I'm not finding any way to split my data between the movie name and the release date (example: The Broken Hearts GalleryAugust 7, 2020). Can you show me how to do this?

  6. Thani says:

    Hi Team - Thanks for this material.. absolutely useful. However I am a bit stuck (think i am being naive as missing something :) ).. From example above, how am i able to split all the string between 2 characters as there are multiple occurrences.
    Above example shows clearly on how to extract between 1st and 2nd occurrence. How about 2nd and 3rd occurrence, 3rd and 4th occurrence etc.. I want this to be in a single formula.
    Example:
    Dress-Blue-S-US-20-Yes
    Expected output:
    Blue (Answer available on top of this post)
    S
    US
    20
    Yes

    • Hello!
      Dividing a long text into separate words using a formula is a very difficult task. If the text contains more than 4 words, then solving the problem using the formula does not make sense. Use the standard Text to Columns tool or the Ablebits Split Text tool, which is described earlier in this article.

      • Thani says:

        Hi - Unfortunately i cannot use the options in Excel as I can only use it via formula due to the fact that the incoming value string is a variable that will be written at runtime & has to be decoded into above requirement during playback/runtime
        Thanks

  7. Poulpa says:

    For those wondering how to split a chain of characters into more than 3 cells :
    I'm too lazy to translate my formulas. The functions are in french so I'll just translate them here :
    GAUCHE = LEFT
    DROITE= RIGHT
    STXT= MID
    CHERCHE= SEARCH
    NBCAR= LEN

    So, I wrote in A2 (yeah I started from A2 instead of A1) :
    test1;test2;test3;test4;test5;test6
    I want to separate this into 6 cells.
    In B2, I type :
    =GAUCHE(A2;(CHERCHE(";";A2;1)-1))
    This gives me "test1".
    In C2, I type :
    =STXT(A2;NBCAR(B2)+2;CHERCHE(";";A2;(NBCAR(B2)+2)-CHERCHE(";";A2))-1)
    This gives me "test2"
    In D2, I'll write :
    =DROITE(A2;NBCAR(A2)-NBCAR(B2)-NBCAR(C2)-2)
    This gives me "test3;test4;test5;test6"
    From there on, I can reiterate the two other formulas to obtain in E2 : "test3", in F2 : "test4", in G2 : "test5;test6" and so on and so on.

  8. Anand says:

    Hi Team,
    He is a smart guy.
    smart people are everywhere.
    I want to print the word which is right after the word "smart", can some one please help me
    Thanks,
    Anand

  9. Peter Giron says:

    I have a challenge on number search in a cell that is formatted as text. I have a TAB "Systems Software" with column G that have cells with multiple numbers (not necessarily in numeric order) separated by commas (i.e., G4 contains 4,28,9,14,44,23,10,104) in each cell. Each cell may have a single number, or be empty or a string of numbers separate by a commas. I need to find if a given specific number (i.e., 4) is in that string of numbers that are contained in a cell formatted as text. It is number four that I am searching for in that sample, not the four in fourteen or forty four or one hundred four. If I find the search number within the number in the string, I can print an X in the cell that is doing the search. Otherwise, if the number is not found, leave the cell empty. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  10. Kalpesh says:

    Hi there,
    How to split this? Can you tell me?
    151 Exc AvenueNey York, NY 10001
    123 Word AptMiami, FL 23456
    I Want city name to be in separate field and presiding address in separate field. Any formula which puts the word starting in CAPITAL after SMALL letter to a different field?

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