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Home > English site > Articles > Controls > 2 groups
Deze pagina in het Nederlands

Using controls on worksheets

Two groups of controls; the differences

By now it is apparent that there are two distinct series of controls: Those from the forms group and those from the Control toolbox (named ActiveX controls in Excel 2007 and up).

Pro's and con's

The table below lists some advantages and disadvantages of both control sets:

Control type
Form controls
ActiveX controls
  • Simple to use
  • Can be used on chart sheets
  • Assigning control to a macro is simple
  • Little known problems
  • Lots of options
  • Lots of events (VBA)
  • Lots of formatting options
  • Lists return the selected value rather than the index number
  • Lists return the index number rather than the selected value
  • Cumbersome to use one macro for multiple controls
  • Sometimes cause of trouble with file corruptions

Which should you use

By now you'll be wondering which set you should use. Generally speaking, I recommend using the controls from the forms toolbar. If you have specific needs regarding formatting which cannot be achieved using the forms controls (or if you want to program events in VBA), then you'll have to switch to the ActiveX controls (control toolbox controls).

Inserting controls

Inserting a control on your sheet is very simple: Just click the control you need (See fig. 2 and 4 on the previous page) and drag a rectangle on the sheet at the position where you want the control to appear. You can also just click on the sheet and have Excel decide what dimensions to use for the control.

If you hold down the alt key when you click on the worksheet, then the control will be aligned to the cell grid. You can also hold the alt key when you are dragging the control or resizing the control to have it snap to the grid. This is a quick way to ensure your controls are nicely aligned and of equal size.

Double click a control on the toolbar or on the Insert controls dropdown if you want to draw multiple copies of that control. Click that control again (or any other control) to get out of that mode.



All comments about this page:

Comment by: burnout (30-12-2009 12:56:35)

spelling in form control advantages:
"Assigning contorl to a macro is simple"


Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (31-12-2009 04:03:46)

Hi Burnout,

Good catch, fixed. Thanks!


Comment by: John Tang (23-1-2011 14:17:42)

I tried out Tip No.2 to draw multiple copies of a selected form control but found out that it does not work. I use Excel 2007 version. Appreciate your clarification.


Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (23-1-2011 22:48:35)

Hi John,

You're right, as of Excel 2007, you can no longer double-click a control in the toolbox so you can draw more of them without having to go to the ribbon again. Pity! I guess the fastest way around this new limitation is by copying and pasting them.


Comment by: Alan Elston (24-12-2017 08:59:16)

I can certainly confirm that ActiveX controls can be the cause of many troubles. Currently I am unable to get them to work at all when embedded in Excel 2003 Worksheets. ( Embed in a UserForm they appear fine ) . In 2007+ they appear currently OK in all situations and usage, at least by me: The internet is, however, full of reports of the problems caused by ActiveX controls, and there sudden non working has been the subject of many Forum and Blog discussions. It would appear that the problems are not fully solved, and I will have to spend some time through Forums, etc.. to investigate further my current problem. They are a very useful tool, but it is a shame they appear not to be reliable, and therefore possibly not a good choice to use in a professional environment.


Comment by: ganesh ram (13-5-2018 12:39:16)

how to toggle between excel sheet to vb userform ?


Comment by: Jan Karel Pieterse (14-5-2018 08:23:20)

Hi Ganesh,

Are you asking how to activate a userform which is already showing, but does not have the focus (because the user clicked on Excel for example)?


Comment by: Alan Elston (24-1-2019 16:40:39)

For over a year , on and off, I have wanted to use ActiveX embedded in a worksheet controls in Excel 2003. Almost always they did not work.
I sat down for a few days and have sorted the problem out on about a dozen machines with operating system of XP, Vista and Win 7. Most had Office 2003 and an higher version like Office 2007 or higher as well.
If you have similar issues then check this out:


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