Filter and Sort a Listbox With a Helper Table

Filter and Sort a Listbox With a Helper Table

I’ve been attempting to bend the Recent Files folder to my will for creating my own recent files form in Excel. My motivation is that Recent Files in Excel 2013 is one step further removed than in 2010. Now I’ve got a form that accesses all the Excel files in Windows Recent folder. I learned some interesting things putting it together, like how to extract a shortcut’s path in VBA. Even more interesting – instead of filtering and sorting the form’s main listbox using Like functions, arrays and collections, I just pull all the file data into a structured table and use it as the listbox’s source. When I want to sort or filter the listbox I just sort or filter the table and re-populate the listbox from the table. Much easier! No multi-dimensional array quicksorts or dictionaries required.

Recent Files form and table

In actual use, the sheet with the table is hidden (it’s in my utility addin), but above is a picture of the form and the table working together.


The Windows Recent Files list is some kind of semi-virtual folder that contains a bunch of shortcuts to the files you’ve opened since, well, I’m not sure when. In my Windows 10 and Windows 7 computers the path


gets me there.

One interesting thing about the Recent folder is that it contains workbooks that you create with code, which isn’t necessarily true in Excel’s Recent list. It also contains addins.

The folder looks like this:

Recent Files folder

It’s chock-full of all kinds of shortcuts. At first I thought I’d just use a FileBrowserDialog with the filter set to .xls* but that doesn’t work because the file types are really all .lnk. You can enter “.xl” in the Search box in the upper right and it will filter to just Excel files, but I can’t find a way to get something into the Search box using VBA.

So next I just plunked all the filenames into a sheet and added hyperlinks to the files that still exist (just like Excel’s recent files list, the shortcuts can outlive the files):

Recent Files sheet

That kind of works, isn’t a great interface for something like this. The thing that really doesn’t work is that without VBA you can’t click multiple hyperlinks at once.

So instead I turned that table into the source for a listbox on a userform. It’s got columns showing whether the file has been deleted, its modified date and full path:

Recent Files form

Filtering and Sorting the Listbox using the Tables Sort and Filter Objects

There it is nicely filtered to files that haven’t been deleted and other stuff sorted from newest to oldest, etc. And in order to get those nicely sorted dates, I just turned on the macro recorder and fiddled with some table-sorting VBA that it generated. Here’s the routine for the click event for the date-sorting label:

Private Sub lblFIleSort_Click()
Dim SourceTable As Excel.ListObject

If Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "Unsorted" Then
    Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "A to Z"
ElseIf Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "A to Z" Then
    Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "Z to A"
ElseIf Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "Z to A" Then
    Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "A to Z"
End If
Me.lblDateSort = "Unsorted"

Set SourceTable = ThisWorkbook.Worksheets("RecentFiles").ListObjects("tblRecentFiles")
With SourceTable.Sort
    .SortFields.Add Key:=SourceTable.ListColumns("File").Range, _
                    SortOn:=xlSortOnValues, _
                    Order:=IIf(Me.lblFIleSort.Caption = "A to Z", xlAscending, xlDescending), DataOption:=xlSortTextAsNumbers
    .Header = xlYes
    .Orientation = xlTopToBottom
End With
End Sub

That’s some pretty simple sorting code for a three-column listbox! The code for filtering it by filename is even shorter:

Private Sub txtFileFilter_Change()
Dim SourceTable As Excel.ListObject

Set SourceTable = ThisWorkbook.Worksheets("RecentFiles").ListObjects("tblRecentFiles")
SourceTable.Range.AutoFilter Field:=3, Criteria1:="=*" & Me.txtFileFilter.Text & "*", Operator:=xlAnd
End Sub

The last line of each sub above calls the FillLstRecentFiles subroutine, which plunks the visible rows in the helper table into the listbox:

Sub FillLstRecentFiles()
Dim SourceTable As Excel.ListObject
Dim VisibleList As Excel.Range
Dim SourceTableArea As Excel.Range
Dim SourceTableRow As Excel.Range
Dim Source() As String
Dim i As Long

Set SourceTable = ThisWorkbook.Worksheets("RecentFiles").ListObjects("tblRecentFiles")
On Error Resume Next
Set VisibleList = SourceTable.DataBodyRange.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeVisible)
On Error GoTo 0
If VisibleList Is Nothing Then
    GoTo Exit_Point
End If
For Each SourceTableArea In VisibleList.Areas
    For Each SourceTableRow In SourceTableArea.Rows
        i = i + 1
        ReDim Preserve Source(1 To 3, 1 To i)
        Source(1, i) = SourceTableRow.Cells(1)
        Source(2, i) = SourceTableRow.Cells(2)
        Source(3, i) = SourceTableRow.Cells(3)
    Next SourceTableRow
Next SourceTableArea
'If there's just one row
If i = 1 Then
    Me.lstRecentItems.AddItem (Source(1, 1))
    Me.lstRecentItems.List(0, 1) = Source(2, 1)
    Me.lstRecentItems.List(0, 2) = Source(3, 1)
    Me.lstRecentItems.List = WorksheetFunction.Transpose(Source)
End If

The main thing about the code above is that it cycles through the discontiguous Areas of the filtered table.

I’ve taken this code and added it to my main utility addin. Every time I open the utility it creates the sheet with the source table. When the form is closed the table gets deleted. It’s not terribly fast on a network when it first parses through all the files, so I don’t know how much I’ll actually use it. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be using listbox helper tables.

Have You Ever Used a Table Like This?

I’m curious whether you’ve ever used a table as a listbox helper like this. If so, how well did it work?


Here’s a download so you can try it out . It also has some nifty code for getting a shortcut’s path and other treats as well.


5 thoughts on “Filter and Sort a Listbox With a Helper Table

      • Hi Doug,

        I happened to have had a website url in my Windows Recent files list in addition to the regular document links and it causes an error in Function FileExists due to a bad strFileName. After I deleted the reference from the list, the form worked perfectly.


        • Martin, thanks for catching that. There was some sloppy coding where I first checked if the file existed before checking if it met the “.xls*” search criteria. I switched that around and re-uploaded.

          I’m glad to hear it’s working for you.

  1. The file works perfectly for me.
    I just happen to like Boolean maths as in (saves a tiny bit of coding):

    Function FileExists(strFileName As String) As Boolean

    FileExists = (Dir(pathname:=strFileName, Attributes:=vbNormal) <> "")

    End Function


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