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Using VBA to access the first sheet in a worksheet is Worksheets(1). The first item in a ListBox is myListBox.List(0). I heard that Collections are 1-based but I don't know what they are. VBA arrays are 0-based. Excel string functions like MID are 1-based. Is there a general principle as to what is based on 0 or 1, or could you provide a list of each?

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  • cell(1,1).characters(index,length) is 1 based but does some sort of boundary clipping so that cell(1,1).characters(0,length) = cell(1,1).characters(1,length) (excel 2013)
    – seanv507
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 10:15

1 Answer 1

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There are 3 main types of grouping constructs available in VBA, with distinctions between indexes

  • Collections - 1-based index

    • 0-based exceptions: UserForm collections like Tabs, Pages, Controls (ListBox, TextBox)
    • Collections are native Excel objects that contain groups (or lists) of logically related objects
    • Normally used to hold complex objects, but can hold basic types as well
    • Excel collections:

      • Workbooks, Sheets, Ranges, Shapes
      • Sheets(1) is the first in the file, Cells(1, 1) is the cell in first Row and first Column
    • Main advantage of collections is the convenience of accessing elements by name

      • For-Each loop is very efficient (compared to For-Each processing of arrays)
      • Accessing individual items by index though, is faster than accessing them by name

  • Arrays - 0-based by default, but the first index can be changed to any number (illustrated bellow)

    • Arrays are variables that contain a set of related variables
    • Normally used for primitive data types like Boolean, Integer, Long, String, Double, etc
    • Once it is defined it will hold only one type of items: Dim x() As Long

      • To hold more complex objects an array can be defined as Dim x() As Variant
      • Variants can be any type of Objects, including Workbooks, Sheets, Ranges, Arrays

        • Dim x As Variant: x = Array(1) '1 Variant variable containing 1 array
        • Dim y(2) As Variant '1 Variant array containing 3 arrays
        • y(0) = Array(1): y(1) = Array(2): y(2) = Array(3)
    • Main advantage of arrays is performance when accessing items by index

      • For index=0 To 10 loops are faster than For-Each loops

  • Dictionaries - not indexed, but indexes can be simulated with Keys

    • Native to VB Script, not VBA (must use an external Library)
    • Can hold any type of objects including Arrays, Collections, or other Dictionaries

A ListBox is a complex object and can be accessed through the 0-based collection of Controls

The .List() property of ListBox is a 0-based array

Other notes

  • 0-based indexes are the standard for other languages

  • VBA introduced the 1-based concept to make it more intuitive for new users:

    • Sheet1 to Sheet3, with collection Count of 3 easier to use than
    • Sheet0 to Sheet2, with collection Count of 3

Some practical examples of the difference between their indexes:

Public Sub vbaCollections()
    Dim c As New Collection     '1-based index

    c.Add Item:="a", Key:="1"   'index 1; Key must a String
    c.Add Item:="b", Key:="2"   'index 2
    c.Add Item:="c", Key:="3"   'index 3

    Debug.Print c.Count         '3;   Items in index sequence: a,b,c, Keys: "1","2","3"
    Debug.Print c.Item(1)       'a;   not available for Dictionaries
    'Debug.Print c.Key("1")     'invalid, so is: c.Key(1)

    c.Remove Index:=2
    Debug.Print c.Count         '2;   items in index sequence: a,c, Keys: "1","3"
    'c.Remove Item:="c"         'invalid, so is: c.Remove Key:="3"

    'c.Add Item:="c", Key:="3", Before:=1   'Key must be unique - Error
    c.Add Item:="c", Key:="5", Before:=1    'allows duplicate Item
    Debug.Print c.Count         '3;   items in index sequence: c,a,c, Keys: "5","1","3"
End Sub

Public Sub vbaArrays()
    Dim a() As Long, b(3) As Long   'Arrays default to "Option Base {0 | 1}"
    Dim c(0 To 0)                   'if "Option Base" not defined, it defaults to 0
    Dim ar(1) As Worksheet: Set ar(0) = Worksheets(1)   'array with 1 Worksheets object

    ReDim a(3)          'creates an array of 4 elements; indexes 0,1,2,3
        Debug.Print "LB: " & LBound(a) & ", UB: " & UBound(a)   'LB: 0, UB: 3
        Debug.Print UBound(a) - LBound(a)                       '3, array b() is the same

    'even whith "Option Base 1", the following still default to 0
    Dim v As Variant:  v = Split("A B")         'array with 2 items: v(0) = "A", v(1) = "B"
    'UserForm1.ListBox1.List = Array("Test")    'array with 1 item: .List(0,0) = "Test"

    ReDim a(0 To 3)     'creates an array of 4 elements; indexes 0,1,2,3
    a(0) = 1:   a(1) = 2:   a(2) = 3    'a(3) defaults to 0

        Debug.Print "LB: " & LBound(a) & ", UB: " & UBound(a)   'LB: 0, UB: 3
        Debug.Print UBound(a) - LBound(a)                       '3; offset index by -1

    ReDim a(1 To 3)     'creates an array of 3 elements; indexes 1,2,3
    a(1) = 1:   a(2) = 2:   a(3) = 3

        Debug.Print "LB: " & LBound(a) & ", UB: " & UBound(a)   'LB: 1, UB: 3
        Debug.Print UBound(a) - LBound(a)                       '2; offset count by +1

    ReDim a(5 To 7)     'creates an array of 3 elements; indexes 5,6,7
    a(5) = 1:   a(6) = 2:   a(7) = 3

        Debug.Print "LB: " & LBound(a) & ", UB: " & UBound(a)   'LB: 5, UB: 7
        Debug.Print UBound(a) - LBound(a)                       '2; offset count by +1

    ReDim a(-3 To -1)   'creates an array of 3 elements; indexes -3,-2,-1
    a(-3) = 1:  a(-2) = 2:  a(-1) = 3

        Debug.Print "LB: " & LBound(a) & ", UB: " & UBound(a)   'LB: -3, UB: -1
        Debug.Print UBound(a) - LBound(a)                       '2; offset count by +1
End Sub

Public Sub vbsDictionaries()
    Dim d As Object         'not indexed (similar to linked lists)
    Set d = CreateObject("Scripting.Dictionary")    'native to VB Script, not VBA

    d.Add Key:="a", Item:=1 'index is based on Key (a, b, c)
    d.Add Key:="b", Item:=2
    d.Add Key:="c", Item:=3
    Debug.Print d.Count     '3; Keys: a,b,c, Items: 1,2,3

    Debug.Print d(1)        'output is empty ("") - adds new element: Key:="1", Item:=""
    Debug.Print d.Count     '4; Keys: a,b,c,1, Items: 1,2,3,Empty
    Debug.Print d("a")      '1
    Debug.Print d(1)        'output is Empty ("") from element with Key:="1"

    'd.Add Key:="b", Item:=2        'attempt to add existing element: Key:="b" - Error

    'd.Keys  - 0-based array (not available for Collections)
    'd.Items - 0-based array (not available for Collections)

    d.Remove d.Keys()(1)            'remove element Item:=2 (Key:="b")
        Debug.Print d.Count         '3; Keys: a,c,1, Items: 1,3,""
    d.Remove d.Items()(0)           'remove Items element 0 (Key:="1", Item:="")
        Debug.Print d.Count         '2; Keys: a,c, Items: 1,3
    d.Remove "c"                    'remove element Key:="c" (Item:=3)
        Debug.Print d.Count         '1; Keys: a, Items: 1

    d.Add Key:="c", Item:=3
        Debug.Print d.Count         '2; Keys: a,c, Items: 1,3

    'd.Remove d.Items()(0)          'invalid
    Debug.Print d.Items()(d.Count - 1)  '3
    d.Remove d.Keys()(d.Count - 1)  'remove last element; access last Key by Key
        Debug.Print d.Count         '1; Keys: a, Items: 1

    Debug.Print d.Exists("a")       'True (not available for Collections)
    Debug.Print d.Exists(2)         'False
End Sub

Further reading:

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