We have published many tutorials showing how to create your own VBA macros and procedures. Often the VBA MsgBox function is used to communicate information. For example, our Create Your First Macro tutorial illustrates the ubiquitous MsgBox("Hello World") macro. We even taught you how to change the text color of a MsgBox. Even though we’ve shown some neat MsgBox tricks, most of our previous tutorials have not discussed the use of MsgBox buttons to provide choices for directing a procedure.

VBA’s MsgBox function displays a message in a dialog box with 1, 2, or 3 standard buttons labeled OK, Cancel, Abort, Retry, Ignore, Yes, or No. (We will ignore the possible addition of another button labeled Help because it can only be used to open a Windows Help file.) The function waits until the user clicks a button then returns an Integer indicating the user’s choice. Sometimes the standard button labels might be inadequate. For example, we might want buttons labeled Start, Stop, Open, Close, Jack, Jill, etc. Therefore, we will develop a VBA module with procedures that permit the standard button labels to be changed.

Using VBA's MsgBox Function

The VBA MsgBox function syntax is

MsgBox(prompt, [buttons,] [title,] [helpfile, context])

Only the prompt argument, which is a string, is required; it represents the message to be displayed in the dialog box. The optional buttons argument enables specifying the number and arrangement of buttons, an optional icon image (with related sound), the default button, modality of the dialog box, and some other features. If the title argument is supplied, it will be displayed in the dialog’s title bar; otherwise, the default title will be, for example, Microsoft Excel.

For this tutorial we are primarily concerned with the number and arrangement of buttons and the function’s return value (a whole number from 1 to 7) identifying which button was clicked. (As stated earlier, the function supports a Help button that can only be used to open an optional Windows Help file; the Help button will be ignored here.)

All of the possible settings for the buttons argument are listed in the MsgBox reference. One value from each of the four groups (buttons, icons, defaults, modality) plus up to four other values can be combined by addition. For this tutorial we will focus on the 7 standard buttons labeled OK, Cancel, Abort, Retry, Ignore, Yes, and No which can appear together in the dialog box using 1, 2, or 3 buttons. The following table identifies the possible arrangement of buttons.

VB Constant Value Description
vbOKOnly 0 OK button only
vbOKCancel 1 OK and Cancel buttons
vbAbortRetryIgnore 2 Abort, Retry, and Ignore buttons
vbYesNoCancel 3 Yes, No, and Cancel buttons
vbYesNo 4 Yes and No buttons
vbRetryCancel 5 Retry and Cancel buttons

The function’s return value indicates which button was clicked.

VB Constant Value Description
vbOK 1 OK button clicked
vbCancel 2 Cancel button clicked
vbAbort 3 Abort button clicked
vbRetry 4 Retry button clicked
vbIgnore 5 Ignore button clicked
vbYes 6 Yes button clicked
vbNo 7 No button clicked

So the following VBA statements

ans = MsgBox("Click a button.", vbOKCancel)
ans = MsgBox("Click a button.", (vbYesNo + vbQuestion))

will produce the following dialog boxes

The first ans will have the value 1 or 2 and the second ans will be 6 or 7, depending on which buttons were clicked.

Notice the first dialog box has an X in its upper-right corner, which is disabled in the second. This is the standard Close Window button and is always enabled for the three MsgBox configurations that include a Cancel button; in this case, MsgBox will return vbCancel whenever the Cancel button or the X is clicked or the Esc key or Alt+F4 is pressed.

The second dialog box includes a Question icon associated with the sum of vbYesNo and vbQuestion. When this dialog box is activated, the Question system sound will also play as described in our Play System Sounds tutorial.


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Introducing the MsgBoxCustom Module

So what can we do if the 7 standard MsgBox buttons do not satisfy our requirements? What if we want to add custom button labels to a VBA MsgBox? The solution is to interrupt the process of creating the dialog box and change its button labels before its window is activated. The method is discussed in Microsoft’s CBTProc reference and requires setting a Windows Hook for Computer Based Training (WH_CBT) that specifies a callback procedure to monitor preparation of the window and update the button labels when the HCBT_ACTIVATE message is received.

We must supply the callback procedure, but the following Windows functions enable its implementation: GetCurrentThreadId, SetWindowsHookEx, SetDlgItemText, CallNextHookEx, and UnhookWindowsHookEx. These functions are available in dynamic-link libraries (DLLs); therefore, we must use Declare statements along with module level global constants and variables before any Sub or Function statement in our VBAProject’s module. You may recognize some of these functions from our tutorial on masking your password with the VBA InputBox, which also required hooking.

Here is the complete code for our module:

' This module includes Private declarations for GetCurrentThreadId, SetWindowsHookEx, SetDlgItemText, CallNextHookEx, UnhookWindowsHookEx
' plus code for Public Sub MsgBoxCustom, Public Sub MsgBoxCustom_Set, Public Sub MsgBoxCustom_Reset
' plus code for Private Sub MsgBoxCustom_Init, Private Function MsgBoxCustom_Proc
' DEVELOPER: J. Woolley (for wellsr.com)
#If VBA7 Then
    Private Declare PtrSafe Function GetCurrentThreadId Lib "kernel32" _
        () As Long
    Private Declare PtrSafe Function SetWindowsHookEx Lib "user32" Alias "SetWindowsHookExA" _
        (ByVal idHook As Long, ByVal lpfn As LongPtr, ByVal hmod As LongPtr, ByVal dwThreadId As Long) As LongPtr
    Private Declare PtrSafe Function SetDlgItemText Lib "user32" Alias "SetDlgItemTextA" _
        (ByVal hDlg As LongPtr, ByVal nIDDlgItem As Long, ByVal lpString As String) As Long
    Private Declare PtrSafe Function CallNextHookEx Lib "user32" _
        (ByVal hHook As LongPtr, ByVal ncode As Long, ByVal wParam As LongPtr, lParam As Any) As LongPtr
    Private Declare PtrSafe Function UnhookWindowsHookEx Lib "user32" _
        (ByVal hHook As LongPtr) As Long
    Private hHook As LongPtr        ' handle to the Hook procedure (global variable)
#Else
    Private Declare Function GetCurrentThreadId Lib "kernel32" _
        () As Long
    Private Declare Function SetWindowsHookEx Lib "user32" Alias "SetWindowsHookExA" _
        (ByVal idHook As Long, ByVal lpfn As Long, ByVal hmod As Long, ByVal dwThreadId As Long) As Long
    Private Declare Function SetDlgItemText Lib "user32" Alias "SetDlgItemTextA" _
        (ByVal hDlg As Long, ByVal nIDDlgItem As Long, ByVal lpString As String) As Long
    Private Declare Function CallNextHookEx Lib "user32" _
        (ByVal hHook As Long, ByVal ncode As Long, ByVal wParam As Long, lParam As Any) As Long
    Private Declare Function UnhookWindowsHookEx Lib "user32" _
        (ByVal hHook As Long) As Long
    Private hHook As Long           ' handle to the Hook procedure (global variable)
#End If
' Hook flags (Computer Based Training)
Private Const WH_CBT = 5            ' hook type
Private Const HCBT_ACTIVATE = 5     ' activate window
' MsgBox constants (these are enumerated by VBA)
' 	vbOK = 1, vbCancel = 2, vbAbort = 3, vbRetry = 4, vbIgnore = 5, vbYes = 6, vbNo = 7 (these are button IDs)
' 	for 1 button,  use vbOKOnly = 0 (OK button with ID vbOK returned)
' 	for 2 buttons, use vbOKCancel = 1 (vbOK, vbCancel) or vbYesNo = 4 (vbYes, vbNo) or vbRetryCancel = 5 (vbRetry, vbCancel)
' 	for 3 buttons, use vbAbortRetryIgnore = 2 (vbAbort, vbRetry, vbIgnore) or vbYesNoCancel = 3 (vbYes, vbNo, vbCancel)
' Module level global variables
Private sMsgBoxDefaultLabel(1 To 7) As String
Private sMsgBoxCustomLabel(1 To 7) As String
Private bMsgBoxCustomInit As Boolean

Private Sub MsgBoxCustom_Init()
' Initialize default button labels for Public Sub MsgBoxCustom
    Dim nID As Integer
    Dim vA As Variant               ' base 0 array populated by Array function (must be Variant)
    vA = VBA.Array(vbNullString, "OK", "Cancel", "Abort", "Retry", "Ignore", "Yes", "No")
    For nID = 1 To 7
        sMsgBoxDefaultLabel(nID) = vA(nID)
        sMsgBoxCustomLabel(nID) = sMsgBoxDefaultLabel(nID)
    Next nID
    bMsgBoxCustomInit = True
End Sub

Public Sub MsgBoxCustom_Set(ByVal nID As Integer, Optional ByVal vLabel As Variant)
' Set button nID label to CStr(vLabel) for Public Sub MsgBoxCustom
'   vbOK = 1, vbCancel = 2, vbAbort = 3, vbRetry = 4, vbIgnore = 5, vbYes = 6, vbNo = 7
' If nID is zero, all button labels will be set to default
' If vLabel is missing, button nID label will be set to default
' vLabel should not have more than 10 characters (approximately)
    If nID = 0 Then Call MsgBoxCustom_Init
    If nID < 1 Or nID > 7 Then Exit Sub
    If Not bMsgBoxCustomInit Then Call MsgBoxCustom_Init
    If IsMissing(vLabel) Then
        sMsgBoxCustomLabel(nID) = sMsgBoxDefaultLabel(nID)
    Else
        sMsgBoxCustomLabel(nID) = CStr(vLabel)
    End If
End Sub

Public Sub MsgBoxCustom_Reset(ByVal nID As Integer)
' Reset button nID to default label for Public Sub MsgBoxCustom
'   vbOK = 1, vbCancel = 2, vbAbort = 3, vbRetry = 4, vbIgnore = 5, vbYes = 6, vbNo = 7
' If nID is zero, all button labels will be set to default
    Call MsgBoxCustom_Set(nID)
End Sub

#If VBA7 Then
    Private Function MsgBoxCustom_Proc(ByVal lMsg As Long, ByVal wParam As LongPtr, ByVal lParam As LongPtr) As LongPtr
#Else
    Private Function MsgBoxCustom_Proc(ByVal lMsg As Long, ByVal wParam As Long, ByVal lParam As Long) As Long
#End If
' Hook callback function for Public Function MsgBoxCustom
    Dim nID As Integer
    If lMsg = HCBT_ACTIVATE And bMsgBoxCustomInit Then
        For nID = 1 To 7
            SetDlgItemText wParam, nID, sMsgBoxCustomLabel(nID)
        Next nID
    End If
    MsgBoxCustom_Proc = CallNextHookEx(hHook, lMsg, wParam, lParam)
End Function

Public Sub MsgBoxCustom( _
	ByRef vID As Variant, _
	ByVal sPrompt As String, _
	Optional ByVal vButtons As Variant = 0, _
	Optional ByVal vTitle As Variant, _
	Optional ByVal vHelpfile As Variant, _
	Optional ByVal vContext As Variant = 0)
' Display standard VBA MsgBox with custom button labels
' Return vID as result from MsgBox corresponding to clicked button (ByRef...Variant is compatible with any type)
'   vbOK = 1, vbCancel = 2, vbAbort = 3, vbRetry = 4, vbIgnore = 5, vbYes = 6, vbNo = 7
' Arguments sPrompt, vButtons, vTitle, vHelpfile, and vContext match arguments of standard VBA MsgBox function
' This is Public Sub instead of Public Function so it will not be listed as a user-defined function (UDF)
    hHook = SetWindowsHookEx(WH_CBT, AddressOf MsgBoxCustom_Proc, 0, GetCurrentThreadId)
    If IsMissing(vHelpfile) And IsMissing(vTitle) Then
        vID = MsgBox(sPrompt, vButtons)
    ElseIf IsMissing(vHelpfile) Then
        vID = MsgBox(sPrompt, vButtons, vTitle)
    ElseIf IsMissing(vTitle) Then
        vID = MsgBox(sPrompt, vButtons, , vHelpfile, vContext)
    Else
        vID = MsgBox(sPrompt, vButtons, vTitle, vHelpfile, vContext)
    End If
    If hHook <> 0 Then UnhookWindowsHookEx hHook
End Sub

Notice everything in our VBA module is declared Private except MsgBoxCustom, MsgBoxCustom_Set, and MsgBoxCustom_Reset. Only those three Sub procedures may be accessed outside the module; they will be discussed later under Using the MsgBoxCustom Procedures.

MsgBoxCustom_Init initializes the default (standard) button labels and sets each custom label to the default. It is called when appropriate by MsgBoxCustom_Set. VBA’s Array function is qualified as VBA.Array to insure it is unaffected by Option Base.

The MsgBoxCustom_Proc function is the hook callback procedure set by MsgBoxCustom to monitor preparation of the dialog box window and update button labels before activation. In this case, wParam will be the dialog box window’s handle, so SetDlgItemText is used to change the text of button (control) nID. Since we don’t know which button(s) will be in the final dialog box, all button labels are updated; these will have default values unless set by MsgBoxCustom_Set. Finally, MsgBoxCustom_Proc uses CallNextHookEx to pass the hook information to the next hook procedure in the current hook chain and return the result. The definition of MsgBoxCustom_Proc must be different for VBA7 (which supports LongPtr) than for earlier versions of VBA (which do not).

I know that was complicated, but in a nutshell, all we’re doing is hooking our window and changing the button labels before they’re shown on the screen.


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Using the MsgBoxCustom Procedures

When you want to customize the MsgBox button labels for your project, you’ll first use MsgBoxCustom_Set to define each label. Then you’ll use MsgBoxCustom to create the final message box. For example, the following VBA will create a MsgBox with 2 buttons labeled Open and Close instead of OK and Cancel:

Sub Custom_MsgBox_Demo1()
    MsgBoxCustom_Set vbOK, "Open"
    MsgBoxCustom_Set vbCancel, "Close"
    MsgBoxCustom ans, "Click a button.", vbOKCancel
End Sub

Notice the MsgBoxCustom sub specifies the vbOKCancel button combination since those are the buttons we redefined with our MsgBoxCustom_Set function. The button ID returned in variable ans will be 1 (vbOK) if the Open button was clicked or 2 (vbCancel) if the Close button was clicked. Notice the button ID does not change, only its label.

To make a MsgBox with a Question icon and 2 buttons labeled Start and Stop instead of Yes and No, use the following macro:

Sub Custom_MsgBox_Demo2()
    MsgBoxCustom_Set vbYes, "Start"
    MsgBoxCustom_Set vbNo, "Stop"
    MsgBoxCustom ans, "Click a button.", (vbYesNo + vbQuestion)
End Sub

In this case, ans will be 6 (vbYes) if the Start button was clicked or 7 (vbNo) if the Stop button was clicked.

These two examples are illustrated in the following screen shots:

It should be noted that VBA’s actual MsgBox function will not be altered; it will continue to have buttons with standard labels. The two examples presented in Using VBA’s MsgBox Function were

ans = MsgBox("Click a button.", vbOKCancel)
ans = MsgBox("Click a button.", (vbYesNo + vbQuestion))

These will always have standard buttons labeled OK, Cancel, Yes, and No. The labels only change when you use the three MsgBoxCustom procedures as described above.

After using MsgBoxCustom_Set to change a label, each new use of MsgBoxCustom will reflect that change until the button’s default label is restored by calling the MsgBoxCustom_Reset function (or by calling MsgBoxCustom_Set without specifying a label). For example, if the two demo macros illustrated in the screen shots above are followed by this code

Sub Custom_MsgBox_Demo3()
    MsgBoxCustom_Reset vbOK
    MsgBoxCustom ans, "OK reset.", (vbOKCancel + vbInformation), "MsgBoxCustom"
    MsgBoxCustom_Reset vbYes
    MsgBoxCustom_Set vbNo
    MsgBoxCustom ans, "Yes/No reset.", vbYesNoCancel, "MsgBoxCustom"
End Sub

the results will look like

Notice the vbCancel button’s custom label Close was not reset. The MsgBox still shows Close in place of the Cancel button since we did not reset it. Also, notice the text “MsgBoxCustom” was specified in the 4th argument to MsgBoxCustom and displayed in each title bar.

If either MsgBoxCustom_Reset or MsgBoxCustom_Set is called with a zero argument, then all button labels will be set to default values. Therefore, the following four statements are equivalent. (Notice the use of Call in VBA is optional; if used, all arguments must be within one set of parentheses.)

'Each of these statements are equivalent
MsgBoxCustom_Reset 0		' reset all labels
MsgBoxCustom_Set 0		' reset all labels
Call MsgBoxCustom_Reset(0)	' reset all labels
Call MsgBoxCustom_Set(0)	' reset all labels

When MsgBoxCustom is called, it uses SetWindowsHookEx to set a Windows Hook for Computer Based Training (WH_CBT) specifying the callback procedure MsgBoxCustom_Proc (described above). Then it uses VBA’s MsgBox function to prepare a dialog box in the usual way (except for changes made by MsgBoxCustom_Proc). MsgBoxCustom’s first argument will receive the value returned by MsgBox identifying the clicked button’s ID. MsgBoxCustom’s remaining arguments will be passed directly to MsgBox. Finally, the WH_CBT hook will be removed.


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Final Thoughts

  1. MsgBoxCustom_Reset is superfluous (because it simply calls MsgBoxCustom_Set without a label), but its name describes its purpose.

  2. Custom labels defined using MsgBoxCustom_Set should not be longer than 10 characters (approximately).

  3. MsgBoxCustom_Set and MsgBoxCustom use the VBA IsMissing function to determine whether an Optional argument (which must be Variant) was passed to the procedure.

  4. MsgBoxCustom is made a Sub instead of a Function so it will not be considered a user-defined function (UDF) in Excel’s Insert Function dialog. Therefore, its first argument is declared ByRef to receive the clicked button’s ID from MsgBox. This also helps to visually distinguish code referencingMsgBoxCustom from code referencing MsgBox. Plus, calling MsgBoxCustom_Set followed by MsgBoxCustom followed by MsgBoxCustom_Reset has a certain appealing symmetry.

  5. If desired, MsgBoxCustom could easily be made a Function to match MsgBox, but this would allow it to be referenced in a cell formula like the following example, which might be awkward. If you do this, you will probably want to make MsgBoxCustom_Set a Function, too.

=MsgBoxCustom(IF(WEEKDAY(TODAY(),2)>5,"Weekend","Workday"),,"Today is a")

Although we have referred to Excel throughout this tutorial, MsgBoxCustom applies to any Windows application of VBA.

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