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Creating references programmatically in VBA
Did you know that you can create and manage references from within VBA code? This article gives you ideas on how to do just that.

This blog is part of a complete online VBA tutorial.  For the best way to learn to program in VBA, attend a Wise Owl VBA course.

Posted by Andy Brown on 03 January 2012

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Creating and Using References in Code

It is a little-known fact (well, I keep forgetting it!) that you can create and manage your references within VBA. 

You need to make sure that you are comfortable with the earlier parts of this blog series on referencing other VBA applications before reading any further. 

Referencing the VBA Extensibility Library

To work with references from within VBA code, you first need to create a reference (it's all a bit circular!) to the Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications Extensibility library:

The VBA Extensibility library

Create a reference to the Microsoft VBA Extensibility Library

To do this, select Tools -> References from the VBA code editor menu, and tick the box shown above.

Sample Code to List References

To give you an idea of what's possible, here is a simple program to list out all of the references in the current code project:

Sub ListReferences()

'create a variable to refer to each reference

Dim ref As Reference

'list out all of the current references

For Each ref In Application.VBE.ActiveVBProject.References

Debug.Print ref.Name, ref.Description

Next ref

End Sub

Here VBE refers to the Visual Basic editor within which you are writing code.  The program above might show the following output:

The list of references

The truncated output from the above program in the immediate window

If you have problems running the code above, you may need to tell your application to trust the VBA project object model (Andrew has blogged in full on macro security too).

Useful Reference Properties

A reference object has a fair few properties:

Reference object properties

Some of the properties of a reference - the most useful are listed below.


Here are some of the most useful properties:

Property What it gives Example
Name A short description of the reference stdole
Description A longer description OLE Automation
Guid A unique identifier for the reference {00020430-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}
FullPath Where the object library is C:\Windows\system32\stdole2.tlb
IsBroken Whether the reference is broken False

Adding References Programmatically

You can use the AddFromGUID or AddFromFile methods to add a new reference.  For example:

Sub ListReferences()

'try to add a reference to Word

On Error GoTo CanNotAddWord

Application.VBE.ActiveVBProject.References.AddFromFile "C:\Program Files\Office 2010\Office14\MSWORD.OLB"

Exit Sub


MsgBox "Can not reference Word"

End Sub

The code above would create a reference to the Word 2010 object library, provided that the relevant object library is in the folder given.

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