In this guide, you’ll see how to use the **Excel string functions** to retrieve specific characters from a string in Excel.

Specifically, you’ll observe how to apply the following Excel string functions using practical examples:

Excel String Functions Used | Description of Operation |

LEFT | Get characters from the left side of a string |

RIGHT | Get characters from the right side of a string |

MID | Get characters from the middle of a string |

LEFT, FIND | Get all characters before a symbol |

LEFT, FIND | Get all characters before a space |

RIGHT, LEN, FIND | Get all characters after a symbol |

MID, FIND | Get all characters between two symbols |

## Excel String Functions

To start, suppose that you stored different strings in Excel that contain a mixture of:

- Letters
- Digits
- Symbols
- Spaces

The ultimate goal is to isolate/retrieve only the *digits* within those strings.

### Retrieve a specific number of characters from the *left *side of a string

In the example below, you’ll see 3 strings. Your goal is to retrieve only the 5 *digits* from the **left-side**:

(1) First, type/paste the table below into Excel, within the range of cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

55555-End | |

77777-End | |

99999-End |

Since the goal is to retrieve the first 5 digits from the left, you’ll need to use the LEFT formula, which has the following structure:

=LEFT(Cell where the string is located, Number of characters needed FROM THE LEFT)

(2) Next, type the following formula in cell **B2**:

`=LEFT(A2,5)`

(3) Finally, drag the LEFT formula from cell **B2 to B4** in order to get the results across your 3 records.

This is how your table would look like in Excel after applying the LEFT formula:

Identifier | Result |

55555-End | 55555 |

77777-End | 77777 |

99999-End | 99999 |

### Retrieve a specific number of characters from the *right *side of a string

To retrieve the 5 digits from the **right-side** of the strings:

(1) Type/paste the following table into cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

ID-55555 | |

ID-77777 | |

ID-99999 |

Here, use the RIGHT formula that has the following structure:

=RIGHT(Cell where the string is located, Number of characters needed FROM THE RIGHT)

(2) Then, type the following formula in cell **B2**:

`=RIGHT(A2,5)`

(3) Finally, drag your RIGHT formula from cell **B2 to B4**.

This is how the table would look like after applying the RIGHT formula:

Identifier | Result |

ID-55555 | 55555 |

ID-77777 | 77777 |

ID-99999 | 99999 |

### Get a specific number of characters from the *middle *of a string

To retrieve the 5 digits from the **middle** of the strings:

(1) Type/paste the following table into cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

ID-55555-End | |

ID-77777-End | |

ID-99999-End |

Here, use the MID formula with the following structure:

=MID(Cell of string, Start position of first character needed, Number of characters needed)

(2) Now type the following formula in cell **B2**:

`=MID(A2,4,5)`

(3) Finally, drag the MID formula from cell **B2 to B4**.

This is how the table would look like:

Identifier | Result |

ID-55555-End | 55555 |

ID-77777-End | 77777 |

ID-99999-End | 99999 |

### Gel all characters before a symbol (for varying-length strings)

To retrieve all the desired digits **before a symbol** (e.g., the hyphen symbol “-“) for *varying-length* strings:

(1) First, type/paste the following table into cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

111-IDAA | |

2222222-IDB | |

33-IDCCC |

Here, you’ll need to use the FIND function to find your symbol:

=FIND(the symbol in quotations that you'd like to find, the cell of the string)

(2) Then, type the following formula in cell **B2**:

`=LEFT(A2,FIND("-",A2)-1)`

Note that the “-1” at the end of the formula simply drops the hyphen symbol from the final results.

(3) As before, drag your formula from cell **B2 to B4** to see the complete results:

Identifier | Result |

111-IDAA | 111 |

2222222-IDB | 2222222 |

33-IDCCC | 33 |

### Gel all characters before a space (for varying-length strings)

To get all the digits **before a space** for varying-length strings:

(1) To start, type/paste the following table into cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

111 IDAA | |

2222222 IDB | |

33 IDCCC |

(2) Then, type the following formula in cell **B2 **(here, simply leave an empty space within the double quotes):

`=LEFT(A2,FIND(" ",A2)-1)`

(3) Finally, drag the formula from cell **B2 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

111 IDAA | 111 |

2222222 IDB | 2222222 |

33 IDCCC | 33 |

### Obtain all characters after a symbol (for varying-length strings)

To get all the digits after the hyphen symbol (“-“) for varying-length strings:

(1) First, type/paste the following table into cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

IDAA-111 | |

IDB-2222222 | |

IDCCC-33 |

(2) Secondly, type the following formula in cell **B2**:

`=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-FIND("-",A2))`

(3) Finally, drag your formula from cell **B2 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

IDAA-111 | 111 |

IDB-2222222 | 2222222 |

IDCCC-33 | 33 |

### Obtain all characters between two symbols (for varying-length strings)

To retrieve only the digits between the two hyphen symbols for varying-length strings:

(1) First, type/paste the following table into cells **A1 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

IDAA-111-AA | |

IDB-2222222-B | |

IDCCC-33-CCC |

(2) Then, type the following formula in cell **B2**:

`=MID(A2,FIND("-",A2)+1,FIND("-",A2,FIND("-",A2)+1)-FIND("-",A2)-1)`

(3) And finally, drag your formula from cell **B2 to B4**:

Identifier | Result |

IDAA-111-AA | 111 |

IDB-2222222-B | 2222222 |

IDCCC-33-CCC | 33 |