Next & Previous

Non-blocking wait or sleep in Office VBA

There are a lot of ways to pause VBA execution when scripting Office and they’re nearly all bad and wrong. The ones I’ve heard, from worst to best:

You can use Application.OnTime to schedule when you want a Sub to happen. Let’s look at a simple case, a count-up clock where I want to increment the value in Excel cell A1 once per second.

Before - a “blocking wait”

A blocking wait looks like this:

Sub BlockingChange()
    Dim i As Integer
    i = 0
        Range("A1").Value2 = i
        Application.Wait Now + TimeValue("0:00:01")
        i = i + 1
End Sub

This will work but will freeze Excel. There is no way of stopping it except to press Ctrl+Break.

After - a non-blocking delay

The alternative with OnTime would be:

Sub NonBlockingChange()
    Application.OnTime Now + TimeValue("0:00:01"), "NonBlockingChange"
End Sub

Sub Update()
    Range("A1").Value2 = CInt(Range("A1").Value2) + 1
End Sub

Now be warned that every time you run this, it will schedule another instance of the running sub, so if you run the macro twice, it will run the sub twice per second, etc.

Pressing Stop in the VBA editor won’t actually stop the scheduled events. To do that, you just pass False as the fourth parameter to OnTime:

Sub StopChanges()

On Error GoTo Catch
    Application.OnTime Now + TimeValue("0:00:01"), "NonBlockingChange", , False
    Exit Sub
    MsgBox ("Nothing to stop")
End Sub

If you’re a JavaScript developer, you’ll notice that this is very similar to JavaScript’s Window.setTimeout() method.

Async programming

This technique can be used more widely than for simple waiting, giving you access to asynchronous method calls for whatever purpose you should desire.


If you get the error, “Cannot run the macro… the macro may not be available in this workbook” then there are a few possible causes. You may have to set ‘Trust access to the VBA project object model’. Or, if you’re me, this bug is because you’ve added your Sub into the code for a Workbook or Spreadsheet instead of a Module.

To make your Sub publicly accessible by its short name, either put it in a Module, or refer to it like Sheet1!NonBlockingChange. Whatever you prefer.