Get the Most Out of Word's Find and Replace


Key to Instructions

To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we used two different typefaces:

Boldface type is used to identify the names of icons, agendas and URLs.

Sans serif type shows the names of files and the names of commands and instructions that users should type into the computer.

When I search for a word in a document, Find often wastes my time by locating not just that word but others that contain the same contiguous letters. Is there a better search tool?

The tool is one of the best, but I gather from your question that you don’t know how to use it. That’s not surprising, because some of its facets are not intuitive and it’s more complicated than it looks. First of all, it does more than find text; it also can find and replace words, letters, numbers, special characters and even formats, which is why its full title is Find and Replace . Press Ctrl+F to evoke the Find tab and Ctrl+H for the Replace tab.

Let’s take a closer look at this versatile tool. Notice it has a More box, which, when clicked on, toggles to a larger, more comprehensive screen with many more functions (see screenshots).

Click on More (above), and the screen expands into the below.

When you’re in the More mode, clicking on the Format or Special button evokes a drop-down menu with many search targets (see screenshot).

Click on Sounds like (English) under the Search menu to locate words you spelled phonetically; so if you typed fonetikly , it will find the misspelled word and correct it. To locate a word in all its different forms, such as ran, run, running, type ran and click on Find all word forms (English) .

If the word you’re looking for— lint, for example—contains a group of contiguous letters that are contained in other words in the document—such as splinter —and you want to filter out those other words, place a check next to Find whole words only. Only lint will be targeted.

The More mode also lets you use wildcards to represent any string of letters. For example, click on Use wildcards and use the asterisk (*) to search for a string of characters; s*d finds sad, said and started.

If you’re searching for something special, such as a graphic, click on Special for a large list of options. To search for a character that has been defined as a wildcard, type a backslash () before the character—?, for example. If you’re actually searching for an asterisk, place a tilde (~) before the asterisk like this: ~*. And if you’re looking for a tilde, you guessed it: It’s a double tilde (~~).

As powerful as Find and Replace is, it can’t do a simultaneous search across multiple documents. However, several third-party programs can do that. Here are a few of them:

Word Search and Replace ( ), $25.

Advanced Find and Replace ( ), $19.99.

MegaReplacer ( ), $29.95.

P.S. Don’t overlook Find and Replace ’s third tab on top of the screen ( Go To ). That tool is so intuitive all you need to do is follow the screen instructions.


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