Q. I have a problem that is driving me crazy! I know the asterisk (*) is used as a “wild card” when you’re searching for a file or data. But what I need to replace is a bunch of asterisks in an Excel worksheet and replace them with some data. So I evoke Find and Replace (Ctrl+H) and instruct it to replace all the asterisks with my data. So far so good. But when I hit Replace All , it replaces everything in the worksheet—not just the asterisks—because the asterisk is a wild card! It’s a catch-22. You see why this is making me nuts? Please help!
A. Relax. There is a solution. For those who aren’t aware of the power of wild cards, let me take a moment to bring you up to speed. A wild card is a keyboard character—in this case, an asterisk—that stands for any keyboard character(s); it’s not unlike wild cards in poker. So, for example, if you’re doing a search with Explorer’s Search tool for the file C:clientszignazerwitz taxproblem.doc , but you don’t remember (or can’t spell) the client’s name—Zignazerwitz—you can use the asterisk wild card: *tax problem.
Now, back to the question. The asterisk also is a wild card when you conduct a search or a replacement, and it works in all applications, including Excel. Thus, if you want to find all the 4s in a worksheet, even when some of the cells contain multiple numbers such as 34 and 44, you evoke Find and Replace and enter *4 in Find what:.
Excel does the search, finds all the 4s, even when they are paired with other numbers, and tells you their cell location.
But if your worksheet contains asterisks and you want to replace them with 4s, you need to tell Excel to cancel the asterisk’s wild card attribute by placing a tilde (~) before it like this: ~*.
Now Find and Replace produces this screen, replacing all the asterisks with 4s: