MS-Word 2007/10/13

This article describes and illustrates features and uses for "Find" (Search) and "Find and Replace" in MS-Word.

Find and Find and Replace


Find (Ctrl-F) is an indispensable tool for ferreting out subjects, ideas, and text phrases in documents, especially longer ones. Digital search is lightning fast and never overlooks the occurrence of a keyword.

Find was over-hauled for Word 2010 and is one of few reasons to update from 2007, but a rather compelling one for those regularly using long, well-organized (built-in headings) documents.

Beginning in 2010, Find can highlight search results in three different views: occurrences, pages, and headings.

If that were not enough, without a search keyword, the Search pane in headings view acts as a hyperlinked, outlined table of contents: click on a heading and it is immediately displayed at the top of the document window with its contents below. Stunning!

Note: the Ctrl-F keyboard shortcut for Find is standard right across most other application programs.

In addition to MS-Office applications, Ctrl-F is the quickest way to find specific text in web browsers, Adobe Reader, eMail clients, Windows Explorer, and nearly every other text-based application out there. And once again, keyboard shortcuts rule, because Ctrl-F is always at your beck and call even when Find or Search are nowhere to be seen on menus and toolbars.

Find and Replace

When Microsoft introduced the Search Pane, it re-assigned the Ctrl-F keyboard shortcut from Find and Replace to Search. The new shortcut key for Find and Replace is Ctrl-H.

Reach for Ctrl-H whenever you want to not only find a term, but replace it with another. In the same vein, Find and Replace can find acronyms and replace them with their expanded terms, although AutoCorrect can perform a similar function on the fly.

Find and Replace is also the king of "fix-ups", such as replacing all occurrences of double spacing between characters with a single space.

For advanced fix-ups and other Find and Replace operations, click on the "More" button in the Find and Replace dialog box and explore the options available in "Formatting" and "Special".

  • Use the Special button to search for (and optionally replace) tabs, paragraphs, line, page, or section breaks, etc.

  • Use the Formatting button to search for (and replace) styles and direct formatting

As an example of finding and replacing Special symbols, web page text formatted exclusively with manual line breaks can be cleaned up after pasting into a Word document this way:

  1. First, use More >Special to replace all occurrences of two consecutive line breaks () with a paragraph symbol ()

  2. Then replace remaining manual line breaks with a space character

Among other useful Find and Replace options is "Find Whole Words Only". Use it to prevent a Replace All operation from replacing "mandatory" with "womandatory" when replacing "man" with "woman".

Bruce Miller, 2000, 2005, 2014

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