More great Word tricks with Find

We’ve all seen the standard Find/Replace in Microsoft Word, either the ‘new’ pane or the older dialog box. Like so much else in Word, there’s a lot more available than the obvious features.  Here’s a look at some of tricks.

Press Ctrl + F to start a Find.  In recent versions of Word, the Navigation pane will appear. Earlier Word’s will pop up the Find dialog box.   Type in your search and Word will run the search as you type (aka incremental Find).

The results appear in the pane and you can click on each result (or use the arrows) to jump to that part of the document.  The sought word or phrase highlighted in the text.

Whole Words

As you can see, the search has shown all instances of the letters ‘fought’ either as a word or in a larger word like  ‘unfought’.  To quickly search for a word alone, type a space before and after the Find word (there is a ‘Find Whole Word only’ option too).

Now the 8 results are down to 3 with words like, say, ‘unfought’ or ‘foughts’ omitted.

More Find features

Under the tiny down wedge at right of the Find field is the window to all manner of interesting Find options.  Search for Graphics, Tables, Equations, Footnotes/Endnotes or Comments.


These are global Find settings. You have the same choices available for ‘one off’ searches with the Advanced Find dialog that we’ll discuss below.

Special things to find

Sometimes you don’t want to find words but objects inside the document.  The Find:  sub-menu lets you do that for:

  • Graphics
  • Tables
  • Equations
  • Footnotes / Endnotes
  • Comments

For example, choose Equations and any in the document will show up in the Navigation pane.

Advanced Find

Advanced Find is hiding with no direct button nor shortcut to reach it.  That’s an annoyance Microsoft has conspicuously failed to fix.

But in this dialog is all manner of nifty Find tricks that are worth exploring.

Find what

Type in your search terms just like in the Navigation pane … except now there’s a pull-down list of recent searches.  Click on a past search to run it again, or alter a past search before trying again.

Alas, only ones you’ve done from the Find dialog box without any searches from the Navigation pane.

You can choose to run a previous search again, perhaps with different settings or slightly change the search pattern.

Reading Highlight

Choose whether the search results are highlighted in the document, as they are in the normal search pane.

Find In

Normally, Word will search the main document but you can choose to search other document elements like Comments, Footnotes etc.

Use Find In to choose what to search.  The options shown depend on what’s available in your document.  If there are no Footnotes, the Footnote choice won’t appear.

You can select part of the document and only search within the selection by choosing ‘Current Selection’ from the Find In menu.

Find Next

An important feature of the Find dialog box is that it’s non-modal.  That’s a fancy geek term which means that you can switch between the Find box and the document itself (move the Find box around so you can see the document).

That’s handy for situations where you need to find something then change the text manually.

When you’re done click ‘Find Next’ to move along to the next search result , leaving the Find dialog box open.


Shows you the choices made that affect the current search.  As you use more of the other Advanced Find options they will show up here.

If your Find isn’t going the way you’d expect, check the Options to see if they’re correct.  Here’s an extreme example of Find options:

Under the Find | More button ..

Click on the More button to see all the goodies that Microsoft is hiding from you.

Probably the most powerful choices here are under the Formatting and Special buttons so we’ll look at those now.

Find Formatting

Not only can you search for word, graphics, tables etc, you can also search for types of formatting.  Word will let you search for a certain style, font, language and other formatting choices.

You can search for formatting only (i.e. applied to any text) or specific text that’s used with certain formatting (e.g.  ‘fought’ in bold ).

A popular use of this feature is to search for highlighting.  Some people use highlighting to mark parts of a draft document that need further work.  It’s a good idea to check for that highlighting before releasing the final version.

To search for highlighting choose Format | Highlight from Advanced Find then click Find Next.

The Options area changes to show the formatting that’s part of the search.

Another possibility is searching for a word or phrase with certain formatting.  Here we’re searching for the name ‘Fred Dagg’ but only if it has Bold and Italic formatting.

Not Bold, Not Italic

Under the Font menu are some nifty ‘reverse’ options ‘Not Bold’ and ‘Not Italic’ so you can search for terms that are not formatted that way.  Use this to check for a phrase that hasn’t been formatted consistently, like a company or product name.

The ‘No Formatting’ button will clear all formatting search parameters.

Find Special Characters

Word has special codes to let you search for special characters.  All use the carat symbol plus one other character:

^p           Paragraph Mark

^t            Tab

^w          White Space (i.e space, nonbreaking space or tab)

Searching for  .^p  will find a fullstop/period immediately followed by the end of a paragraph.   ^p^p  will find two ‘new lines’ in a row.

There are also single character ‘wildcards’ available

^?           Any character

^#           Any digit

^$           Any letter

For example   c^?t  will find both  ‘cat’ and ‘cot’.

Happily, you don’t have to remember any of these codes because they are all listed under the Special button.

Choose the item you want and the code will be inserted for you.  Of course, you can type in the codes yourself too.

More Word Find / Search tricks
Two ways to find accented letters in Word
The trick to Find or Replace web links in Word
Word’s Find can’t find all Unicode symbols and emoji
Find pane search secrets in Word
Find and Remove Hidden Text in Word

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