How to Find and Replace Text in Microsoft Word

Find and Replace

In this tutorial, you can learn how to find and replace text, text with formatting, special characters, or non-breaking characters in Word.

Let’s assume you’re a paralegal and you just finished typing a lengthy legal document or a contract for your client, only to discover that you misspelled your client’s name or a wrong company’s name multiple times throughout your document. And don’t have time to manually locate and replace every instance of the text. What would you do? Don’t panic – you can easily fix that with MS Word’s Find and Replace feature.

Find and Replace is one of the most useful features in Microsoft Word that can be used to find a character, a word, or phrase in a document and replace them. You can also find and replace text in a specific section of text or a whole document.

Not only can you find a particular word and replace it with another word, but you can also find text based on its formatting, using wildcards, and with matching prefix or suffix. It also allows you to find and replace text with specific formatting, non-printing characters, or special characters. In this post, you will learn how to find and replace text in MS Word.

Find Text in Microsoft Word

To start with, let’s see how to Find text in Excel using the navigational pane or the Find and Replace tool. Then we’ll explore how to use the Find and Replace tool to replace text based on different options.

Find Text

You can use the Navigation pane to search for a character, a word, or a group of words. And you can access this navigation pane from the Ribbon or by pressing a hotkey Ctrl + F.

To access, the Navigation panel (Find Command), first, open the Word in which you want to search for text. Then, go to the ‘Home’ tab, and click the ‘Find’ button from the Editing group in the Ribbon. Or you can press the shortcut keys Ctrl + F in the keyboard.

This will open up the Navigation pane on the left of the Window. Type the text or phrase you want to find in the ‘Search document’ text box in the Navigation pane and press ‘Enter’. As you type, the tool will show you all the related matches. In our example, we’ll type ‘Tate’.

The Find command searches for all the matching text in the document and highlights them in yellow. The navigation pane shows all instances of the search word (Tate) as a preview of the results

The tool not only highlights the exact words, it even highlights the partially matched words.

You can use the upward and downward arrows beside the text box to jump to the Previous or Next search result. Or you can click on one of the results below the search field to jump to it directly.

Instead of searching through an entire document for a text or phrase, you can also search a large document by headings. To do that, click the ‘Headings’ tab and select a heading in the Navigation pane to browse by headings in the document.

To search through pages in Word, click the ‘Pages’ tab in the Navigation pane and select one of the thumbnail images of all your pages that you want to see. Then, you can search for a specific text on that page.

Once you’re done editing the document, close the Navigation pane and the highlights will disappear.

Advanced Find

If you are looking for more specific words or phrases, for instance, words with a certain font or style, special characters, or only full words, you can use the Advanced Find feature to track them down. This tool lets you customize your search with various options. Here’s how:

Go to the ‘Home’ tab, click the downward arrow next to the ‘Find’ icon in the Editing group, and select ‘Advanced Find’. Or press Ctrl + H shortcut keys to open the Find and Replace tool.

Or you can even launch the Find and Replace tool from the Navigation pane by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the Search Document text box and selecting the ‘Advanced Find’ option.

The Find and Replace dialog box will appear. Here, you can do a basic search, but if you want to customize your search with more options, Click the More >> button.

When you expand the More button, you would find more options with which you can do more advanced searches.

Select one or more options in the Search Options section and click ‘Find Next’ to view the result.

  • Match Case: If the Match case box is checked, it searches for the text that exactly matches the uppercase and lowercase letters you type in the ‘Find what’ field.
  • Find Whole Words Only: This option finds text that is not partial or part of another word, it only finds the whole words that are exactly matched.
  • Use Wildcards: This option is the opposite of the ‘Find Whole Words only’ option. The wildcards you can use are single character (?) and multiple characters (*) wildcards. For example, when you are searching for “Wall*”, you’ll get Walls, Wallmart, or Wallpaper, etc.
  • Sounds Like: This option finds words or phrases that sound phonetically similar such as ‘eyes’ when searching for ‘ice’ or ‘ant’ for ‘aunt’.
  • Find All Word Forms: This option finds all variants of words (all verb forms). For example, when you search swim, you’ll get swim, swam, and swimming.
  • Match Prefix: This searches for words with the same prefixes. For example, search for hype, and you may get hyperactive, hypersensitive, hypercritical.
  • Match Suffix: This searches for words with the same suffixes. For example, search for less, and you may get endless, ageless, lawless, effortless.
  • Ignore Punctuation Characters: This option lets you ignore punctuation characters in a text when searching. For instance, finding the word ‘Mrs. Jones’ when you searched for ‘Mrs Jones’.
  • Ignore white-space characters: This option lets you ignore white spaces in between. For instance, finding the word ‘Days are good’ when you searched for ‘Daysaregood’.

We’ll apply few of these options and see how it works with an example.

Match Case

For example, let’s say we search the word ‘MAGAZINE’ in all caps without the match case option enabled. Type the word in the ‘Find what’ field and click the ‘Find Next’ button.

In the ‘Search’ drop-down under Search Options, you choose ‘Down’ to start looking from the top to bottom of the document, choose ‘down’ to start looking from the bottom to top of the document, or ‘All’ to search all over the document.

When you click ‘Find Next’, it will highlight the first instance of the word in grey. When you click ‘Find Next’ again, it will select the next instance of the word. As you click Find Next each time, it will highlight the matching word one at a time.

If you want to highlight all the instances of the word at once, click the ‘Reading Highlight’ button and select ‘Highlight All’.

You would get several matches with the word all highlighted in yellow.

But if we searched the same word (capitalized) with match case enabled, we would get no results. Because the tool only looks for the word that exactly matches the uppercase letters we typed earlier.

Find All Word Forms

In another example, if we searched the word ‘write’ with the ‘Find all word forms (English)’ setting enabled, we would get all variants of the word.

Word will find all verb forms of the word as shown below.

Advanced Find with Formatting

You can also search for certain word or phrase with specific formatting applied.

To find words with formatting, first, type the word in the ‘Find what’ box and click the ‘Format’ drop-down button at the bottom of the Find and Replace dialog box. Then choose the format in which you want to look for the word.

You can even find words with specific font format, paragraphs with specific alignment and format, tabs, words in a certain language, text frame, style, and highlight.

We are going to search for the word with a certain font format, so we are choosing ‘Font’. In the Find Font window, specify the format as shown below and click ‘OK’.

The chosen Format ‘Font: (Default) STXingkai, Italic’ will appear under the ‘Find What’ text box in the Find and Replace dialog box. Now click ‘Highlight All’ to find the matching words with that format.

As you can see, the tool only highlights the words with that specific font format, while it doesn’t highlight the same matching word in a different font format.

To clear the formatting for the search, click the ‘No Formatting’ button at the bottom of the Find and Replace dialog box.

Find Text with Only Formatting

You can even find texts with formatting alone. You don’t even have to type a word or phrase, you can just specify the only format of the text.

And the tool will find you all the words or phrases with the matching format.

The Find and Replace tool also lets you find non-breaking characters/special characters or words with special characters by choosing the character(s) from the ‘Special’ drop-down button at the bottom of the Find and Replace dialog box.

Find and Replace Text in MS Word

So far, you have learned how to find text and how to find text with advanced options, now let us see how to replace the found text.

The Replace function allows you to find a word or a group of words and replace it with something else or find a word based on text formatting and replace it with other text, or find a specific word and replace its formatting, or find and replace characters with other special characters or words.

Find and Replace Text

To find and replace a particular word or phrase for another, navigate to the Editing group in the ‘Home’ tab and click the ‘Replace’ command. Alternatively, you can also press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + H.

This will open the Find and Replace dialog box. In the Find and Replace dialog box, fill out the two fields:

  • Type the text you want to search for in the ‘Find what:’ field.
  • Type the text you want to replace it with in the ‘Replace with:’ field.

Once you enter the necessary texts, you can either click the ‘Replace’ button to replace the text one by one or ‘Replace All’ to replace all the instances of the word at once.

Replacing all the text together may cause errors in your document if you are not cautious. For example, if you are replacing all the ‘He’ words with ‘She’, it may also replace the words Head with Shead, help with Shelp, heat with Sheat, and so on. So sometimes, it’s better to replace them one at a time.

Click the ‘Find Next’ to find the first instance of the text highlighted in gray and click ‘Find Next’ again to jump to the next instance. Review each instance and click ‘Replace’ to exchange the currently highlighted text.

You can click the title bar of the Find and Replace dialog box and drag it out the way to see the results behind it.

Once you’re done, click the ‘Close’ button to close the dialog box.

Note: If you leave the ‘Replace With’ field blank, the search text in the ‘Find What’ field will be deleted from the document.

Advanced Find and Replace Text

If you are looking to replace more specific words such as words with punctuation, capitalization, certain font or style, or even special characters, you can use the advanced search options of the Find and Replace tool.

To access the advanced options of Find and Replace, click the ‘More >>’ button at the bottom of the dialog.

Here, you have various search and replace options that you can use to narrow down your search.

As we discussed earlier in the Advanced Find section, you already know what each option under the Search Options is used for.

Select one or more options under the Search Options and click ‘Find Next’ to find the matching words or click ‘Replace’ to replace one instance at a time or click ‘Replace All’ to exchange every instance at once.

Example:

As we mentioned before, this tool finds the combinations of characters of the given word, even as part of other words.

For example, when we search for the word ‘Tate’ in the document, it finds that combination of characters even as part of other words like ‘United States’.

And this is not ideal when we replace these words. Also if you hundreds of matches, it would take forever to replace words one by one.

To fix this, check the ‘Find whole words only’ option, to find the words that are not partial or part of other words, it only finds whole words that are exactly matched. Here, we also checked the ‘Match case’ option to make sure it matches the exact uppercase and lowercase letters too. Then, click ‘Replace’ or ‘Replace All’ to replace the words.

You can use the rest of the above options in a similar fashion to customize your search to find specific words.

Find Text and Replace Formatting

You can also find a particular word and replace it with the same word but with specific formatting or replace it with another word with formatting.

For example, we want to find and replace the whole word ‘Lytle’ with a specific font format. To replace formatting, type the word you want to find in the ‘Find what’ field and select the ‘Find whole words only’ option to search for only that whole word. Then, click the ‘Format’ button at the bottom of the dialog box and choose ‘Font’.

You can replace words with other formatting options such as Style, Paragraph, Frame, and so on.

In the Replace Font dialog, choose your desired format style such as font, font style, font color, etc. In our case, we are choosing ‘Elephant’ font and ‘Italic’ style. Then, click ‘OK’ to apply.

Back in the ‘Find and Replace’ dialog box, you can see the chosen formatting is set for the ‘Replace with:’. Since we are only replacing the formatting of the word, leave the ‘Replace with:’ field blank. Then, click either the ‘Replace’ or ‘Replace All’ button to replace the formatting.

Once you click the ‘Replace All’ button a message box will appear informing you how many replacements were made (In our case, 222).

As you can see, all the instances of the word ‘Lytle’ is replaced with specified formatting.

Find Text with a Specific Formatting and Replace

If you want to find a text that has a certain formatting style and replace it with another text, without changing the formatting or with different formatting, you can do it by applying that formatting to the Find word. Here’ how you do this:

For example, we want to find and replace the text ‘Leatherman’, that has particular formatting (Font: Old English Text MT, Style: Italic, Color: Blue, Accent 5), with the text ‘Lincoln’ (without changing the formatting).

First, type the text you want to search for (in our case, Leatherman) in the ‘Find What’ field. Then, click on the ‘Format’ button and choose the options as required (Font).

In the Find Font, dialog box, select the required formatting with which we’re going to find text. In our example, the text ‘Leatherman’ is in ‘Font: Old English Text MT, Style: Italic, and Color: Blue, Accent 5’ formatting. Once the options are selected, click ‘OK’.

Now the selected formatting options should appear under the ‘Find What’ text field in the Find and Replace.

Next, type the text you want it to be replaced with (Lincon) in the ‘Replace with field:’ and click ‘Replace All’. You can also add formatting to the replacement text if you want.

Once you click ‘Replace All’, all of the instances will be replaced and a prompt will show you how many replacements were made.

As you can see all the instances of the ‘Leatherman’ with formatting is replaced by the ‘Lincoln’ without changing the formatting.

Find and Replace Special Characters/Non-Printing Characters

The find and replace feature can also help you find special character characters and replace them with other special characters such as ®, é, ä, or any other character listed in the Symbol dialog. You can also find and replace non-printing characters such as manual line breaks, tab characters, paragraph marks, etc. You can even replace special characters with text and vice versa.

For example, if you want to find and replace the word ‘protege’ with ‘protégé’, type ‘protege’ in the Find what box and type ‘protégé’ in the ‘Replace with’ box. Then, click ‘Replace’ or ‘Replace All’ to replace them.

As you can see the found texts are replaced with replacement text with special characters.

Sometimes you want to replace manual line breaks (non-printing characters) with paragraph marks, in such cases, you need to insert respective character code in the ‘find what’ and ‘replace with’ boxes.

For example, we want to replace all manual line breaks in the documents with paragraph marks. The character code for a manual line break and paragraph mark is ‘^l’ and ‘^p’ respectively. You can either type the code or if you don’t know the code, use the ‘Special’ button to insert the code.

To insert non-breaking characters, first, select the text box where you want to insert. Then, click the ‘Special’ button at the bottom of the Find and Replace dialog box and select an item from the list. And the tool will automatically insert the respective character code in the text box.

In the example, we are choosing ‘Manual Line Break’ for the ‘Find what’ field.

And ‘Paragraph Mark’ for the ‘Replace with’.

Then, click ‘Find Next’ to see where the line breaks are located. Now, click ‘Replace All’ to replace all the manual line breaks in the documents.

As you can see below, the manual line breaks are replaced with paragraph marks.

In the similar way, you can also replace non-breaking characters/special characters with text and vice versa.

That’s everything you need to know about finding and replacing text in Microsoft Word.