Microsoft Word: Find and Replace on Steroids

What do you need to know to pump up the Find and Replace features in Microsoft Word to save time and avoid tedious manual editing?

Replacing Formatting
Replacing Special Characters
How to Remove Something Completely
Quick Look at the Basics

Although your options to Find and Replace text and special characters in Microsoft Word are more robust than the other members of the Office suite, the basics to get started are the same for each program.

Keyboard shortcuts to Find and Replace:
Find = [Ctrl] + F
Replace = [Ctrl] + H
Find or Replace commands are also found at:
Microsoft Office 2010/2007 = Home tab > Editing group
Earlier versions of Microsoft Office = Edit menu

Once you open the dialog box to Find or Replace, let’s assume that you are comfortable with the basics to find or replace simple text. What else can you do to be more productive editing your documents?

Quick Tip: Save your documents before launching a Replace command because you’re making many changes at one time.

Replace Formatting

Searching for and replacing instances of a particular font, font size or font style is merely a matter of opening up the Replace dialog box. Next, click the More>> button to display some extra options, and then choose the appropriate selection from the Format drop-down list, which includes Font, Paragraph, and Tabs.

As an example, what if you want to find all occurrences of “important” and color them red? You could do a standard Find command, stopping each time the word is found to apply the color manually but you know there is a more natural way. If you wish to replace all of the instances of a particular word in the document with a formatted version of itself, the first step is to type the word you want to format into the Find what text box.Next, type the same word into the Replace with box and click on the Format button to bring up a drop-down list. From this list, select Font and then choose the desired color for the replacement text (in our example, red). Then close the dialog. Notice the formatting choices displayed immediately below the text entry in the text boxes.

Now click the Find Next, Replace or Replace All buttons depending on how you want to control the results.

You’re not limited to finding a particular word or phrase combined with formatting options – you can leave the Find what blank and only choose formatting attributes. For example, going Find what blank and choosing the italics formatting will find all text that is italicized. Use this to replace unwanted formatting – for example, replacing all italics with bold or a different font style instead.

Quick Tip: To continue with a new Find or Replace action, first clear the previous formatting choices for each text box entry with a simple click on the No Formatting button. This button is only available if a formatting choice is selected.

Replace Special Characters Using Wildcards

Replacing special characters is another useful and less obvious ability of the Microsoft Word Find and Replace commands. First, bring up the Replace dialog box, and then pick the More>> button to show additional options. Now click the Special button to display a drop-down list, and choose the item you want to include in your search.

The special characters include paragraph marks, tab characters, and page breaks to name just a few of the more common ones. Don’t be surprised when Word displays these special characters as a code with a ^ (caret) symbol in front of a letter. For example, a paragraph mark = ^p, tab = ^t, manual page break = ^m.

Replacing the item is merely a matter of entering what you want to use as a replacement (text or special characters) in the Replace with text box, followed by clicking Find Next, Replace or Replace All.

Example: Replace Two Paragraph Marks with One Paragraph Mark

The paragraph mark usually is hidden but can be seen when you choose to view all characters with the Show/Hide icon (found on the Home Ribbon in Microsoft Word 2010/2007; on the Standard toolbar in earlier versions of Microsoft Word). The command icon and paragraph mark display as a funny backward letter P.

When you paste text from one place to another – between web pages, downloads, emails, and documents, you can sometimes end up with too many paragraph marks or not enough. Alternatively, you might want to replace occurrences of two paragraph marks with one score. Replace can help you fix these paragraph mark problems quickly.

Replace two paragraph marks with a single paragraph mark by entering ^p^p into the Find what text box (or select from the Special list), and then type a single ^p into the Replace with the text box. After clicking Replace All, every double spaced paragraph will be replaced with a single-spaced paragraph. Other problems such as too many spaces in the text can be solved with this trick also.

Expand this idea to solve your document formatting challenges.

How to Remove Something Completely

If you wish to remove something entirely from your document, open up the Replace dialog box and type in the word or phrase which you want to transfer into the Find what text box. Decide if you need to include spaces or other punctuation with the text. The critical step here is to leave the Replace with text box empty. In this way, you will replace the search text with nothing at all, which effectively removes it entirely from the document.

Use office 2016 activator to enjoy full Microsoft office features and simplify your work. Then fire up Find and Replace in Microsoft Word and use these tips to discover new formatting and editing timesavers.