Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She’s been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business. Read more.
Word includes a very powerful search feature that allows you to find information based on almost every kind of condition. There are special wildcard characters that allow you to search for information based on specific patterns and character sequences.
Wildcard searches are available on the standard Find and Replace dialog box, using a special setting. We’ll show you the basics of using this feature to help you learn how you can find almost anything in your Word documents.
In your Word document, press “Ctrl + H” to open the “Find and Replace” dialog box. Click “More” to expand the dialog box and access more options.
NOTE: If the “Less” button is available where the “More” button should be, you don’t have to do anything. The dialog box is already expanded.
Select the “Use wildcards” check box so there is a check mark in the box. Notice that the “Use Wildcards” option displays below the “Find what” edit box.
NOTE: When the “Use wildcards” check box is selected, Word finds only the exact text that you specify. The “Match case” and “Find whole words only” check boxes are unavailable (grayed out) to indicate that these options are automatically turned on and can’t be turned off until the “Use wildcards” option is turned off.
As an example of finding text using a wildcard, we will search for all occurrences of any text beginning with “t” and ending with “e,” with a variable number of characters in between. To do this, type a “t” in the “Find what” edit box and then click the “Special” button at the bottom of the dialog box. Select “0 or More Characters,” or the “*”, from the popup menu.
NOTE: If you know the special character you need to enter, you can type it directly into the “Find what” edit box. The “Special” button provides a reference in case you don’t remember the special characters available to you and their meaning.
Then, type an “e” after the asterisk and click “Find Next.”
The search term with the wildcard is evaluated and the first occurrence is found. Keep clicking “Find Next” to find each part of the text that matches your search term.
To find text containing any one character, use the “?”. For example, entering “d?g” in the “Find what” edit box will find all three letter words beginning with “d” and ending with “g,”,such as “dig,” “dug,” and “dog.”
You can also specify certain letters to vary among when searching using the “”. For example, entering “b[aeiou]t” in the “Find what” edit box will find “bat,” “bet,” “bit,” “bot,”,and “but.”
If you have the “Use Wildcards” option on and you want to search for one of the wildcard characters, use a forward slash (“/”) in front of the character to find it. For example, to find a question mark while “Use Wildcards” is on, enter “/?” in the “Find what” edit box.
You can also replace text using the wildcard characters. For example, you can use the \n (the “n” is replaced with a number) wildcard to search for an expression and then replace it with the rearranged expression. For example, we entered “(Kaufman) (Lori)” in the “Find what” edit box and “\2 \1” (enter a space between the “2” and the second “\”) in the “Replace with” edit box. Word finds “Kaufman Lori” and replaces it with “Lori Kaufman.”
There are additional wildcards and codes you can use to help you search for variations of words, multiple words at once, or similar groups of words.
The question mark matches any single character; the asterisk matches any group of characters (commonly called a text string). Word looks past the asterisk to see whether the search is limited by any other characters.
For example, searching for wo*d finds text such as word, world, and worshipped. Press Ctrl+H to open Find and Replace dialog box:
To use these wildcard characters, select the Use wildcards check box in the Find and Replace dialog box:
These wildcards are handy for finding words that you don’t know how to spell.
For example, if you are not sure how to spell receive, you can type rec??ve. Word then locates any word that begins with rec followed by any two characters followed by ve.
- ? – Any Character. Example: d?g finds dig, dog, and dug
- [-] – Character in Range. Example: [a-m]end finds bend, fend, lend, and mend (the first character in this case is a, m, or any letter between)
- – End of Word. Example: tion> finds aggravation, inspiration, and institution
- () – Expression. Example: Lets you “nest” search expressions within a search term. For instance, to find presorted and prevented
- [!] – Not. Example: Finds the text but excludes the characters inside the brackets; t[!ae]ll finds till and toll but not tall and tell
- – Num of Occurrences. Example: Finds the specified number of occurrences of the letter immediately before the <; to finds too and tool but not to
- – Num of Occurrences. Example: Adding a comma after the number tells Word to look for at least that number of occurrences; a finds four or more of the letter a in a row
- – Num of Occurrences. Example: 10 finds 100 and 1000 but not 10
- @ – Previous 1 or More. Example: Finds one or more of the character immediately preceding the @ sign; ^[email protected]^t finds one or more paragraph break marks followed by a tab mark
- * – 0 or More Characters. Example: Finds a word with one or more of the specified character, or words with none of the characters; des*t finds descent, desert, dessert, and destruct
-  – One of the specified characters. Example: b[aeiou]t finds bat, bet, bit, and but
- [!a-z] – Any single character with the exception of the ones in the range inside the bracket. Example: m[!o-z]st finds mast and mist but not most or must
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask OfficeToolTips team.
Find and Replace Text or Numbers Using Wildcards in Microsoft Word
by Avantix Learning Team | Updated April 2, 2021
Applies to: Microsoft ® Word ® 2013, 2016, 2019 or 365 (Windows)
You can use wildcards in Word to find and replace text and numbers. This is useful when you are not able to find an exact match. To use wildcards, you will need to expand the Find and Replace dialog box.
Do you want to learn more about Microsoft Word? Check out our virtual classroom or live classroom Word courses >
Finding and replacing using wildcards
When you use the Find and Replace dialog box in Word, you can select an option to Use wildcards. A wildcard can replace one or more characters in a string of text or numbers.
It’s important to note that wildcard searches are case sensitive. Also, Word uses “lazy” pattern matching so it will stop matching as soon as possible. This means that you could enter part of a word and find that part without using wildcards.
To find and replace text using wildcards in Word:
- Position the cursor at the location in the document where you want to start finding and replacing. If you want to start at the beginning of the document, you can press Ctrl + Home.
- Click the Home tab in the Ribbon and, in the Editing group, click Find. A drop-down menu appears.
- Click Replace. A dialog box appears. You can also display the Replace dialog box by pressing Ctrl + H.
- Select More to expand the dialog box.
- Click in the Find What box.
- Select or check the Use wildcards checkbox.
- Enter the text and wildcard(s) you want to use. For example, enter s*l to find any text starting with s and ending with l.
- Click in the Replace with box.
- Enter the text you want to use to replace the text in the Find what box.
- Click Find Next to find the first instance of the characters you want to find.
- Click Replace or Replace All. If you click Replace, Word will select the next matching characters in the Find what box. If you click Replace All, Word will display a dialog box with the number of replacements. In this case, click OK.
- If necessary, click Replace again. Repeat for each instance.
- Click Close to close the dialog box.
In the following example, b*s has been entered in the Find what box to find any word starting with starting with b and ending with s:
If you want to undo a Replace or Replace All action, close the dialog box and press Ctrl + Z.
Using common wildcards
The most common wildcards in Word are the asterisk (*) to find multiple characters and the question mark (?) to find a single character.
b*l will find ball and barrel (a character followed any characters and ending with a specific character)
h?ll will find hill and hall (a character followed by any single character and then followed by 2 characters)
Using wildcards to find one or more instances of the same character
You can also use @ as a wildcard to find one or more instances of the same character.
[email protected] will find catchal or catchall
Using wildcards for alternate characters and ranges
You can also use wildcards to find alternate characters or ranges of characters. These are entered in square brackets [ ] and may be combined with other wildcards.
[ ] can be used to find each of a set of characters
[ – ] can be used to find each of a set of characters in a range
You can use any character or series of characters in a range within the square brackets (including the space character). Characters are processed in alphanumeric order from lowest to highest.
[abc] will find any of the letters a, b, or c
[G] will find the upper case letter G
[A-Z] will find any upper case letter
[0-9] will find any single number
 will find any odd number
[0-9A-z] will find any number or letter
f[ai]n will find each of the characters in square brackets such as fan or fin
[b-f]at will find each of a range of characters such as bat, cat, and fat
Using wildcards to omit characters
If you want to omit specific characters, you can use an exclamation mark (!) combined with square brackets.
[!f]ast will find last and past but not fast
Using wildcards to find the beginning or end of a word
You can use the less than symbol ( ) to find the end of a word. These wildcards are combined with characters in round brackets or parentheses.
will find wall or stall
These wildcards can be problematic if you are using a wildcard and you want to find > or will find
Using wildcards to find instances of a character
You can use curly brackets < >to specify the number of instances of a character. These brackets can be combined with a comma to specify the number of instances. Counting can be used with individual characters or with sets of characters.
^p <2>will find two consecutive paragraph marks or hard returns (^p is a special character for a paragraph mark in Word)
<3>will find three spaces (there is a space entered before the first curly bracket)
30 <2,>will find at least 2 instances of the preceding character such as 3000 or 30000
30 <3,4>will find between 3 and 4 instances of the preceding character such as 30000 or 300000 not 300
These last wildcards are particularly useful if you are finding and replacing numbers in Word.
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To locate a specific item when you can’t remember exactly how it is spelled, try using a wildcard character in a query.
Wildcards are special characters that can stand in for unknown characters in a text value and are handy for locating multiple items with similar, but not identical data. Wildcards can also help with getting data based on a specified pattern match. For example, finding everyone named John on Park Street.
For more information about queries, see introduction to queries.
Here are some examples of wildcard characters for Access queries:
Matches any number of characters. You can use the asterisk ( *) anywhere in a character string.
wh* finds what, white, and why, but not awhile or watch.
Matches a single alphabet in a specific position.
b?ll finds ball, bell, and bill.
Matches characters within the brackets.
b[ae]ll finds ball and bell, but not bill.
Excludes characters inside the brackets.
b[!ae]ll finds bill and bull, but not ball or bell.
Like “[!a]*” finds all items that do not begin with the letter a.
Matches a range of characters. Remember to specify the characters in ascending order (A to Z, not Z to A).
b[a-c]d finds bad, bbd, and bcd.
Matches any single numeric character.
1#3 finds 103, 113, and 123.
Examples of wildcard character pattern matching in expressions
To use a wildcard character within a pattern:
Open your query in Design view.
In the Criteria row of the field that you want to use, type the operator Like in front of your criteria.
Replace one or more characters in the criteria with a wildcard character. For example, Like R?308021 returns RA308021, RB308021, and so on.
On the Design tab, click Run.
Here are some examples of wildcard patterns that you can use in expressions:
? or _ (underscore)
Any single character
Zero or more characters
Any single digit (0 — 9)
Any single character in charlist
Any single character not in charlist
Any alphanumeric character
Any of the uppercase letters in the range A through Z.
Note: When you specify a range of characters, the characters must appear in ascending sort. For example, [Z-A] is not a valid pattern.
Take a look at the basics of building an expression.
To match special characters like question mark (?), number sign (#), and asterisk (*), put them in square brackets.
The CHARLIST function gives you matches for one or more characters and can include almost any characters in the ANSI character set, including digits. The CHARLIST is enclosed in brackets ([ ]) and can be used with wildcard characters for more specific matches.
To specify a range of characters, use CHARLIST with a hyphen (-) to separate the upper and lower bounds of the range.
To match the hyphen (-) character, put it at the beginning or end of CHARLIST (after the exclamation mark if you’re using one). In any other location, the hyphen identifies a range of ANSI characters.
by Dustin Wax · May 19, 2009
I recently ran into a strange problem. I was asked to present an academic paper at a conference, and while writing fell automatically into the habit of referencing all my quotes and other citations with traditional parenthetical citations. When I went to produce the shorter copy that I would read from at the conference, I wanted to remove all those parenthetical citations — they were just clutter and I Knew I’d stumble over them while I read.
Here’s the thing: normally, I could just use the “wildcard” to search for anything inside of parentheses, like this: (*). The problem is, when you enable wildcards in Word’s search, you also enable a bunch of operators, and parentheses are among them — Word uses parentheses to group together different parts fo the search query, the same way you use them in math, e.g. 12*4+3 vs. 12*(4+3). So a search for (*) simply returned everything.
Here’s how I solved the problem:
- With wildcards disabled, I did a “find and replace”, replacing all left-parentheses “(” with an ampersand “&”.
- Then I replaced all the right-parentheses “)” with a dollar sign “$”.
- With the parentheses all turned into something unique (if I’d used dollar signs or ampersands in the paper, I’d have replaced the parentheses with carets or percent signs or any other punctuation or symbol I hadn’t used) I could enable “Use Wildcards” and search for the phrase “&*$” (without quotes).
- Because there might well be other statements in parentheses, I used “Find next” and “Replace” rather than “Replace all” to go through the paper and delete only the citations.
- Finally, I restored the parentheses by running the above find-and-replace operations backwards, turning dollar signs and ampersands back into their respective parentheses.
And that’s it. It wasn’t particularly intuitive, unless you’re deeply familiar with how wildcards work in Word, but once I grasped that the parentheses were the problem, it was a simple matter to replace them and blast them out of my paper.
And the presentation went well, though of course I found plenty of other things to stumble over, like words and my tongue…
Consulting and developing on Office 365
SharePoint Online can store large volumes of all kinds of information, form project documents, to personal documents, to video’s and lots more. Finding the correct information can become harder and harder over time. With SharePoint search and my 8 tips you will be able to find the correct content faster than before.
1 Search scope
SharePoint search uses default and custom search scopes. Search scopes are used to narrow down the search area, generating fewer and better results. Select a search scope to focus the search result. For example, when searching for a colleague select the search default search scope People.
2 Refinement panel
When SharePoint presents the results you can narrow down the results by filtering the results with the refinement panel. Common refinement options are result type, author and modified date. Custom refinement options can be added by the administrator.
If you are not sure about the spelling or you are searching for variations of a term you can use the wildcard symbol *. Wildcards widen the search results, this will help find data that is similar to the search term.
- Budget* to search for all items starting with the word budget.
Use double quotes “” to find exact phrases if you are sure about the phrases.
Example: “Department budget 2017”
You can use search commands (Boolean operators) to narrow or expand the search results. Note that all SharePoint search commands need to be writing in capitals.
|OR||Use OR to expand your search to include more terms. The returned search results include one or more of the specified free text expressions or property restrictions|
|NOT||Use NOT to narrow your search results. The returned search results don’t include the specified free text expressions or property restrictions.|
|AND||Use AND to narrow your search results. The returned search results include all of the free text expressions.|
|+||Use + to narrow your search results. The returned search results include all of the free text expressions.|
|–||Use – to narrow your search results. The returned search results don’t include the specified free text expressions or property restrictions.|
- “Project plan” OR “Business Case”
- Department -Budget
- “Project plan” AND Review
6 Specifying properties
When searching for information you can specify which type of information (also known as properties or metadata) you are looking for. Metadata or properties are the data that to describe the content and is used when storing or filtering the searh results. SharePoint captures by default a lot of metadata such as author, filename, title and last modified date. The main purpose of using metadata is to make sure all the content stored in SharePoint can be found easily.
A basic property search consists of the following three parts: a property name a operator and a value.
- filename:”Budget Report”
7 Value and Property restrictions
When using properties to narrow down the search results it is possible to make the search query even more specific with the use of different property restrictions. The most used and best known is the : operator. When using the : operator the returned results will all be equal to the specified value . T here are a lot more operators available a few examples are:
|:||Returns results where the value is equal to the property value (short description)||Author:John|
|=||Returns results where the value is equal to the property value||Title=Projectplan|
|Returns results where the value is greater then the property value||Created>9/02/2017|
|=||Returns search results where the property value is greater than or equal to the value specified in the property restriction.||Modified>=9/02/2017|
|<>||Returns search results where the property value does not equal the value specified in the property restriction.||Title<>Testfile|
SharePoint supports more Search operations for SharePoint Online. See the full list of the property operators on Keyword Query Language (KQL) syntax referene.
8 Try again
The best tips when searching for information is that if you did not find the correct document, change the search query a bit. Add or remove commands, terms and properties. Not all documents will be found with the first attempt.
Can I use wildcards when using the Instant Search feature in Outlook?
It appears that I have to type the EXACT word to find anything. In previous versions of Outlook I could also use only part of a word to find it.
On Subject line: Jims Warehouse x027886
With Outlook 2000 I could type 2788 and find the record.
With Outlook 2007 I have to type x02788 to find the record.
Correct, Instant Search doesn’t provide that search option and will only find the items that contain a word that begins with your search string. In your example it would only find items which start with 2788.
To do a query that also finds items that ends with 2788 or have 2788 somewhere in the middle, you’ll have to do an Advanced Find query that has the “contains” condition.
- Open Advanced Find (keyboard shortcut CTRL+SHIFT+F)
- Outlook 2007
Tools-> Instant Search-> Advanced Find…
- Outlook 2010
Place your cursor in the Search field-> tab Search-> button Search Tools-> Advanced Find…
- Outlook 2007
- Select the Advanced tab.
- Press Field and select Frequently-used fields-> Subject
- Set Condition: to “Contains”
- Set Value: to “2788”
- Press “Add to List”
- Press “Find Now”
Of course you can also do this with different fields like Message and From. For each field that you want to search on you’ll have to press “Add to List” to build your query.
Creating a custom search query for finding a part of a word or string via Advanced Find.
By Dave Johnson
Updated on: May 13, 2009 / 10:11 PM / MoneyWatch
I spent a few years in the Air Force before becoming a highly paid blogger. And back at the NROC, I used to need to file WCA reports whenever there was a WAM event (or, obviously, if the WAMR triggered a TDD warning). Indeed, it was tense, but when a CCA would go redline and the duty sergeant would misinterpret it as a GLAS, we’d laugh and laugh.
If you write documents chock full of acronyms like those and would love a way to automatically find them all using Word’s Find tool, I’ve got great news for you. Lifehacker has the scoop on how to teach Find and Replace to highlight acronyms.
Here’s all you need to do:
- In Word, Open the Find window (Ctrl + F)
- Click More and then check the box labeled Use Wildcards
- In the Find What field, enter this phrase:
- Click Reading Highlight, and then click Highlight All.
All your acronyms — or specifically, two or more letters in all-caps — will appear highlighted in yellow. You can then scrape them off the page to make a glossary, for example, or assess if you really want to write a document that looks like your Caps Lock key is stuck.
First published on May 14, 2009 / 1:00 PM
© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
View all articles by Dave Johnson on CBS MoneyWatch »
Dave Johnson is editor of eHow Tech and author of three dozen books, including the best-selling How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera. Dave has previously worked at Microsoft and has written about technology for a long list of magazines that include PC World and Wired.
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Home » Find and Replace in Word – Using with Wildcards and VBA
The Microsoft Word Find and Replace feature is very powerful and a great time saver for the more skilled user. You can use Find and Replace to locate exact words, phrases and even patterns matching various scenarios.
Word Find and Replace
Let us start with exploring how to do a regular Find and Replace in Word.
Click the Find or Replace buttons in the Home ribbon Editing section
If you want to Find a word or sentence in your Word file go to the Home ribbon tab and go to the Editing section.
- If you want to Find click Find
- If you want to Find and Replace click Replace
This will open the Find and Replace window.
If you click More > > you will see the full set of options below:
The following options are available:
- Match case – will only find words/sentences that match the letter case (e.g. A vs a)
- Find whole words only – will only find whole words (if looking for “ate” will only match ” ate “ and not “late”)
- Use wildcards – allows you to use wildcards (click the Special button for list of wildcard special characters that can be used
- Sounds like – matches expressions that sound like provided text
- Find all word forms – matches all words/sentences that match a word form (e.g. “doyle” will also match “doyl” as it sounds similar)
- Match prefix – match text matching a prefix of a word
- Match suffix – match text matching a suffixof a word
- Ignore punctuation characters – will ignore punctionation
- Ignore white-space characters – will ignore white-space (” “)
Provide a word, sentence and/or wildcard special characters
Provide a word/sentence you want to Find in the Find what text field and the word/sentence you want to replace it with in the Replace with text field.
Below and explanation of key buttons used to Find or Replace text:
Although Find and Replace is a basic and very easy to use function it is often underestimated. Especially that many users do not know that you can easily use wildcards to replace more complex text patterns.
You can also you wildcards to replace various complex patterns such as sequences of numbers or specific number of occurances, letter cases, characters use to replace any characters and much more. To use wilcards click More > > and select the Use wilcards checkbox.
On the right you should see all available wildcard characters.
Let us explore some example common scenarios below:
Match any word made of A-Z characters, any letter case
This matches any single word that contains A-z letters.
The character indicate the beginning, while > the end of a word. The [A-z] brackets indicate a series of characters, using the hyphen allows you specify the whole range of A-z letters. Lastly the @ character indicates that the previous expression may repeat 0 to any number of times.
Match an email from the .com domain
This matches only emails with A-z letters and 0-9 numbers in their login and domain name. Again the [A-z,0-9] bracket specifies we are listing several ranges of acceptable characters, following this with the @ characters tells that any number of these characters may appear. To use the @ character explicitly we need to escape it with a backslash \ . We use the similar patter for the domain name. Finally notice again I am using and > to indicate the beginning or end of a word as emails are not separated by spaces.
Match a phone number split with hyphens
The above matches any 3 series of digits separated by hyphens.
Using Wildcards to Capture and Replace text
In some cases you will want to not only capture a pattern but replace it with part of its content. For this you need to use Expressions (). Expressions let you mark a specific group in the “Find what” text field, that you want to reuse in your “Replace with” text field. Below a simple example:
Example: Switch places of 2 numbers
In this example we have a pattern of numbers separated by hyphens. Let us assume we want to switch places of these two 3-digit numbers.
The resulting Text:
Example: Replace Email domain
Imagine you want to replace an email domain from yahoo to gmail on all emails in your Word document. If you didn’t know Expressions you would use wildcards to find a match an manually replace all such cases. However below an example that will replace this automatically:
All Expressions () are numbered by the sequence in which they are used. This allows us to reference the first part of the email by using the backslash and number \1.
VBA Find and Replace
You can also execute a Find and Replace sequence using a VBA Macro:
Find a single match
The below procedure will print out all occurances of “Find Me” phrases.
Find all matches
Below VBA macro will find all emails in a Word document with their mailto hyperlinks. This is a good example of fixing hyperlinks in Word documents.
Here are my main takeaways from using Find and Replace in Microsoft Word
Tom. Excel / VBA / C# enthusiast and hobbist. Collecting and sharing my knowledge and experience with beginner/advanced analysts and VBA developers. My posts are written with one thing in mind: teaching analysts how to do things properly.