Word Find and Replace

Find and Replace in Word – Using with Wildcards and VBA

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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

Find and Replace in Word - Replace Button
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.

    You can also use the CTRL+F keyboard shortcut to Find and the CTRL+H keyboard shortcut to do a Find and Replace.

    If you click More > > you will see the full set of options below:
    Find and Replace expanded window
    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:
    Find and Replace fields explained
    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.

    Using Wilcards

    Word Wildcard Special Characters
    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.

    Wildcard Examples

    Let us explore some example common scenarios:
    Match any word made of A-Z characters, any letter case:

    Match an email from the .com domain:

    Match a phone number split with 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:

    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

    Find all matches

    Below VBA macro will find all emails in a Word document with their mailto links:

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