Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding Pattern Matching.

Understanding Pattern Matching

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 29, 2015)

The Find and Replace feature built into Word includes two completely different search engines. In the normal search engine you search for simple items, such as text or special characters. Tips related to this type of searching have been presented in other issues of WordTips.

The second search engine is the more powerful, however. It uses a search method known as pattern matching. When you use pattern matching you can search for very complex and very subtle character sequences in your document. Unfortunately, learning the pattern matching capabilities of Word can sometimes be frustrating.

How you switch between the two different search engines depends on the version of Word you are using. In most versions of Word you should pull up either the Find or Replace tabs of the Find and Replace dialog box and click on the More button. In the expanded area of the dialog box, make sure the Use Wildcards checkbox is selected. This causes Word to interpret what is in the Find What and Replace With boxes entirely differently than if the checkbox is not selected.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (263) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Pattern Matching.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Shortcut for Selecting a Data Range

Want to select all the data in a contiguous section of a worksheet? The shortcut discussed in this tip makes it very easy.

Discover More

Getting Help when Entering Functions

Need a quick memory jog when entering a worksheet function? Here's a shortcut that will be invaluable.

Discover More

Rounding Up to the Next Half

When processing data it is not unusual to need to round that data in some way. For instance, you may need to round a value ...

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Replacing Text and Capitalizing a Letter in One Step

The Find and Replace capabilities of Word are very powerful. You can even use them to do some complex and specific searching ...

Discover More

Searching for Characters

When using pattern matching in a search, you can specify individual characters or ranges of characters you want matched in ...

Discover More

Replacing Two Tabs with a Space in Limited Situations

The Find and Replace feature of Word is very powerful, allowing you to finely target exactly what you want to search. This ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three more than 5?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.