Removing HTML Tags from Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 17, 2018)

Aaron has a document that contains a number of HTML tags, and he would like to remove the tags but maintain the formatting they represent. For instance, if he has a phrase that appears this way, he would like to remove the tags (<i> and </i>) but have "a phrase" appear in italics. Aaron is pretty sure this can be done with Find and Replace, but he's not quite sure how to go about it.

You are right, Aaron—you can use Find and Replace to accomplish the removal. The way you would do it is to follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. Make sure the Use Wildcards check box is selected.
  5. In the Find What box, enter the following: \<i\>([!<]@)\</i\>
  6. In the Replace With box, enter the following: \1
  7. With the insertion point still in the Replace With box, press Ctrl+I once. The text "Italic" should appear just below the Replace With box.
  8. Click Replace All.

The code that you enter in the Find What box (step 4) may look a little daunting. All you are telling Word to do is to find the beginning HTML tag (<i>) followed by any number of characters and ending with the closing HTML tag (</i>). The very short entry in the Replace With box (step 5) simply says to replace whatever is found with the contents of the first element of the Find What box that is surrounded by parentheses—which just happens to be the text between the two HTML tags.

If you want to eliminate the need to remember (or look up) the contents of the Find What box all the time, you can place the Find and Replace operation into a macro:

Sub ConvertItalicTags()
    Selection.Find.Replacement.Font.Italic = True
    With Selection.Find
        .Text = "\<i\>([!<]@)\</i\>"
        .Replacement.Text = "\1"
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Format = True
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchWildcards = True
    End With
    Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End Sub

Assign the macro to a shortcut key, and you can remove the italic HTML tags anytime you need. You could also expand the macro to make similar changes relative to other HTML tags you may need to remove. You may even want to make sure that alternate tags are dealt with. For instance, HTML uses both <i> and <em> tags to display information in italic, which means you should account for the possibility of both sets of tags in your macro.

Of course, there is an entirely different approach you could use to get rid of the HTML tags and still retain the formatting associated with those tags. That would be to save the HTML-encoded text into a text file, open it in your browser, copy the text within the browser window, and paste it directly into a Word document. If all goes well, you would have the desired formatted text in your finished document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10308) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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. ...


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