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: Searching for Special Characters.

Searching for Special Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 23, 2014)

Word allows you to search not just for text, but also for special characters that normally do not print. If you are working with documents that use tabular material, you will find yourself searching for tab characters quite a bit. To search for tabs, follow these steps if you are using Word 2010 or Word 2013:

  1. Press Ctrl+F. Word displays the Navigation task pane at the left side of the screen. In the pane the Browse tab is selected.
  2. In the box at the top of the Navigation pane, enter the text for which you want to search. For example, to search for a tab character enter ^t (it is important to use a lowercase t). If there are not too many matches, Word displays them in the Navigation pane.
  3. Click the Next Search Result arrow, just to the right of the pane tabs.

Often, you will be searching for other special characters such as breaks and paragraph marks. It can be faster to remember these and type them in rather then looking them up all of the time. The following is a list of the more common special characters:

Special Character Symbol
Paragraph Marker ^p
Manual Page Break ^m
Section Break ^b
Column Break ^n
Em Dash ^+
En Dash ^=
Graphic ^g
Any Character ^?
Any Digit ^#
Any Letter ^$
White Space ^w
Caret Character ^^

You can also use many of these same special characters in the Replace With box when doing a search and replace operation. You cannot, however, use the special white space character (^w) in the Replace With box.

If you are using Word 2007 or you cannot remember what code to use for the special character you want to find, it is best to bypass the Navigation task pane (if you are using Word 2010 or Word 2013) and instead display the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. You do this by following these steps:

  1. Display the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (In Word 2007 just press Ctrl+F. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 press Ctrl+F to display the Navigation pane, then click the down arrow at the very right of the Search box in the Navigation pane, and finally choose Advanced Find.)
  2. Click the More button. The dialog box expands. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The expanded Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. With the insertion point in the Find What box, click on the Special button and select a special character from the list.
  5. Set other searching parameters, as desired.
  6. Click on Find Next.

In addition, Word allows you to search for any character as long as you know its ASCII value. (You can find ASCII values for characters in the back of many programming books.) All you need to do is use the caret, followed by a zero and then the three-digit value of the character. For instance, if you wanted to search for a capital A, whose ASCII value is 65, you would use ^0065 as your search string.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13217) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Searching for Special Characters.

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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