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Learn the Nuances of Excel's Find & Replace


Find & Replace can be a huge time saver in Excel, but sometimes is the source of unending frustration. As shown in the figure, let's try to search a spreadsheet for a single number, such as 99,670. We know the number is present because we can see it, and let's assume we want to see if there are any other instances of that same number. As shown in the figure:

  1. Choose Find & Select from Excel's Home menu.
  2. Choose the Find command. If you like keyboard shortcuts, press Ctrl-F in lieu of steps 1 and 2.
  3. Type the number you're seeking in the Find What field.
  4. Click Find Next.
  5. Ideally Excel will select the cell that contains the number you requested, but often it may instead indicate that it couldn't find what you were looking for. Click OK if prompted.
  6. Click the Options button in the Find dialog box.
  7. Verify that the Look In field is set to Formulas, and not Values. If a number is stored in a cell as numbers, you may think it best to search for Values, but paradoxically you should look in Formulas instead.
  8. Click Find All, which also provides a list of all matches within the worksheet.
  9. Any results that Excel displays are clickable links you can use to navigate within your worksheet.

Note that the Within field in the Find dialog box defaults to Sheet, but can be set to Workbook. Unlike many features that reset themselves after use, the Find feature tends to remember the settings you used last. This means you may forget that you changed the Find options to perform a special type of search. Alternatively, Excel may report that it cannot find a value if you've selected two or more cells within the worksheet. If you only select a single cell, Excel checks the entire sheet or workbook. If you have two or more cells selected, then Excel only searches within those specific cells. Do also be mindful of the Match Case and Match Entire Cell Contents checkboxes, as those too can cause a search to fail.


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