How to use Find and Replace in Excel most efficiently

In this tutorial, you will learn how to use Find and Replace in Excel to search for specific data in a worksheet or workbook, and what you can do with those cells after finding them. We will also explore the advanced features of Excel search such as wildcards, finding cells with formulas or specific formatting, find and replace in all open workbooks and more.

When working with big spreadsheets in Excel, it's crucial to be able to quickly find the information you want at any particular moment. Scanning through hundreds of rows and columns is certainly not the way to go, so let's have a closer look at what the Excel Find and Replace functionality has to offer.

How to use Find in Excel

Below you will find an overview of the Excel Find capabilities as well as the detailed steps on how to use this feature in Microsoft Excel 2016, 2013, 2010 and older versions.

Find value in a range, worksheet or workbook

The following guidelines tell you how to find specific characters, text, numbers or dates in a range of cells, worksheet or entire workbook.

  1. To begin with, select the range of cells to look in. To search across the entire worksheet, click any cell on the active sheet.
  2. Open the Excel Find and Replace dialog by pressing the Ctrl + F shortcut. Alternatively, go to the Home tab > Editing group and click Find & Select > Find
    Opening Excel's Find and Replace dialog
  3. In the Find what box, type the characters (text or number) you are looking for and click either Find All or Find Next.
    In the Find what box, type the characters you are looking for.

When you click Find Next, Excel selects the first occurrence of the search value on the sheet, the second click selects the second occurrence, and so on.

When you click Find All, Excel opens a list of all the occurrences, and you can click any item in the list to navigate to the corresponding cell.
Excel's Find All results

Excel Find - additional options

To fine-tune your search, click Options in the right-hand corner of the Excel Find & Replace dialog, and then do any of the following:

  • To search for the specified value in the current worksheet or entire workbook, select Sheet or Workbook in the Within.
  • To search from the active cell from left to right (row-by-row), select By Rows in the Search To search from top to bottom (column-by-column), select By Columns.
  • To search among certain data type, select Formulas, Values, or Comments in the Look in.
  • For a case-sensitive search, check the Match case check.
  • To search for cells that contain only the characters you've entered in the Find what field, select the Match entire cell contents.

Additional options of Excel Find

Tip. If you want to find a given value in a range, column or row, select that range, column(s) or row(s) before opening Find and Replace in Excel. For example, to limit your search to a specific column, select that column first, and then open the Find and Replace dialog.

Find cells with specific format in Excel

To find cells with certain formatting, press the Ctrl + F shortcut to open the Find and Replace dialog, click Options, then click the Format… button in the upper right corner, and define your selections in Excel Find Format dialog box.
Finding cells with specific format in Excel

If you want to find cells that match a format of some other cell on your worksheet, delete any criteria in the Find what box, click the arrow next to Format, select Choose Format From Cell, and click the cell with the desired formatting.
Finding cells that match a format of another cell

Note. Microsoft Excel saves the formatting options that you specify. If you search for some other data on a worksheet, and Excel fails to find the values that you know are there, clear the formatting options from the previous search. To do this, open the Find and Replace dialog, click the Options button on the Find tab, then click the arrow next to Format.. and select Clear Find Format.

Find cells with formulas in Excel

With Excel's Find and Replace, you can only search in formulas for a given value, as explained in additional options of Excel Find. To find cells that contain formulas, use the Go to Special feature.

  1. Select the range of cells where you want to find formulas, or click any cell on the current sheet to search across the entire worksheet.
  2. Click the arrow next to Find & Select, and then click Go To Special. Alternatively, you can press F5 to open the Go To dialog and click the Special… button in the lower left corner.
    Open the Go To Special dialog.
  3. In the Go To Special dialog box, select Formulas, then check the boxes corresponding to the formula results you want to find, and click OK:
    • Numbers - find formulas that return numeric values, including dates.
    • Text - search for formulas that return text values.
    • Logicals - find formulas that return Boolean values of TRUE and FALSE.
    • Errors - find cells with formulas that result in errors such as  #N/A, #NAME?, #REF!, #VALUE!, #DIV/0!, #NULL!, and #NUM!.

    Check the boxes corresponding to the formula results you want to find.

If Microsoft Excel finds any cells that meet your criteria, those cells are highlighted, otherwise a message will be displayed that no such cells have been found.

Tip. To quickly find all cells with formulas, regardless of the formula result, click Find & Select > Formulas.

How to select / highlight / delete all found entries on a sheet

To select all occurrences of a given value on a worksheet, open the Excel Find and Replace dialog, type the search term in the Find What box and click Find All.

Excel will display a list of found entities, and you click on any occurrence in the list (or just click anywhere within the results area to move the focus there), and press the Ctrl + A shortcut. This will select all found occurrences both on the Find and Replace dialog and on the sheet.
Select all found entries on a sheet

Once the cells are selected, you can highlight them by changing the fill color, copy to another sheet by pressing Ctrl + C, and so on.

You can also delete all found cells or rows in one go. For this, right-click the selected cells on a sheet and choose Delete from the context menu.  Alternatively, with the cells selected, click the arrow of the Delete button on the Home tab > Cells group, and then click either Delete Cells… to remove individual cells or Delete Sheet Rows to remove entire rows.
Delete all found cells or rows in one go

If you've changed your mind immediately after deleting the cells, you can get them back by clicking the Undo button on the Excel ribbon or by pressing the Ctrl + Z shortcut.

Note. Clicking the Delete button on the keyboard will only remove all found items from the Find and Replace dialog box, but not from the worksheet.

How to use Replace in Excel

Below you will find the step-by-step guidelines on how to use Excel Replace to change one value to another in a selected range of cells, entire worksheet or workbook.

Replace one value with another

To replace certain characters, text or numbers in an Excel sheet, make use of the Replace tab of the Excel Find & Replace dialog. The detailed steps follow below.

  1. Select the range of cells where you want to replace text or numbers. To replace character(s) across the entire worksheet, click any cell on the active sheet.
  2. Press the Ctrl + H shortcut to open the Replace tab of the Excel Find and Replace dialog.

    Alternatively, go to the Home tab > Editing group and click Find & Select > Replace
    Open the Replace tab of the Excel Find & Replace dialog.

    If you've just used the Excel Find feature, then simply switch to the Replace tab.

  3. In the Find what box type the value to search for, and in the Replace with box type the value to replace with.
  4. Finally, click either Replace to replace the found occurrences one by one, or Replace All to swap all the entries in one fell swoop.
    Click Replace to swap the found occurrences one by one, or Replace All to swap all the entries at a time.
Tip. If something has gone wrong and you got the result different from what you'd expected, click the Undo button or press Ctrl + Z to restore the original values.

For additional Excel Replace features, click the Options button in the right-hand corner of the Replace tab. They are essentially the same as the Excel Find options we discussed a moment ago.

Replace text or number with nothing

To replace all occurrences of a specific value with nothing, type the characters to search for in the Find what box, leave the Replace with box blank, and click the Replace All button.
Replace a specific value with nothing.

How to find or replace a line break in Excel

To replace a line break with a space or any other separator, enter the line break character in the Find what filed by pressing Ctrl + J. This shortcut is the ASCII control code for character 10 (line break, or line feed).

After pressing Ctrl + J, at first sight the Find what box will look empty, but upon a closer look you will notice a tiny flickering dot like in the screenshot below. Enter the replacement character in the Replace with box, e.g. a space character, and click Replace All.
Replacing all line breaks on the sheet with spaces

To replace some character with a line break, do the opposite - enter the current character in the Find what box, and the line break (Ctrl + J) in Replace with.

How to change cell formatting on the sheet

In the first part of this tutorial, we discussed how you can find cells with specific formatting using the Excel Find dialog. Excel Replace allows you to take a step further and change the formatting of all cells on the sheet or in the entire workbook.

  • Open the Replace tab of Excel's Find and Replace dialog, and click the Options
  • Next to the Find what box, click the arrow of the Format button, select Choose Format From Cell, and click on any cell with the format you want to change.
  • Next to the Replace with box, either click the Format… button and set the new format using the Excel Replace Format dialog box; or click the arrow of the Format button, select Choose Format From Cell and click on any cell with the desired format.
  • If you want to replace the formatting on the entire workbook, select Workbook in the Within box. If you want to replace formatting on the active sheet only, leave the default selection (Sheet).
  • Finally, click the Replace All button and verify the result.

Replacing cell formatting on the entire sheet.

Note. This method changes the formats applied manually, it won't work for conditionally formatted cells.

Using wildcard characters with Excel Find and Replace

The use of wildcard characters, such as an asterisk and a question mark, in your search criteria can automate many find and replace tasks in Excel.

  • Use the asterisk (*) to find any string of characters. For example, sm* finds "Smith" and "Smythe".
  • Use the question mark (?) to find any single character. For instance, gr?y finds "Gray" and "Grey".

The following screenshot demonstrates how you can find all surnames that begin with "ad":
Using wildcard characters in search criteria

How to find and replace wildcard characters in Excel

If you need to find actual asterisks or question marks in your Excel worksheet, type the tilde character (~) before them. For example, to find cells that contain asterisks, you would type ~* in the Find what box.  To find cells that contain question marks, use ~? as your search criteria.

This is how you can replace all questions marks (?) on a worksheet with another value (number 1 in this example):

Replacing all questions marks on a worksheet with number 1

As you see, Excel successfully finds and replaces wildcards both in text and numeric values.

Tip. To find tilde characters on the sheet, type a double tilde (~~) in the Find what box.

Shortcuts for find and replace in Excel

If you have been closely following the previous sections of this tutorial, you might have noticed that Excel provides 2 different ways to interact with Find and Replace commands - by clicking the ribbon buttons and by using the keyboard shortcuts.

Below there is a quick summary of what you've already learned and a couple more shortcuts that may save you a few more seconds.

  • Ctrl+F - Excel Find shortcut that opens the Find tab of the Find & Replace
  • Ctrl+H - Excel Replace shortcut that opens the Replace tab of the Find & Replace
  • Ctrl+Shift+F4 - find the previous occurrence of the search value.
  • Shift+F4 - find the next occurrence of the search value.
  • Ctrl+J - find or replace a line break.

Search and replace in all open workbooks

As you have just see, Excel's Find and Replace provides a lot of useful options. However, it can search only in one workbook at a time. To find and replace in all open workbooks, you can use the Advanced Find and Replace add-in by Ablebits.

The following Advanced Find and Replace features make search in Excel even more powerful:

  • Find and Replace in all open workbooks or selected workbooks & worksheets.
  • Simultaneous search in values, formulas, hyperlinks and comments.
  • Exporting search results to a new workbook in a click.

To run the Advanced Find and Replace add-in, click on its icon on the Excel ribbon, which resides on the Ablebits Utilities tab > Search group. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Alt + F, or even configure it to open by the familiar Ctrl + F shortcut.
Run the Advanced Find and Replace add-in by clicking on its icon.

The Advanced Find and Replace pane will open, and you do the following:

  • Type the characters (text or number) to search for in the Find what
  • Select in which workbooks and worksheets you want to search. By default, all sheets in all open workbooks are selected.
  • Choose what data type(s) to look in: values, formulas, comments, or hyperlinks. By default, all data types are selected.

Additionally, you have the following options:

  • Select the Match case option to look for case-sensitive data.
  • Select the Entire cell check box to search for exact and complete match, i.e. find cells that contain only the characters you've typed in the Find what

Type text or numbers to search for and configure additional options if needed.

Click the Find All button, and you will see a list of found entries on the Search results tab. And now, you can replace all or selected occurrences with some other value, or export the found cells, rows or columns to a new workbook.
Replace all or selected occurrences, or export the found cells, rows or columns to a new workbook.

If you are willing to try the Advanced Find and Replace on your Excel sheets, don't hesitate to download a fully functional trial version. And if you like it, we are happy to offer you the 15% off coupon code that we've created especially for our blog readers: AB14-BlogSpo. You can use it to get Advanced Find and Replace as a separate product and as part of Ultimate Suite for Excel.

I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week. In our text tutorial, we will dwell on Excel SEARCH, FIND and REPLACE functions, so please keep watching this space.

41 Responses to "How to use Find and Replace in Excel most efficiently"

  1. Parviz says:

    How can convert a numeric value in one cell into English words in another cell in Excel

  2. WAEL says:

    forgive but yes there are a way to do this with formulas

  3. Jeremiah Mlambo says:

    Is there a way (or add-in)that can replace multiple values at once ,for example:

    original value replacing value
    tom thomas
    jerry jeremiah
    xmas christmas
    soon later
    1234 56789

  4. Mattice says:

    How do I use wildcards in the replace section of find and replace?

    I want to find "=??29" then replace that with "=??10" where the first question mark in the replace statement is the same character as the first question mark in the find statement.
    for example, in just one search I want "=AG29" to go to "=AG10" and "=BC29" to go to "=BC10"

  5. Melissa says:

    how do you find anything with a numeric value and replace it with nothing?

  6. Naveen says:

    Hi there.,

    How to change the format of cell value when I search or find (Ctrl+F) in excel?

  7. Eileen says:

    Is there a way to search for a cell reference and replace with another cell reference and using a wild card? Let me explain...

    I have probably 20 cells on a worksheet that I need to change the cell reference from Rxx (where xx is the cell number) to Txx. So Column R, cell xx to Column T, cell xx. The cell number is different across the 20 cells and that part I want to preserve.

    I have to do this for 26 worksheets, about 20 cells per worksheet.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Is there a way to save my Find and Replace criteria? I regularly have to apply the same changes to similar datasheets; it would save me a lot of time if I could open a datasheet and then, with a few clicks, apply a set of replacements, as opposed to having to enter the Find criteria and Replace criteria each time. Thanks!

  9. Mike says:

    I want to find and replace a particular set of numbers and letters, lets say A12B with a number, lets say 40. When I try this excel finds all cells that contain the string including additional letters and or numbers. so it might find D2a12brr. Is there any way of finding only A12B.



    Please how can i analyse a qualitative data on the operational asessment of health facilities on excel

  11. Linda Haley says:

    I have used find and replace for replacing item names, employees, and many other changes or correctionto nformation within the cells.

  12. Chin Hean says:

    I encounter one issue and would like to ask if there is any solution for this, if not, would like to suggest for the developer to come out with a solution for this.

    E.g. I had key in the NRIC of a person, "S1234567A". Due to privacy problem, I would like to hide the first 4 figure of the NRIC to "SXXXX567A". I have more than hundreds of data in the database and couldn't afford to change it one by one manually.

    Thus, can I know is there any shortcut or fast way to change each and everyone of it immediately? Something just like the "Find and Replace" function of Microsoft Excel.

    Thank you.

  13. Steven says:

    Hi -
    Is there a way to save frequently used Find & Replace executions so I don't have to keep inputting the data each time?

    Thank you.
    Steven P

  14. Val says:

    I am entering data in a large spreadsheet. The column I am entering in is not visible at first - you have to scroll over, because it's several columns over. When I enter my values, and then SEARCH, the word is found, but it moves the cursor back to the beginning of the spreadsheet, even though the column I'm searching in is one that is visible when my data entry column is. It didn't do this yesterday, before my computer auto-updated.

  15. Robert says:

    Columns of data in format
    Jan 1 1980
    I want to replace the Space with a /

  16. Alex says:

    Why does find and replace clear the formated and bolded text in my cell when im just replacing a few words?

  17. Sean says:

    Hi there! I would love a shortcut to get rid of things that don't necessarily match but have similar characteristics. For example a field that says:
    Words Words 00000001 To John Smith
    Words Words 01010101 To Jane Smith
    Words Words 02020202 To Jim Smith

    I would like to eliminate From Words (always matching) - To (always matching including the space). The end result would be:

    John Smith
    Jane Smith
    Jim Smith

    Thanks much!

  18. Dave says:

    Is there a way to change the color green used to identify the searched item to another color. My eyes have a difficult time seeing the green.

  19. Marvin says:

    Is there an easy way to search for two keywords at a time using the find and replace search option? For instance I'd like to search for "American Association for Justice" in a sheet that has a lot of entries for each of those individual words ("American", "Association", Justice"). In this case, I'd like to do a search using "American" and "Justice" together and find a result that has both of those words in the same cel. Is there a way to do that without creating a formula? I know I can search using wild cards like *American Association* and that works only if the two words are right next to each other in the cel. How do I search if both terms are not right next to each other? Is there a way to combine terms with an "&" or a"+" or something like that. This is especially important if the two terms are not right next to each other. I can do this in Outlook using the "+" symbol and it works great. How can I do this in Excel? Thanks

  20. John Riley says:

    Is there an option to replace at the same time more than one string only by using Find & Replace.
    Example:I have a column with websites addresses and I want to remove at the same time the ones that end with .com,plus these that end up with .net and the others with .org?
    Thanks in advance:
    Jonathan Riley

  21. BB says:

    How can I Replace "? thru ??" with "?-??" without the numbers changing to a date? I can set the format to text and it still changes it to a date which I do not want. I am only allowed to manually change it at this point, because anything I do otherwise changes the range of numbers to a date and if I change that date into a text, I get a weird number that doesn't have anything to do with the range I was changing in the first place.

  22. LM says:

    How do I replace the below strings by 11 and remove everything after it?

  23. LM says:

    Got it.

    Replaced 11.* by 11

  24. mai says:

    Can I automatically add different values all at once in one column against specific value in another column?
    for example: when ever its says 4 in one column the next cell in the next column should says 4288?

  25. Nicola Grant says:


    I am having trouble with the replace function on excel. I need to do the following with a large database of data:

    Change all of 1s to 5s ***
    Change all of 2s to 4s ***
    Change all of 3s to 3s
    Change all of 4s to 2s ***
    Change all of 5s to 1s ***

    However, when I do this to each column it replaces all of them so It changes all the 5s again to 1 and all the 4s to 2 so my data is no longer accurate.
    Is there any way I can do this more effectively?


  26. DE WEt says:

    Want to replace number 0 .(Only the First 0 with 27)
    In a number.

    Please Help.
    Don't want to replace all the 0 with 27 only the beginning

  27. Glenn says:

    Hey there,
    I have mountains of data that I need to go through and extract an alpha-numeric code from the text description from the same column, I'd like to be able to use find/replace to just remove anything with numbers, but it's not that easy, the description also has the address at the end and I can't allow that to be removed. Here is an example:-

    RD06024 Shed Storage - Redcliff - 145 Oxley Avenue Redcliff.

    I only want to remove the bar code at the beginning but if I use find/replace for numbers and letters it always takes out the address number as well.
    Can anyone please suggest something for me to try?
    Kind Regards

  28. Amber says:

    Hi there,

    I'm looking for some help on the 'Find and Replace' function in Excel 2016.

    I recently upgraded to 2016 and since then, my 'Find and Replace' function is appearing over the top of other programs and in its only separate window.

    How do I fix it to only appear when in Excel as this causes issues when I'm using the 'Alt+Tab' function to switch between programs.

    Thank you!

  29. Bree says:

    I've found over 40,000 occurrences of "". When I choose replace all I get an error that says invalid formula. I know this is wrong because I can replace them one by one without error. Is it just too many to replace all?

  30. Rasika says:

    how i can find the value which is in drop down list in excel?

  31. Andrew says:

    can you find a value (part number) across many tabs (worksheets) and replace its related cost value that is in another cell on the same row with the updated cost amount?

    ColumnB ColumnF

    Find unit cost Replace
    AB-101 $15.00 $16.25 replace the $15.00 with $16.25

    Let me know

  32. EJM says:

    I had trouble with Find & Replace (Excel 2003) but used this macro after playing around with macros:
    In Column A enter numbers from 1 to 5 in cells A1 through A5.
    In Column D use the corresponding designation to refer to Column A ( A1 is 1 so D1 would be =A1, etc.)

    A B C D

    1 = A1

    2 = A2

    3 = A3

    4 = A4

    5 = A5

    I was using Excel 2003
    Record a new Macro (In the Tools or Macro menu) click D1 on the worksheet and you should see " = A1 " in the Formula bar.
    Between the = sign and the letter A, input the dollar sign ($) =$A1 and then Stop Recording the Macro.

    Better yet! Just copy the following into your macro. This lists a column of 10 but you could have any number. EJM

    Sub Macro_List_of_Ten()
    For x = 1 To 10
    Cells(x, 4).Select
    ActiveCell.FormulaR1C1 = "=RC1"
    Next x
    End Sub

  33. Chantal says:

    Good day

    I am working on a large database where I need to detect a single letter p or P or PP and then replace it with pp.

    But when I search p, all the pp's are also found.

    Is there a way to specify a specific letter or letters including case sensitivity?

  34. Anil says:

    how do i replace the following with just the numbers in number format

          00.00       1597532.28
          00.00        206860.65
          00.00       1342590.70
     1402471.36            00.00
       35497.63            00.00

    There is blank space appearing before each of these numbers and I cant replace it with CTRL F and R

    If you wish i can attatch a file also

  35. S.H says:

    Hi there,

    Do you know how I can make Find highlight the found cell better than with a thin green line around it, I can't see that green line in my sheet. I am making a lot of quick searches in my document, so changing the color of the found cell manually is not an option.

  36. Phelim says:

    I tried using CTRL J to replace line break in Excel 2016. It does not work. I get the standard error message "we couldn't find what you were looking for.

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