Reading a blog post solution prompted my two shortcut tweets today (I missed one yesterday, hence the extra!)

CTRL + F and CTRL + H open the Find and Replace tool respectively, both very handy shortcuts that I use frequently. You only need remember one as can then choose the tabs at the top of the dialog box to go to the one you need. Also handy that they are among those that don’t just work in Excel but across the Microsoft office suite in Word, PowerPoint and Access as well.

It’s a straightforward tool –  there are a few options you can change when searching which I’ll save for a future blog post – but the post reminded me of my time in an office when we once needed to remove asterisks that had appeared in a set of data. My colleague’s first thought was to go straight to CTRL + H, activating the replace box and put * in the first box, leaving the second box blank, thus replacing it with nothing and in effect removing the pesky asterisks

But wait, what do you think happened? As * is used as a wildcard character to indicate any number of characters Excel assumed that they were looking for any characters and then removed them all, leaving a blank spreadsheet and a howling colleague. Quick use of CTRL + Z (undo) and the spreadsheet was returned to before.

The solution: before the asterisk in the “find what” box use a tilde sign ~ before the asterisk: ~* This tells Excel that it’s an actual * that is being searched for and is not being used as a wildcard.

This should also be used if searching and / or replacing for a question mark ( ? is used as a wildcard indicating a single character) and if you’re actually looking for a tilde you’ll need to have ~~ in the find what box.


Hope that this is helpful, more information is in a microsoft knowledgebase here.