Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Searching for Special Characters.

Searching for Special Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 8, 2013)

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:

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

  4. In the Find What box, 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). Alternatively, you can 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.

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.

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 (10) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) 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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