Finding the Previous Occurrence

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 29, 2016)

2

I use the Find feature of Word quite often. I suspect that I am not alone in that usage; it is undoubtedly one of the most-used features in the program. As I am searching through a document with the Find and Replace dialog box displayed, I often use Alt+F to find the next occurrence of whatever I am searching for. If I get "on a roll," I may press Alt+F one too many times, and bypass the occurrence that I really wanted.

At these times I have often thought it would be nice if Word included a Find Previous button in the Find and Replace dialog box, or provided a shortcut key that will jump back to the previous occurrence of my search text. Unfortunately, neither of these is available in Word. There are workarounds, however.

One approach is to use a series of keyboard strokes to achieve the desired result. When you realize that you need to go back to the previous occurrence, you could use the following five keystrokes, in succession:

Alt+M
Alt+Shift+: (colon)
U
Enter
Alt+F

Intuitive this is not! What these keystrokes do, of course, is to change the direction of the search so that Word searches toward the beginning of the document, instead of toward the end. With the direction changed, the Alt+F shortcut (last keystroke in the list) will jump to the next occurrence toward the beginning--exactly what you want.

There is an even handier solution available that doesn't even involve the Find and Replace dialog box; it involves the Object Browser. The Object Browser allows you to find different "things" in your document. You can use it to browse through tables, comments, fields, footnotes, and so on. (How you use the Object Browser is covered in other issues of WordTips.) What many people don't realize is that when you start to search for something, the Object Browser is automatically kicked into "find" mode. What does this mean? Follow these steps to see:

  1. Press Ctrl+F to open the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  3. Use the dialog box, as you normally would, to specify what you want to find.
  4. Click on Find Next. Word displays the first occurrence of what you are searching for.
  5. Press Esc to dismiss the Find and Replace dialog box.
  6. Press Ctrl+Page Down. Word displays the next occurrence.
  7. Press Ctrl+Page Up. Word displays the previous occurrence.

The Ctrl+Page Down and Ctrl+Page Up are actually shortcut keys for 'Browse Next' and 'Browse Previous,' respectively. Since the Object Browser was put into "find" mode by initiating a search, they keys effectively allow you to jump all over the place in finding occurrences of your search text. You can even perform editing and other tasks between each use of Ctrl+Page Down and Ctrl+Page Up; Word remembers what the Object Browser was doing when you last used it, so your search continues apace.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1638) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Duplex by Default

Many printers these days have the capability to print on both sides of a piece of paper. You may want Word to use this ...

Discover More

Quickly Removing Table Borders

Insert a table in your document and Word assumes that you want borders around the table and its cells. Here's a shortcut ...

Discover More

Watching Cell Values

Want to know what is happening in certain cells in your worksheet? Using the Watch Window is a great way to keep an eye ...

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

More WordTips (menu)

Find and Replace in Text Boxes

Find and Replace can work great, but not necessarily for text within text boxes. This tip discusses all the ins and outs ...

Discover More

Replacing an X with a Check Mark

In order to provide a finishing touch to your document, you may want to replace mundane X marks with fancier check marks. ...

Discover More

Searching for a Specific Field

Fields can be a great boon to document development, as they allow you to insert different types of dynamic information in ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 8 + 7?

2018-07-01 22:50:12

Bryan

"Intuitive this is not!"
Amen

Another excellent tip


2017-05-03 22:02:47

Stet7

If you reach the beginning or end of the document while using this technique, and then click No when asked if you want to continue at the beginning or end, an error is triggered: a subsequent wildcard search will not work. This article explains how to avoid the problem:

http://wordmvp.com/FAQs/MacrosVBA/FlushPartialFindBug.htm

The article was written awhile ago for Word 97 to 2002, but I've had this problem with Word 2013.


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.