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: Ordering Search and Replace.

Ordering Search and Replace

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 12, 2015)

Pattern matching provides you with some very powerful capabilities for searching and replacing text. Word allows you to use parentheses within your search specification to increase the power of your statements even more. The parentheses allow you to specify groupings for your searches or to specify the order in which the search specification should be evaluated.

The grouping issue is the most common and powerful use of the parentheses. As an example, let's say that you had a document that consisted of a part number followed by a tab followed by a description. The part number begins with PN- followed by a three-character code that has A through E as the first character followed by a value between 00 and 99. For instance, a part number could be PN-B34 or PN-A12. The description could be any length, but is always followed by a paragraph mark.

If you wanted to change your document so that you had the part description followed by the part number within parentheses, you could do so with pattern matching. For your search specification (Find What) you would use (PN\-[A-E][0-9]{2})(^t)(*)(^13). This may look odd, but it matches the way your document now is put together. Notice the use of the parentheses to denote the three separate parts: the part number, the tabs, and the description.

For the replacement specification (Replace With), you would use \3 (\1)^13. This means "take the third grouping from the search specification (the description), follow it by a space, a left parenthesis, the first grouping from the search specification (the part number), and finish off with a paragraph mark.

As another example, let's assume that you have a document with quite a few dates that use the format 06/11/56, and that you want to make sure that all the dates use four-digit years (1956 as opposed to 56). You can do so by searching for ([0-3][0-9]/[01][0-9]/)([0-2][0-9]) and replacing it with \119\2. In the example, the \1 is 06/11/ in the string that is found, and this is transferred to the replacement string as it is. This is then followed by 19 (so it is now 06/11/19) and then the last two digits of what was found, so the result is 06/11/1956.

Remember that to take advantage of the pattern matching capabilities of Word, you just need to make sure the Use Wildcards check box is selected on either the Find or Replace tabs of the Find and Replace dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1663) 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: Ordering Search and Replace.

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

Searching for Periods Not Followed by a Space

Most periods should be followed by at least one space. What if you think there may be some errors in how your post-period ...

Discover More

Identifying Merged Cells

Merging cells is a common task when creating worksheets. Merged cells can play havoc with the normal functioning of some of ...

Discover More

Printing Close to the Edge

Word allows you to specify all sorts of paper sizes and margins for your documents. If your margins result in trying to print ...

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (menu)

Removing All Comments

Need to get rid of all the comments in your document? You can do so by using the regular Find and Replace feature of Word.

Discover More

Finding an Unknown Character

Sometimes the characters that appear in a document can be hard to figure out, especially if the document came from someone ...

Discover More

Saving Find and Replace Operations

Want to repeat the same Find and Replace operation over and over again? Here are a couple of ways you can improve your ...

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 8Mpixels. 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 5 + 0?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


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.