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: Complex Searches for Documents.

Complex Searches for Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 13, 2014)

Nick's legal department has lots of Word documents in specific subfolders of a directory and would like to search those subfolders for documents containing a name or phrase within the document itself. According to Nick, their options appear to be two-fold. First, they can use Windows Search, but that does not appear to allow the searcher to specify multiple subfolders to use in the search. Second, they can use the Advanced features of the Search tool (under Tools in the Open dialog box) to run a fairly sophisticated search specifying the subfolders and parameters.

The problem with this second approach is that it appears you can only click on one of the results. (Trying to build a selection set doesn't work.) When you click on a result, it populates the Open dialog box with that file name and allows you to easily open the file. But if that file isn't what you were looking for, you have to repeat the search again. Nick wonders if there is an easier way to do the type of document searching they need to do without needing to repeat a full search for each individual document.

Nick is right; the two apparent approaches are not the best for those trying to do complex searches. One option is to, within Word, develop your own search capability using VBA. This can be a difficult route to go, but it can provide specific, focused results. If you choose to go this route, then here is a good place to start:

If you don't want to go the build-it-yourself route (and, honestly, I couldn't blame you in this circumstance), then there are any number of third-party Windows tools that you can use to do your searching. Here are just a few suggested by WordTips readers, in no particular order:

Copernic -
Wilbur and Wilma -
Google Desktop Search -
FileSeek -
Total Commander -

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7976) 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: Complex Searches for Documents.

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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