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How to Find Stuff You Can’t Type in Word 2013

You can search for certain items in a Word 2013 document that you just cannot type at the keyboard. This doesn’t mean nasty things — this isn't a censorship issue. Instead, this refers to items such as tabs, enter keys (paragraphs), page breaks, graphics, and other, similar non-typeable things.

Find special characters

To hunt down untypeable characters in your document, click the Special button in the Advanced Find dialog box. Up pops a list of 22 items that Word can search for but that you would have a dickens of a time typing.

Despite the exhaustive list, there are probably only a half dozen items you’ll eventually (if ever) use. They include

  • Any Character, Any Digit, and Any Letter are special characters that represent, well, just about anything. These items can be used as wild cards for matching lots of stuff.

  • Caret Character allows you to search for a caret (^) symbol, which may not seem like a big deal, but it is: Word uses the ^ symbol in a special way for finding text.

  • Paragraph Mark (¶) is a special character that’s the same as the Enter character — the one you press to end a paragraph.

  • Tab Character moves the cursor to the next tab mark.

  • White Space is any number of blank characters: one or more spaces, tabs, empty lines, or a combination of each one.

Choose an item from the list to search for that special character. When you do, a special, funky shorthand representation for that character (such as ^t for Tab) appears in the Find What box. Click the Find Next button to find that character.

Use ^ to find special characters

It's possible, although nerdy, to manually type the special characters into the Find. Although this method avoids using the Special menu, which can be big and baffling, it means that you need to memorize the character codes. Each one starts with the caret character, ^, and some of them are logical, such as ^p for Paragraph Mark or ^t for Tab. Here are a few other handy shortcuts, for reference:

Paragraph mark ^p
Tab character ^t
Any character ^?
Any digit ^#
Any letter ^$
Caret character ^^
Em-dash ^+
En-dash ^=
Manual line break ^1
Manual page break ^m
White space ^w

You can mix special characters with plain text. For example, to find a tab character followed by Hunter, you use the Special button to insert the tab character (^t on the screen) and then type Hunter. It looks like this:

^tHunter

Find formatting

In its most powerful superhero mode, the Find command can scour your document for formatting information. For example, if you want to find only those instances of the word lie in boldface type, you can do that.

The formatting options you can search for are revealed to you after a click of the Format button, which appears in the Advanced Find dialog box when the More button is clicked. Clicking the Format button displays a pop-up menu of Word's primary formatting commands. Choosing any item from that list displays a corresponding dialog box, from which you can choose the formatting attributes to search for.

Suppose that you want to find a red herring in your document. Follow these steps:

  1. Summon the Advanced Find dialog box.

  2. Type red herring in the Find What box.

  3. If needed, click the More button to display the bottom part of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. If the No Formatting button is available, click it.

    This button is used to clear any previous formatting attributes you may have searched for. If the button can be clicked, click it to clear out those attributes and start afresh.

  5. Click the Format button.

  6. Choose Font from the pop-up list.

    The Find Font dialog box appears, which is where you set or control various text attributes. Say that the red herring you're searching for is 24 points tall.

  7. Choose 24 from the Size list.

    Look in the upper-right corner of the Find Font dialog box.

  8. Click OK.

    The Font dialog box goes away and you return to the Find and Replace dialog box.

    Notice the text just beneath the Find What box: Format: Font: 24 pt. This bit of text is telling you that Word is now geared up to find only text that's 24 points tall — about twice the normal size.

  9. Click the Find Next button to find your formatted text.

If you want to search only for a format, leave the Find What text box blank (refer to Step 2). That way, you can search for formatting attributes without caring what the text reads.

You can use this technique to look for specific occurrences of a font, such as Courier or Times New Roman, by selecting the font from the selection list. Scroll through the font menu to see what you can choose.

You can also search for paragraph formatting, such as an indented paragraph, by choosing Paragraph rather than Font from the Format pop-up list in the Find and Replace dialog box.

Yes, you can search for more than one formatting attribute at a time. Just keep choosing format options from the Format button.

The Find command remembers your formatting options! The next time you want to search for plain text, click the No Formatting button. Doing so removes the formatting attributes and allows you to search for text in any format.

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