How to find text in a file, document, spreadsheet, or page

Updated: 12/31/2020 by Computer Hope

Searching for and finding one or more specific words in a file can depend on the software program used to open and view the contents of the file. Many programs contain an Edit, Options, or Search menu which includes a Find feature used to search for one or more words that the file may contain. Other programs may have a Ribbon menu at the top of the program window, and the Find option is available in that Ribbon menu. Below is a list of popular programs and how to find text in the files they open.

Tip

In many applications, you can use the Ctrl+F shortcut keys to open the Find option. On an Apple running macOS, you can use Command+F to open the find option.

Finding text in a Word document

Tip

The Ctrl+F and Command+F keyboard shortcut keys also work in Microsoft Word.

In Microsoft Word, older versions featured the Edit menu, and the Find option is found in that menu. Newer versions of Word feature a Ribbon, and the Find option is found on the Home tab, at the far right side.

Find option in Microsoft Word 2013

In the find pane on the left side of the window, search the document for text. If you need advanced options, click the down arrow next to the Find for an Advanced Find.

Tip

If you want to replace the found text, click the Replace option, located below Find. For additional details about finding and replacing text in a document, see: How to find and replace text within a text file.

To get even more find options in the Find and Replace click the More button (if shown) to get more options that should resemble the picture shown below.

Find and Replace in Microsoft Word

With the more advanced options, you can perform additional searches that use wildcards, match the case, and the other options shown in the above picture.

Finding text in an Excel spreadsheet

Tip

The Ctrl+F and Command+F keyboard shortcut keys also work in Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet programs.

Microsoft Excel Find and Select

In Microsoft Excel, older versions featured the Edit menu, and the Find option is found in that menu. Newer versions of Excel feature a Ribbon, and the Find & Select option is on the Home tab, at the far right side as shown in the picture.

Once the Find or Find and Replace box opens, you can specify the text to search for in your spreadsheet.

Tip

If you want to replace the found text, click the Replace option, located below Find. For additional details about finding and replacing text in a document, see: How to find and replace text within a text file.

Finding text in an Internet browser

The Ctrl+F and Command+F keyboard shortcut keys also work in all Internet browsers. After entering the shortcut keys, a find box appears in the top-right corner, bottom, or in the center depending on your browser. Entering the text you want to find highlights the text or move the window to the text on the page you are currently reading.

Finding text in Notepad and WordPad

Tip

The Ctrl+F and Command+F keyboard shortcut keys also work in Microsoft Notepad and Microsoft WordPad.

Note

The shortcut keys and Find option do not work in Notepad or WordPad until there is text in the page you are viewing.

In Notepad and early versions of Windows WordPad, you can also locate the Find under the Edit file menu option. In new versions of WordPad that use the Ribbon, you can find the Find option on the far right side of the Home tab on the Ribbon. Once the shortcut key opens Find or you click the Find option in the Ribbon, you can enter the text you want to find in the file.

Tip

If you want to replace the found text, click the Replace option, located below Find. For additional details about finding and replacing text in a document, see: How to find and replace text within a text file.

Finding text in all other programs

Tip

As previously mentioned, the Ctrl+F and Command+F keyboard shortcut keys work in most applications. If you have not already tried this shortcut key, we recommend trying the shortcut key before following any of the below suggestions.

Text editing programs most often feature an Edit or Search menu, and the Find option is found in that menu. Some Internet browsers have the Edit menu, while others have a general Options menu, with the Find option located in either of those menus.

Tip

If you do not see the File, Edit, or View menus, because your program does not have a menu bar, you can try pressing Alt to reveal the menu bar. When it appears, you can select the menu you want.

Find option in Microsoft Word 2003 and Internet Explorer

After opening the Find option, type in one or more words that you want to search for and find in the file. After typing the text, the first occurrence of that text may automatically be highlighted. You may need to press Enter to display the first occurrence of the text. If there are multiple occurrences of the text, pressing Enter or clicking a Down arrow button on the Find window should display the next occurrence. Continue pressing Enter or the down arrow to cycle through each occurrence in the file.

Additional information