Inconsistent Behavior of Find and Replace Dialog Box

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 16, 2024)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Arlene often uses Ctrl+F to locate records in her worksheet so she can modify them. When the Find and Replace dialog box opens, the text in the Find What box is highlighted, which is very helpful; it allows her to immediately overtype what was there before. Sometimes, however, the text in the Find What box is not highlighted, and instead the insertion point is at the beginning of the box's contents. When Arlene starts typing, her text is added to what was in the box before.

This inconsistency is understandably frustrating to Arlene. She would find it most helpful if the contents of the Find What box were always highlighted and that she could count on that all the time, but she cannot. So, she wonders if there is some setting she should check to ensure that Excel is consistent when displaying the Find and Replace dialog box.

There is no setting within Excel that controls whether the Find What text is selected or the insertion point is at the beginning of the Find What box. In fact, in our testing, we could not replicate this issue—every time we used Ctrl+F to display the Find and Replace dialog box, the Find What text was always highlighted. In addition, the text was highlighted every time we left the Find What box (by pressing Tab or by clicking on a different control in the Find and Replace dialog box) and then came back to the Find What box.

This would lead one to question if there might be some macro in play on Arlene's system that is intercepting the Ctrl+F shortcut key or, perhaps, some third-party program that is affecting how Find in Replace operates. If so, then setting Ctrl+F back to its normal operation should fix the problem.

Be that as it may, there is a relatively simple fix that can help ensure the Find What text is selected at all times. Immediately after press Ctrl+F to display the Find and Replace dialog box, press Ctrl+Shift+Right Arrow. This ensures that everything in the Find What box is selected, and if something was previously selected, that selection is not disturbed. At this point, any additional typing you do will overwrite whatever was in the Find What box.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7923) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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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What is 9 + 9?

2024-05-31 16:49:15


I find that this happens to me if I leave the Find and Replace window between searches. The next time I CTRL + F the search text is not highlighted and the insertion point is placed at the end of the previous text. if I close the Find and Replace window between searches, then the next time I CTRL +F the previous search text is highlighted.

2024-03-17 09:55:20

Rick Emmertson

Today, when I opened an old .xlsx, itinerary, no word appeared, from the last time I used ctrl F. I searched for dinner, by typing din. I selected find all, it brought up a list of dinners, for the week. If I close the program, the next time I search for something, din is highlighted in blue. It may have to do with an update by windows or switching my microsoft 365 account as a family member, under my wife's account. Ask her about what version she has, or any updates or changes to her 365 account.

2024-03-16 16:40:11

Alex Blakenburg

Ctrl+A is easier to use and highlights the whole content (Ctrl+Shift+Right-Arrow only highlights the first word)
PS: I can't replicate the Arelen's issue either.

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