Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Searching for Wildcards.

Searching for Wildcards

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 5, 2017)

2

You know that you can use Excel's Find and Replace feature to locate information in your workbooks. (Just press Ctrl+F or Ctrl+H to pull up the proper tab in the dialog box.) You may even know that you can use question marks (?) and asterisks (*) as wildcard characters, just as you would at a DOS command prompt. What if you want to search for a cell that actually contains an asterisk or a question mark, however?

Excel allows you to search for special characters by preceding the character with the tilde (~). In other words, if you want to search for an asterisk, you would actually search for ~*. If you wanted to search for the question mark, you would search for ~? instead.

Finally, if you wanted to search for the tilde character, you would actually search for ~~. In each instance, the leading tilde informs Excel that the following character should be translated as an actual character, and not as a special wildcard character.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12616) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Searching for Wildcards.

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

Heavy-Duty Footnotes

Word allows you to add footnotes to a document, but they are rather straightforward and simple in their application. If you ...

Discover More

Capitalizing Just a Surname

Changing the capitalization of text is, believe it or not, a common task in Excel. Common or not, it can be frustrating to ...

Discover More

Understanding the Select Case Structure

One of the powerful programming structures available in VBA is the Select Case structure. This tip explains how you can put ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Replacing Only Whole Words in Excel

Excel's Find and Replace capabilities are handy, but they aren't as full-featured as those in Word. One shortcoming is the ...

Discover More

Superscripts in Find and Replace

The find and replace used in Excel is less powerful than its counterpart in Word, so it is not able to do some of the ...

Discover More

Allowing for Prefixes and Suffixes in Find and Replace

Excel includes a rather simplistic find and replace capability. If you have more complex needs, you'll need to seek out ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, 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 three more than 5?

2015-01-07 12:34:20

Mike Morris

The tilde (~) seems to no longer be the escape character in Excel 2013. I need to get rid of a bunch of asterisks, but searching for ~* finds everything, so replacing yields an empty sheet.


2014-01-15 21:59:30

Jonathan Lettington

Many thanks for this great advice.


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, 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.