Finding Based on Displayed Results

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 6, 2020)

1

Barry wants to be able to search what is displayed in a cell rather than searching what is contained in the cell. He notes that Find and Replace apparently only knows about the formula in the cell, so it fails when looking for the displayed contents. As an example, suppose column A has part numbers and column B has a lookup formula returning the names for those part numbers. Barry wants to be able to search column B for part names that contain a certain string.

The reason that Excel isn't finding what you want is that you need to tell Excel where to look for what you want. Given the scenario you outline, start by displaying the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box; the easiest way is to press Ctrl+F. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

The dialog box is very minimal, and if you type in the portion of the part number you want to find, you'll be disappointed in the results, as you have been to date. Instead, before searching, click the Options button to expand the options in the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Find tab of the expanded Find and Replace dialog box.

The key thing to note here is the setting in the Look In drop-down list. There are three possible settings in this drop-down list:

  • Formulas. Excel searches only what is contained in the cells, regardless of how the information in the cell is displayed. It also ignores comments.
  • Values. Excel searches only what is displayed in the cells, ignoring any underlying formulas or comments.
  • Comments. Excel searches only within any comments, ignoring actual cells.

The default search setting is the first one, Formulas. This is why Barry isn't getting the results he wants from his searches. If you change the Look In drop-down list to Values, then the results will be entirely different.

There is one important thing to note. If you use the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box, you'll still note that there is a Look In drop-down list. However, the only option in that variation of the drop-down list is Formulas; there is no Values option. The reason of this is that you can only replace within formulas (the contents of a cell), not within values (what the cell displays).

It should also be noted that the Look In setting is persistent for your entire Excel session. The next time you start the program, however, the setting defaults back to Formulas.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13442) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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 four more than 8?

2016-04-23 18:55:35

Alec

Very useful, thank you.


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