Friday, November 7, 2014

Tech Tip: search for formatting, instead of for specific text

Everybody needs a tractor with a bucket loader. Some just don't know it yet :-)
Ever discover a fantastic feature you didn’t know you needed, and now don’t know how you got along without? That’s a bit how I feel about the bucket loader on my tractor, but I digress. Quite by accident I came across a feature in Microsoft Office that could come in handy.

Have you ever needed to search through a document, looking for formatted text rather than a specific string? For instance, you want to find every underlined word, or every italicized word, rather than a particular word. Why would you want to do this? I can think of a few reasons. Perhaps you are a teacher writing up a study guide for students … if every answer is underlined, you might want an easy way to jump from answer to answer instead of scrolling through the guide with the mouse wheel. Perhaps you are a network technician working with implementation templates - a template may describe the commands to properly implement a change, and italicize the values that vary such as vlans and ports. Searching for italicized text would ensure you didn’t miss filling in a value.

In Microsoft Office products (Outlook, Word, etc.) you can bring up a search window with CTRL-F, or a search and replace window with CTRL-H. Once you have the search window open, ordinarily you would type some text into the field beside “Find what:” There is a hidden trick though: if instead of typing in text to find, you use the keystroke for the formatting that you want to find (i.e. CTRL-B for bold, CTRL-U for underlined, CTRL-I for italicized), an extra line will appear in the search box showing the format to search on. Pressing CTRL-B again toggles to specifically find text that is not bold, and CTRL-B a third time removes bold from the criteria list. You can also combine formats – look for only text that is both bold and underlined, as seen below.

Use a formatting keystroke (such as CTRL-B) from a Microsoft Office search window to search for formatted text instead of specific words.

Hit the “More >>” button at the bottom of the screen to see even more options – find specific fonts and sizes, find content in different languages, find paragraph breaks … lots of other ways to use this feature.

By the way, I am a big proponent of keyboard shortcuts. Mousing is easy and intuitive, but it is far quicker to use CTRL-B to bold a word, than to use the mouse to highlight a word, then move the mouse pointer to the toolbar to highlight and click the bold button

Do you have something to add? A question you'd like answered? Think I'm out of my mind? Join the conversation below, reach out by email at david (at), or hit me up on Twitter at @dnlongen