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Get wild with Excel

Question : I work with numbers that may or may not end with asterisks. For example: 1234* and 1234 denote two separate entities. Let's say I have an Excel file of 10,000 entries and just a handful of them end in an asterisk. Can you come up with a solution to find those that end in an asterisk by using Find? I don't have much success, because Find treats * as a wildcard. A search for * finds every single cell that has a value.

Answer : Find and Find/Replace in Microsoft Excel treat the asterisk and question mark characters as wildcards. An asterisk represents any number of characters (including zero). Thus ca*t matches cat, canoeist, and "caloric content." The question mark represents exactly one character, so ca?t matches cart but not cat or caret.

As you've noticed, trouble arises when you search for one of the wildcard characters itself. Fortunately there's a simple solution: Stick a tilde (~) in front of the wildcard character. A search on ~* will match all cells that contain an asterisk. But you're not quite out of the woods yet. Any formula that involves multiplication will also match, since the asterisk is the multiplication operator. To avoid these unwanted "hits," click the Options>> button, pull down the set of options titled Look in, and change its value to Values (the default is Formulas).

Of course, since the tilde character gets special treatment as an identifier of wildcards, it's a kind of wildcard itself. And, yes, in order to search for a tilde you'll have to precede it with... another tilde.


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