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Excel 2010: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Chapter 4. Managing Worksheets

So far, you’ve learned how to create a basic worksheet with a table of data. That’s great for getting started, but as power users, professional accountants, and other Excel jockeys quickly learn, some of the most compelling reasons to use Excel involve multiple tables that share information and interact with each other.

For example, say you want to track the performance of your company: you create one table summarizing your firm’s yearly sales, another listing expenses, and a third analyzing profitability and making predictions for the coming year. If you create these tables in different spreadsheet files, you must copy shared information from one location to another, all without misplacing a number or making a mistake. And what’s worse, with data scattered in multiple places, you’re missing the chance to use some of Excel’s niftiest charting and analytical tools. But cramming a bunch of tables onto the same worksheet page isn’t the solution. Not only are you likely to lose your spot in the avalanche of data, you’ll also face a host of formatting and cell management problems.

Fortunately, a better solution exists. Excel lets you create spreadsheets with multiple pages of data, each of which can conveniently exchange information with other pages. Each page is called a worksheet, and a collection of one or more worksheets is called a workbook (which is also sometimes called a spreadsheet file).

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to manage the worksheets in a workbook. You’ll also take a look at Find and Replace, an Excel tool for digging through worksheets in search of specific data.

Worksheets and Workbooks

Many workbooks contain more than one table of information. For example, you might have a list of your bank account balances and a list of items repossessed from your home in the same financial planning spreadsheet. You might find it a bit challenging to arrange these different tables. You could stack them (Figure 4-1) or place them side by side (Figure 4-2), but neither solution is perfect.

Stacking tables on top of each other is usually a bad idea. If you need to add more data to the first table, then you must move the second table. You’ll also have trouble properly resizing or formatting columns because each column contains data from two different tables.

Figure 4-1. Stacking tables on top of each other is usually a bad idea. If you need to add more data to the first table, then you must move the second table. You’ll also have trouble properly resizing or formatting columns because each column contains data from two different tables.

You’re somewhat better off putting tables side by side, separated by a blank column, than you are stacking them, but this method can create problems if you need to add more columns to the first table. It also makes for a lot of side-to-side scrolling.

Figure 4-2. You’re somewhat better off putting tables side by side, separated by a blank column, than you are stacking them, but this method can create problems if you need to add more columns to the first table. It also makes for a lot of side-to-side scrolling.

Most Excel masters agree that the best way to arrange different tables of information is to use separate worksheets for each table. When you create a new workbook, Excel automatically fills it with three blank worksheets named Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3. Often, you’ll work exclusively with the first worksheet (Sheet1), and not even realize that you have two more blank worksheets to play with—not to mention the ability to add plenty more.

To move from one worksheet to another, you have a few choices:

  • Click the worksheet tabs at the bottom of Excel’s grid window (just above the status bar), as shown in Figure 4-3.

  • Press Ctrl+Page Down to move to the next worksheet. For example, if you’re currently in Sheet1, this key sequence jumps you to Sheet2.

  • Press Ctrl+Page Up to move to the previous worksheet. For example, if you’re currently in Sheet2, this key sequence takes you back to Sheet1.

Worksheets provide a good way to organize multiple tables of data. To move from one worksheet to another, click the appropriate Worksheet tab at the bottom of the grid. Each worksheet contains a fresh grid of cells—from A1 all the way to XFD1048576.

Figure 4-3. Worksheets provide a good way to organize multiple tables of data. To move from one worksheet to another, click the appropriate Worksheet tab at the bottom of the grid. Each worksheet contains a fresh grid of cells—from A1 all the way to XFD1048576.

Excel keeps track of the active cell in each worksheet. That means if you’re in cell B9 in Sheet1, and then move to Sheet2, when you jump back to Sheet1 you’ll automatically return to cell B9.

Tip

Excel includes some interesting viewing features that let you look at two different worksheets at the same time, even if these worksheets are in the same workbook. You’ll learn more about custom views in Chapter 7.

Adding and Removing Worksheets

When you start a fresh workbook in Excel, you automatically get three blank worksheets in it. You can easily add more worksheets. Just click the Insert Worksheet button, which appears immediately to the right of your last worksheet tab (Figure 4-4). You can also use the Home→Cells→Insert→Insert Sheet command, which works the same way but inserts a new worksheet immediately to the left of the current worksheet. (Don’t panic: Naming and Rearranging Worksheets shows how you can rearrange worksheets after the fact.)

Every time you click the Insert Worksheet button, Excel inserts a new worksheet after your existing worksheets and assigns it a new name. For example, if you start with the standard Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3 and click the Insert Worksheet button, then Excel adds a new worksheet named—you guessed it—Sheet4.

Figure 4-4. Every time you click the Insert Worksheet button, Excel inserts a new worksheet after your existing worksheets and assigns it a new name. For example, if you start with the standard Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3 and click the Insert Worksheet button, then Excel adds a new worksheet named—you guessed it—Sheet4.

If you continue adding worksheets, you’ll eventually find that all the worksheet tabs won’t fit at the bottom of your workbook window. If you run out of space, you need to use the scroll buttons (which are immediately to the left of the worksheet tabs) to scroll through the list of worksheets. Figure 4-5 shows the scroll buttons.

Using the scroll buttons, you can move between worksheets one at a time or jump straight to the first or last tab. These scroll buttons control only which tabs you see—you still need to click the appropriate tab to move to the worksheet you want to work on.

Figure 4-5. Using the scroll buttons, you can move between worksheets one at a time or jump straight to the first or last tab. These scroll buttons control only which tabs you see—you still need to click the appropriate tab to move to the worksheet you want to work on.

Tip

If you have a huge number of worksheets and they don’t all fit in the strip of worksheet tabs, there’s an easier way to jump around. Right-click the scroll buttons to pop up a list with all your worksheets. You can then move to the worksheet you want by clicking it in the list.

Removing a worksheet is just as easy as adding one. Simply move to the worksheet you want to get rid of, and then choose Home→Cells→Delete→Delete Sheet (you can also right-click a worksheet tab, and then choose Delete). Excel won’t complain if you ask it to remove a blank worksheet, but if you try to remove a sheet that contains any data, it presents a warning message asking for your confirmation. Also, if you’re down to one last worksheet, Excel won’t let you remove it. Doing so would create a tough existential dilemma for Excel—a workbook that holds no worksheets—so the program prevents you from taking this step.

Warning

Be careful when deleting worksheets, as you can’t use Undo (Ctrl+Z) to reverse this change!

Excel starts you off with three worksheets for each workbook, but changing this setting’s easy. You can configure Excel to start with fewer worksheets (as few as one), or many more (up to 255). Select File→Options, and then choose the General section. Under the heading “When creating new workbooks”, change the number in the “Include this many sheets” box, and then click OK. This setting takes effect the next time you create a new workbook.

Note

Although you’re limited to 255 sheets in a new workbook, Excel doesn’t limit how many worksheets you can add after you’ve created a workbook. The only factor that ultimately limits the number of worksheets your workbook can hold is your computer’s memory. However, modern-day PCs can easily handle even the most ridiculously large, worksheet-stuffed workbook.

Hiding Worksheets

Deleting worksheets isn’t the only way to tidy up a workbook or get rid of information you don’t want. You can also choose to hide a worksheet temporarily.

When you hide a worksheet, its tab disappears, but the worksheet itself remains part of your spreadsheet file, available whenever you choose to unhide it. Hidden worksheets also don’t appear on printouts. To hide a worksheet, right-click the worksheet tab, and then choose Hide. (Or, for a more long-winded approach, choose Home→Cells→Format→Hide & Unhide→Hide Sheet.)

To redisplay a hidden worksheet, right-click any worksheet tab, and then choose Unhide. The Unhide dialog box appears along with a list of all hidden sheets, as shown in Figure 4-6. Select a sheet from the list, and then click OK to unhide it. (Once again, the ribbon can get you the same window—just point yourself to Home→Cells→Format→Hide & Unhide→Unhide Sheet.)

This workbook contains two hidden worksheets. To restore one, just select it from the list, and then click OK. Unfortunately, if you want to show multiple hidden sheets, you must use the Unhide Sheet command multiple times. Excel has no shortcut for unhiding multiple sheets at once.

Figure 4-6. This workbook contains two hidden worksheets. To restore one, just select it from the list, and then click OK. Unfortunately, if you want to show multiple hidden sheets, you must use the Unhide Sheet command multiple times. Excel has no shortcut for unhiding multiple sheets at once.

Naming and Rearranging Worksheets

The standard names Excel assigns to new worksheets—Sheet1, Sheet2, Sheet3, and so on—aren’t very helpful for identifying what they contain. And they become even less helpful if you start adding new worksheets, since the new sheet numbers don’t necessarily indicate the position of the sheets, just the order in which you created them.

For example, if you’re on Sheet 3 and you add a new worksheet (by choosing Home→Cells→Insert→Insert Sheet), then the worksheet tabs read: Sheet1, Sheet2, Sheet4, Sheet3. (That’s because the Insert Sheet command inserts the new sheet just before your current sheet.) Excel doesn’t expect you to stick with these auto-generated names. Instead, you can rename them by right-clicking the worksheet tab and selecting Rename, or just double-click the sheet name. Either way, Excel highlights the worksheet tab, and you can type a new name directly onto the tab. Figure 4-7 shows worksheet tabs with better names.

Worksheet names can be up to 31 characters long and can include letters, numbers, some symbols, and spaces. Remember, though, the longer the worksheet name, the fewer worksheet tabs you’ll be able to see at once, and the more you’ll need to rely on the scroll buttons to the left of the worksheet tabs. For convenience’s sake, try to keep your names brief by using titles like Sales04, Purchases, and Jet_Mileage.

Figure 4-7. Worksheet names can be up to 31 characters long and can include letters, numbers, some symbols, and spaces. Remember, though, the longer the worksheet name, the fewer worksheet tabs you’ll be able to see at once, and the more you’ll need to rely on the scroll buttons to the left of the worksheet tabs. For convenience’s sake, try to keep your names brief by using titles like Sales04, Purchases, and Jet_Mileage.

Note

Excel has a small set of reserved names that you can never use. To witness this problem, try to create a worksheet named History. Excel doesn’t let you, because it uses the History worksheet as part of its change tracking features (Printing Comments). Use this Excel oddity to impress your friends.

Sometimes Excel refuses to insert new worksheets exactly where you’d like them. Fortunately, you can easily rearrange any of your worksheets just by dragging their tabs from one place to another, as shown in Figure 4-8.

When you drag a worksheet tab, a tiny page appears beneath the arrow cursor. As you move the cursor around, you’ll see a black triangle appear, indicating where the worksheet will land when you release the mouse button.

Figure 4-8. When you drag a worksheet tab, a tiny page appears beneath the arrow cursor. As you move the cursor around, you’ll see a black triangle appear, indicating where the worksheet will land when you release the mouse button.

Tip

You can use a similar technique to create copies of a worksheet. Click the worksheet tab and begin dragging, just as you would to move the worksheet. However, before releasing the mouse button, press the Ctrl key (you’ll see a plus sign [+] appear). When you let go, Excel creates a copy of the worksheet in the new location. The original worksheet remains in its original location. Excel gives the new worksheet a name with a number in parentheses. For example, a copy of Sheet1 is named Sheet1 (2). As with any other worksheet tab, you can change this name.

Moving Worksheets from One Workbook to Another

Once you get the hang of creating different worksheets for different types of information, your Excel files can quickly fill up with more sheets than a linens store. What happens when you want to shift some of these worksheets around? For instance, you may want to move (or copy) a worksheet from one Excel file to another. Here’s how:

  1. Open both spreadsheet files in Excel.

    The file that contains the worksheet you want to move or copy is called the source file; the other file (where you want to move or copy the worksheet to) is known as the destination file.

  2. Go to the source workbook.

    Remember, you can move from one window to another using the Windows task bar, or by choosing the file’s name from the ribbon’s View→Windows→Switch Windows list.

  3. Right-click the worksheet you want to transfer, and then, from the shortcut menu that appears, choose Move or Copy.

    If you want, you can transfer multiple worksheets at once. Just hold down the Ctrl key, and then select all the worksheets you want to move or copy. Excel highlights all the worksheets you select (and groups them together). Right-click the selection, and then choose Move or Copy.

    When you choose Move or Copy, the Move or Copy dialog box appears (as shown in Figure 4-9).

  4. Choose the destination file from the “To book” list.

    The “To book” drop-down list shows all the currently open workbooks (including the source workbook).

    Here, the selected worksheet is about to be moved into the SimpleExpenses.xlsx workbook. (The source workbook isn’t shown.) The SimpleExpenses workbook already contains three worksheets (named Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3). Excel inserts the new worksheet just before the first sheet. Because the “Create a copy” checkbox isn’t turned on, Excel removes the worksheet from the source workbook when it completes the transfer.

    Figure 4-9. Here, the selected worksheet is about to be moved into the SimpleExpenses.xlsx workbook. (The source workbook isn’t shown.) The SimpleExpenses workbook already contains three worksheets (named Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3). Excel inserts the new worksheet just before the first sheet. Because the “Create a copy” checkbox isn’t turned on, Excel removes the worksheet from the source workbook when it completes the transfer.

    Tip

    Excel also lets you move your worksheets to a new workbook, which it automatically creates for you. To move them to a new workbook, choose the “(new book)” item in the “To book” list. The new workbook won’t have the standard three worksheets. Instead, it’ll have only the worksheets you’ve transferred.

  5. Specify the position where you want the worksheet inserted.

    Choose a destination worksheet from the “Before sheet” list. Excel places the copied worksheets just before the worksheet you select. If you want to place the worksheets at the end of the destination workbook, select “(move to end).” Of course, you can always rearrange the worksheets after you transfer them, so you don’t need to worry too much about getting the perfect placement.

  6. If you want to copy the worksheet, turn on the “Create a copy” checkbox at the bottom of the window.

    If you don’t turn this option on, then Excel copies the worksheet to the destination workbook and removes it from the source workbook. If you do turn this option on, you’ll end up with a copy of the worksheet in both workbooks.

  7. Click OK.

    This final step closes the Move or Copy dialog box and transfers the worksheet (or worksheets).

Note

If there are any worksheet name conflicts, Excel adds a number in parentheses after the moved sheet’s name. For example, if you try to copy a worksheet named Sheet1 to a workbook that already has a Sheet1, Excel names the copied worksheet Sheet1 (2).

Grouping Worksheets

As you’ve seen in previous chapters, Excel lets you work with more than one column, row, or cell at a time. The same holds true for worksheets. You can select multiple worksheets and perform an operation on all of them at once. This process of selecting multiple sheets is called grouping, and it’s helpful if you need to hide or format several worksheets (for example, if you want to make sure all your worksheets start with a bright yellow first row), and you don’t want the hassle of selecting them one at a time. Grouping sheets doesn’t let you do anything you couldn’t do ordinarily—it’s just a nifty timesaver.

Here are some operations—all of which are explained in detail below—that you can simultaneously perform on worksheets that are grouped together:

  • Move, copy, delete, or hide the worksheets.

  • Apply formatting to individual cells, columns, rows, or even entire worksheets.

  • Enter new text, change text, or clear cells.

  • Cut, copy, and paste cells.

  • Adjust some page layout options, like paper orientation (on the Page Layout tab).

  • Adjust some view options, like gridlines and the zoom level (on the View tab).

To group worksheets, hold down Ctrl while clicking multiple worksheet tabs. When you’re finished making your selections, release the Ctrl key. Figure 4-10 shows an example.

In this example, Sheet2 and Sheet3 are grouped. When worksheets are grouped, their tab colors change from gray to white. Also, in workbooks with groups, the title bar of the Excel window includes the word [Group] at the end of the file name.

Figure 4-10. In this example, Sheet2 and Sheet3 are grouped. When worksheets are grouped, their tab colors change from gray to white. Also, in workbooks with groups, the title bar of the Excel window includes the word [Group] at the end of the file name.

Tip

As a shortcut, you can select all the worksheets in a workbook by right-clicking any tab, and then choosing Select All Sheets.

To ungroup worksheets, right-click one of the worksheet tabs and select Ungroup Sheets, or just click one of the worksheet tabs that isn’t in your group. You can also remove a single worksheet from a group by clicking it while holding down Ctrl. However, this technique works only if the worksheet you want to remove from the group is not the currently active worksheet.

Managing grouped sheets

As your workbook grows, you’ll often need better ways to manage the collection of worksheets you’ve accumulated. For example, you might want to temporarily hide a number of worksheets, or move a less important batch of worksheets from the front (that is, the left side) of the worksheet tab holder to the end (the right side). And if a workbook’s got way too many worksheets, you might even want to relocate several worksheets to a brand new workbook.

It’s easy to perform an action on a group of worksheets. For example, when you have a group of worksheets selected, you can drag them en masse from one location to another in the worksheet tab holder. To delete or hide a group of sheets, just right-click one of the worksheet tabs in your group, and then choose Delete or Hide. Excel then deletes or hides all the selected worksheets (provided that action will leave at least one visible worksheet in your workbook).

Note

Excel keeps track of print and display settings on a per-worksheet basis. In other words, when you set the zoom percentage to 50 percent in one worksheet so you can see more data, it doesn’t affect the zoom in another worksheet. However, when you make the change for a group of worksheets, they’re all affected in the same way.

Formatting grouped sheets

When you format cells inside one grouped worksheet, it triggers the same changes in the cells in the other grouped worksheets. So you have another tool you can use to apply consistent formatting over a batch of worksheets. It’s mainly useful when your worksheets are all structured in the same way.

For example, imagine you’ve created a workbook with 10 worksheets, each one representing a different customer order. If you group all 10 worksheets together, and then format just the first one, Excel formats all the worksheets in exactly the same way. Or say you group Sheet1 and Sheet2, and then change the font of column B in Sheet2—Excel automatically changes the font in column B in Sheet1, too. The same is true if you change the formatting of individual cells or the entire worksheet—Excel replicates these changes across the group. (To change the font in the currently selected cells, just select the column and, in the Home→Font section of the ribbon, make a new font choice from the font list. You’ll learn much more about the different types of formatting you can apply to cells in Chapter 5.)

Note

It doesn’t matter which worksheet you modify in a group. For example, if Sheet1 and Sheet2 are grouped, you can modify the formatting of both in either worksheet. Excel automatically applies the changes to the other sheet.

Entering data in grouped sheets

With grouped worksheets, you can also modify the contents of individual cells, including entering or changing text and clearing cell contents. For example, if you enter a new value in cell B4 in Sheet2, Excel enters the same value into cell B4 in the grouped Sheet1. Even more interesting, if you modify a value in a cell in Sheet2, the same value appears in the same cell in Sheet1, even if Sheet1 didn’t previously have a value in that cell. Similar behavior happens when you delete cells.

Editing a group of worksheets at once isn’t as useful as moving and formatting them, but it does have its moments. Once again, it makes most sense when all the worksheets have the same structure. For example, you could use this technique to put the same copyright message in cell A1 on every worksheet, or to add the same column titles to multiple tables (assuming they’re arranged in exactly the same way). One example where grouped sheets make sense is if you have a different worksheet for every month of a year, but each one has the same overall structure.

Warning

Be careful to remember the magnified power your keystrokes possess when you’re operating on grouped worksheets. For example, imagine that you move to cell A3 on Sheet1, which happens to be empty. If you click Delete, you see no change. However, if cell A3 contains data on other worksheets that are grouped, these cells are now empty. Grouper beware.

Cut and paste operations work the same way as entering or modifying grouped cells. Whatever action you perform on one grouped sheet, Excel also performs on other grouped sheets. For example, consider what happens if you’ve grouped together Sheet1 and Sheet2, and you copy cell A1 to A2 in Sheet1. The same action takes place in Sheet2—in other words, Excel copies the contents of cell A1 (in Sheet2) to cell A2 (also in Sheet2). Obviously, the contents of cell A1 and A2 in Sheet1 may be different from the contents of cell A1 and A2 in Sheet2—the grouping simply means that whatever was in cell A1 will now also be in cell A2.

Find and Replace

When you’re dealing with great mounds of information, you may have a tough time ferreting out the nuggets of data you need. Fortunately, Excel’s find feature is great for helping you locate numbers or text, even when they’re buried within massive workbooks holding dozens of worksheets. And if you need to make changes to a bunch of identical items, the find-and-replace option can be a real timesaver.

The Find and Replace feature includes both simple and advanced options. In its basic version, you’re only a quick keystroke combo away from a word or number you know is lurking somewhere in your data pile. With the advanced options turned on, you can do things like search for cells that have certain formatting characteristics and apply changes automatically. The next few sections dissect these features.

The Basic Find

Excel’s Find feature is a little like the Go To tool described in Chapter 1, which lets you move across a large expanse of cells in a single bound. The difference is that Go To moves to a known location, using the cell address you specify. The Find feature, on the other hand, searches every cell until it finds the content you’ve asked Excel to look for. Excel’s search works similarly to the search feature in Microsoft Word, but it’s worth keeping in mind a few additional details:

  • Excel searches by comparing the content you enter with the content in each cell. For example, if you searched for the word Date, Excel identifies as a match a cell containing the phrase Date Purchased.

  • When searching cells that contain numeric or date information, Excel always searches the cell content, not the display text. (For more information about the difference between the way Excel displays a numeric value and the underlying value Excel actually stores, see Number.)

    For example, say a cell displays dates using the day-month-year format, like 2-Dec-10. Internally, Excel stores the date as 12/2/2010, which you’ll see if you move to the cell and look in the formula bar. Thus, if you perform a search for 2010 or 12/2 you’ll find the cell, because your search text matches part of the stored content. But if you search for Dec or 2-Dec-10, you won’t find a match. A similar behavior happens with numbers. For example, the search string $3 won’t match the currency value $3.00, because the dollar sign isn’t part of the stored cell value—it’s just a formatting detail. You can change this behavior and start searching the cell display text using the “Look in” setting described on More Advanced Searches.

  • Excel searches one cell at a time, from left to right. When it reaches the end of a row, it moves to the first column of the next row.

To perform a find operation, follow these steps:

  1. Move to the cell where you want the search to begin.

    If you start halfway down the worksheet, for example, the search covers the cells from there to the end of the worksheet, and then “loops over” and starts at cell A1. If you select a group of cells, Excel restricts the search to just those cells. You can search across a set of columns, rows, or even a noncontiguous group of cells.

  2. Choose Home→Editing→Find & Select→Find, or press Ctrl+F.

    The Find and Replace window appears, with the Find tab selected.

    Note

    To assist frequent searches, Excel lets you keep the Find and Replace window hanging around (rather than forcing you to use it or close it, as is the case with many other dialog boxes). You can continue to move from cell to cell and edit your worksheet data even while the Find and Replace window remains visible.

  3. In the “Find what” combo box, enter the word, phrase, or number you’re looking for.

    If you’ve performed other searches recently, you can reuse these search terms. Just choose the appropriate search text from the “Find what” drop-down list.

  4. Click Find Next.

    Excel jumps to the next matching cell, which becomes the active cell. However, Excel doesn’t highlight the matched text or in any way indicate why it decided the cell was a match. (That’s a bummer if you’ve got, say, 200 words crammed into a cell.) If it doesn’t find a matching cell, Excel displays a message box telling you it couldn’t find the requested content.

    If the first match isn’t what you’re looking for, you can keep looking by clicking Find Next again to move to the next match. Keep clicking Find Next to move through the worksheet. When you reach the end, Excel resumes the search at the beginning of your worksheet, potentially bringing you back to a match you’ve already seen. When you’re finished with the search, click Close to get rid of the Find and Replace window.

Find All

One of the problems with searching in Excel is that you’re never quite sure how many matches there are in a worksheet. Sure, clicking Find Next gets you from one cell to the next, but wouldn’t it be easier for Excel to let you know right away how many matches it found?

Enter the Find All feature. With Find All, Excel searches the entire worksheet in one go, and compiles a list of matches, as shown in Figure 4-11.

The Find All button doesn’t lead you through the worksheet like the Find feature. It’s up to you to select one of the results in the list, at which point Excel automatically moves you to the matching cell.

In the example shown here, the search for “Price” matched three cells in the worksheet. The list shows you the complete text in the matching cell and the cell reference (for example, $C$1, which is a reference to cell C1).

Figure 4-11. In the example shown here, the search for “Price” matched three cells in the worksheet. The list shows you the complete text in the matching cell and the cell reference (for example, $C$1, which is a reference to cell C1).

The Find All list won’t automatically refresh itself: After you’ve run a Find All search, if you add new data to your worksheet, you need to run a new search to find any newly added terms. However, Excel does keep the text and numbers in your found-items list synchronized with any changes you make in the worksheet. For example, if you change cell D5 to Total Price, the change appears in the Value column in the found-items list automatically. This tool is great for editing a worksheet because you can keep track of multiple changes at a single glance.

Finally, the Find All feature is the heart of another great Excel guru trick: it gives you another way to change multiple cells at once. After you’ve performed the Find All search, select all the entries you want to change from the list by clicking them while you hold down Ctrl (this trick lets you select several at once). Click the formula bar, and then start typing the new value. When you’re finished, hit Ctrl+Enter to apply your changes to every selected cell. Voilà—it’s like Find and Replace, but you’re in control!

More Advanced Searches

Basic searches are fine if all you need to find is a glaringly unique phrase or number (Pet Snail Names or 10,987,654,321). But Excel’s advanced search feature gives you lots of ways to fine-tune your searches or even search more than one worksheet. To conduct an advanced search, begin by clicking the Options button in the Find and Replace window, as shown in Figure 4-12.

In the standard Find and Replace window (top), when you click Options, Excel gives you a slew of additional settings (bottom) so you can configure things like search direction, case sensitivity, and format matching.

Figure 4-12. In the standard Find and Replace window (top), when you click Options, Excel gives you a slew of additional settings (bottom) so you can configure things like search direction, case sensitivity, and format matching.

You can set any or all of the following options:

  • The Within box controls the span of your search. The standard option, Sheet, searches all the cells in the currently active worksheet. If you want to continue the search in the other worksheets in your workbook, choose Workbook. When performing a workbook search, Excel examines your worksheets from left to right, starting with the current worksheet. When it finishes searching the last worksheet in your workbook, it loops back and starts again at the first worksheet in the workbook.

  • The Search box chooses the direction of the search. The standard option, By Rows, completely searches each row before moving on to the next one. That means that if you start in cell B2, Excel searches C2, D2, E2, and so on. Once it’s moved through every column in the second row, it moves onto the third row and searches from left to right.

    On the other hand, if you choose By Columns, Excel searches all the rows in the current column before moving to the next column. That means that if you start in cell B2, Excel searches B3, B4, and so on until it reaches the bottom of the column, and then starts at the top of the next column (column C).

    Note

    The search direction determines which path Excel follows when it’s searching. However, the search will still ultimately traverse every cell in your worksheet (or the current selection).

  • The “Look in” box tells Excel what to examine in each cell. If you choose Formulas (the standard option), Excel tries to make a match between your search text and the cell content (for example, the number 3.5 or the date 12/2/2010). If you choose Values, Excel tries to make a match between your search text and the cell display text (for example, the formatted number $3.50 or the formatted date 2-Dec-10). And if you choose Comments, Excel searches the text of any attached comment boxes (Uploading to the Web), but ignores the actual cell content.

  • The “Match case” option specifies whether capitalization is important. If you select “Match case”, Excel finds only words or phrases whose capitalization matches. Thus, searching for Date matches the cell value Date, but not date.

  • The “Match entire cell contents” option lets you restrict your searches to the entire contents of a cell. Excel ordinarily looks to see if your search term is contained anywhere inside a cell. So, if you specify the word Price, Excel finds cells containing text like Current Price and even Repriced Items. Similarly, a number like 32 will match cell values like 3253, 10032, and 1.321. Turning on the “Match entire cell contents” option forces Excel to be precise.

Note

Remember, Excel searches for numbers as they’re displayed (as opposed to looking at the underlying values that Excel uses to store numbers internally). That means that if you’re searching for a number formatted using the dollar Currency format ($32.00, for example), and you’ve turned on the “Match entire cell contents” checkbox, you’ll need to enter the number exactly as it appears on the worksheet. Thus, $32.00 would work, but 32 alone won’t help you.

Finding Formatted Cells

Excel’s Find and Replace is an equal opportunity search tool: It doesn’t care what the contents of a cell look like. But what if you know, for example, that the data you’re looking for is formatted in bold, or that it’s a number that uses the Currency format? You can use these formatting details to help Excel find the data you want and ignore cells that aren’t relevant.

To use formatting details as part of your search criteria, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Find tool.

    Choose Home→Editing→Find & Select→Find, or press Ctrl+F. Make sure that the Find and Replace window is showing the advanced options (by clicking the Options button).

  2. Decide how you want to specify the formatting.

    You have two options, and they both involve the Format button that appears next to the “Find what” search box.

    The quickest approach is to copy all the format information from another cell. To do this, click the arrow on the right-side of the Format button to pop open a menu with additional options, and then click Choose Format From Cell. The mouse pointer changes to a plus symbol with an eyedropper next to it. Next, click any cell that has the formatting you want to match. Keep in mind that when you use this approach, you copy all the format settings.

    A more controlled approach is to specify the exact formatting settings you want to hunt down. To do this, click the Format button. The Find Format dialog box appears (Figure 4-13). It contains the same options as the Format Cells dialog box discussed on Changing the Cell Value Format. Using the Find Format dialog box, you can specify any combination of settings for number format, alignment, font, fill pattern, and borders. Chapter 5 explains all these settings in detail. You can also search for protected and locked cells, which are described in Chapter 24. When you’re finished, click OK to return to the Find and Replace window.

  3. Review your formatting and start your search.

    Next to the “Find what” search box, a preview appears indicating the formatting of the cells that you’re searching for, as shown in Figure 4-14. If everything checks out, click Find All or Find Next to get started.

    To remove these formatting restrictions in subsequent searches, click the arrow on the right of the Format button, and then choose Clear Find Format.

In the Find Format dialog box, Excel won’t use any formatting option that’s blank or grayed out as part of its search criteria. For example, here, Excel won’t search based on alignment. Checkboxes are a little trickier. In some versions of Windows, it looks like the checkbox is filled with a solid square. In other versions of Windows, it looks like the checkbox is dimmed and checked at the same time (as with the “Merge cells” setting in this example). Either way, this visual cue indicates that Excel won’t use the setting as part of its search.

Figure 4-13. In the Find Format dialog box, Excel won’t use any formatting option that’s blank or grayed out as part of its search criteria. For example, here, Excel won’t search based on alignment. Checkboxes are a little trickier. In some versions of Windows, it looks like the checkbox is filled with a solid square. In other versions of Windows, it looks like the checkbox is dimmed and checked at the same time (as with the “Merge cells” setting in this example). Either way, this visual cue indicates that Excel won’t use the setting as part of its search.

The Find Format dialog box shows a basic preview of your formatting choices. In this example, the search will find cells containing the word “price” that also use white lettering, a black background, and the Bauhaus font.

Figure 4-14. The Find Format dialog box shows a basic preview of your formatting choices. In this example, the search will find cells containing the word “price” that also use white lettering, a black background, and the Bauhaus font.

Finding and Replacing Values

You can use Excel’s search muscles to find not only the information you’re interested in, but also to modify cells quickly and easily. Excel lets you make two types of changes using its Replace tool:

  • You can automatically change cell content. For example, you can replace the word Colour with Color or the number $400 with $40.

  • You can automatically change cell formatting. For example, you can search for every cell that contains the word Price or the number $400 and change the fill color. Or, you can search for every cell that uses a specific font, and modify these cells so they use a new font.

Here’s how to perform a replace operation. Once you’ve mastered the technique, check out the box on Mastering the Art of Replacement, which describes some super handy tricks you can do with this process.

  1. Move to the cell where the search should begin.

    Remember, if you don’t want to search the entire spreadsheet, just select the range of cells you want to search.

  2. Choose Home→Editing→Find & Select→Replace, or press Ctrl+H.

    The Find and Replace window appears, with the Replace tab selected, as shown in Figure 4-15.

    The Replace tab looks pretty similar to the Find tab. Even the advanced options are the same. The only difference is that you also need to specify the text you want to use as a replacement for the search terms you find.

    Figure 4-15. The Replace tab looks pretty similar to the Find tab. Even the advanced options are the same. The only difference is that you also need to specify the text you want to use as a replacement for the search terms you find.

  3. In the “Find what” box, enter your search term. In the “Replace with” box, enter the replacement text.

    Type the replacement text exactly as you want it to appear. If you want to set any advanced options, click the Options button (see the earlier sections More Advanced Searches and Finding Formatted Cells for more on your choices).

  4. Perform the search.

    You’ve got four different options here. Replace All immediately changes all the matches your search identifies. Replace changes only the first matched item (you can then click Replace again to move on to subsequent matches or to select any of the other three options). Find All works just like the same feature described on Find All. Find Next moves to the next match, where you can click Replace to apply your specified change, or click any of the other three buttons. The replace options are good if you’re confident you want to make a change; the find options work well if you first want to see what changes you’re about to make (although you can reverse either option using Ctrl+Z to fire off the Undo command).

Note

It’s possible for a single cell to contain more than one match. In this case, clicking Replace replaces every occurrence of that text in the entire cell.

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