How to Search Microsoft Word Documents

Do you need to search for specific text in your Word document? Rather than scour the text word by word, there are various ways to find a word or phrase in Microsoft Word, depending on your device. This tutorial shows how to search Word documents on your desktop, mobile device, or the Web.

How to Search Word Documents on Windows

In Word on Windows, there are a few different ways to find the text you’re looking for.

Use the Search Box and Navigation Pane

The Search box at the top of the Word window is a convenient choice for finding text in Word. Review the results in the handy Navigation pane.

  1. Select the magnifying glass at the top to expand the Search box, and enter your word or phrase.
Magnifying glass in Word on Windows
  1. Click on the results below “Find in Document.”
Search box results in the document
  1. Use the arrows near the top in the Navigation pane on the left to move to each result in order. Alternatively, choose a particular result to jump directly to it.
Navigation pane results and arrows
  1. To narrow down your results, click the arrow to the right of the search box within the Navigation pane, and select “Options.”
Navigation pane Options in Word on Windows
  1. Check the boxes for the filters you want to use, such as match case, whole words only, or all word forms. Click “OK” to save.
Find Options and OK button
  1. The list of results will update.
Updated results in the Navigation pane
  1. Use the “X” on the top right of the Navigation pane to close it when you are finished.
X to close the Navigation pane in Word on Windows

Tip: if you often use Microsoft Word, you’ll want to learn these time-saving tips.

Use the Find Feature

Another way to search for text in Word is the Find feature. While similar to the previous method, this gives you a few more options.

  1. Do one of the following to open the Find tool:
    • Press Ctrl + F.
    • Go to the “Home” tab, and click “Find” in the “Editing” group.
    • Expand the Search box at the top, and select “Open Search Pane.”
Find on the Home tab in Word on Windows
  1. Enter your word or phrase into the Search box in the Search pane on the right.
Search box in the Search Pane in Word on Windows
  1. Use the arrow labeled “All” to the left of the Search box to choose “This file.” Searching the Web, Word Help, media, and other locations are also options.
Search pane with This File selected in Word on Windows
  1. Press Enter or the magnifying glass icon to find your search term. Use the arrows at the top to move to each result, or choose a particular result to go right to it.
Search pane results
  1. Click “Filter,” then check the boxes for the options you want to use to narrow down the results.
Search pane Filter options
  1. One bonus feature of the Search pane is that you can select text in the results to copy it or search for it. In our example, we are selecting “Illustrations.” When you right-click, you’ll have options to copy that word or search for it.
Search pane Copy and Search options
  1. Use the “X” on the top right of the Search pane to close it when you’re done.
Search pane X to close

Use Advanced Search in Word on Windows

One more way to find text in Word is the Advanced Search tool. This is a good option for the times you want to narrow down your search results right away.

  1. Open the Advanced Search tool by doing one of the following:
    • On the “Home” tab, click the “Find” drop-down menu, and choose “Advanced Find.”
    • Click the arrow to the right of the Search box, and choose “Advanced Find” in the Navigation pane.
    • Click the three dots near the top right, and choose “Advanced Find” in the Search pane.
Search pane Advanced Find option in Word on Windows
  1. When the “Find and Replace” box opens, confirm that you’re on the “Find” tab, and click the “More” button.
Find and Replace Find tab and More button
  1. Check the boxes for your desired items in the “Search Options” section. There is also a drop-down box at the top of that section, where you can change the direction of the search from “Down” to “Up” or “All.”
Find and Replace Search Options in Word on Windows
  1. Click the “Find Next” button in the top section. You’ll see each result highlighted in your document. Continue using the “Find Next” button to move to each result.
Find and Replace Find Next button and results
  1. Use the “X” on the top right to close the window when you are finished.
Find Replace X to close the box

Tip: if you want to search within text boxes or currently selected text specifically, click the “Find In” button, and choose a location.

How to Search Word Documents on Mac

If you use Microsoft Word on Mac, the search options are similar, with a few slight differences.

Use the Find Tool

  1. To open the Find tool, do one of the following:
    • Press Command + F.
    • Enter a word or phrase into the Search box at the top of the Word window, and press Return.
    • Select “Edit -> Find” in the menu bar, and choose “Find” in the pop-out menu.
Find in the Edit menu in Word on Mac
  1. When the “Find in Document” tool opens, enter your search term. You can see the number of results in the box, and the results highlighted in your document. Use the arrows in the “Find in Document” box to move to each result.
Find In Document box in Word on Mac
  1. If you prefer to see the results in list form, click the three dots, and choose “List Matches in Sidebar.”
List Matches in Sidebar option
  1. Again, use the arrows to move to each one, or pick a certain result to go directly to it in the document. Note: you may have to re-enter your search term in the “Find and Replace” sidebar.
Find and Replace sidebar in Word on Mac
  1. To narrow down your results, click the gear button in the sidebar, and select the options you want to use in the drop-down menu, like “Whole Word Only” or “Ignore Case.”
Find and Replace sidebar filter options

Use the Advanced Search in Word on Mac

Just like in Word on Windows, you can use the Advanced Find tool in Word on Mac.

  1. Open the Advanced Search tool by doing one of the following:
    • Select “Edit -> Find” in the menu bar, and choose “Advanced Find” in the pop-out menu.
    • Click the gear icon in the “Find and Replace” sidebar, and choose “Advanced Find & Replace.”
Find and Replace Advanced Find option in Word on Mac
  1. Confirm that you’re on the “Find” tab, and click the down arrow button.
Find and Replace box Find tab and More arrow in Word on Mac
  1. Check the boxes for your desired options in the Search section. You can also open the “All” drop-down menu to change the direction from “All” to “Down” or “Up.”
Find and Replace Search options in Word on Mac
  1. Click the “Find All” button in the top section. To highlight the results, check the box for “Highlight all items found in.”
Find and Replace Find All button and results in Word on Mac
  1. Click “Close” when you are finished.
Find and Replace Close button in Word on Mac

Tip: if you want to search within a selection of text instead of the entire document, use the drop-down box next to “Highlight all items found in,” and select “Current Selection.”

How to Search Word Documents on the Web

Microsoft Word on the Web gives you basic search options, with just a few filters for your results.

  1. To open the Find tool, do one of the following:
    • Press Ctrl + F on Windows or Command + F on Mac.
    • Go to the “Home” tab, and select “Find” in the “Editing” section of the ribbon.
Find on the Home tab in Word on the web
  1. When the Navigation pane opens on the left, enter your search term in the “Search for” box.
Navigation pane Search box and Results in Word on the web
  1. Use the arrows to move to each result, or pick a specific one from the list to jump right to it.
Navigation pane arrows in Word on the web
  1. Click the arrow on the right side of the Search box in the Navigation pane and pick “Match case,” “Find whole words only,” or both to add a filter.
Navigation pane search filters in Word on the web
  1. Your results will update.
Navigation pane results updated in Word on the Web
  1. Use the “X” on the top right of the Navigation pane to close it when you are finished.
Navigation pane X to close in Word on the web

Good to know: need to find a word on a website? Learn how to search for a word on a web page.

How to Search Word Documents on Mobile

Maybe it’s the Microsoft Word mobile app you’re using. You can find text in a Word document using either the Android or iPhone mobile app.

  1. With your Word document open, tap the magnifying glass at the top to enter your search term.
Magnifying glass in Word on mobile
  1. Tap the Search key on the keyboard. Use the arrows to the right of the search field to move to each result. On Android, you can also continually tap the Search key.
Arrows and Search key in Word on mobile
  1. To narrow down the results, tap the gear icon to the left of the search field. Choose the items you want to use, and tap the “X” or “Done” to view the updated results.
Find Settings and filters in Word on mobile
  1. When you finish searching, select the “X” next to the Search box (Android), or tap a spot in your document (iPhone).
X to close Search in Word on Mobile

Search and You Shall Find

Whether you want to find a word or phrase, searching a Word document is easy to do on your desktop, the Web, or your mobile device. For related tutorials, learn how to find and replace text in Chrome and Firefox. Or, if you’re a Linux user, check out how to find a specific word in a file.

Image Credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

Sandy Writtenhouse
Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.

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