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Searching your spreadsheet for data can feel defeating when you’re not sure of the spelling or specific contents of what you need returned. This is where using wildcard characters in Excel can help.
What are Wildcard Characters???
Wildcard characters are special characters that you can use to search when you’re not sure of what the actual character in the cell is.
For example, say you need to search for the name Sasha, but you’re not sure if it was spelled Sasha or Sacha.
Because the question mark can be used in place of an unknown character, search for Sa?ha to return results with either spelling.
Excel’s 3 Wildcard Characters (with examples of results!)
Excel has 3 wildcard characters that you can use to help you with various searches. They are:
|1.||?||Use a question mark ( ? ) to replace a single character in a search. |
For example: search Sa?ha to return either Sasha or Sacha.
|2.||*||Use an asterisk ( * ) when you know only some of the characters, but are not sure what other characters are before or after it. |
For example: searching for S*ha, *sha, or Sa* would all include Sasha in the results.
|3.||~||Include a tilde ( ~ ) in front of a wildcard character to transform it from a wildcard character to the result you need returned. Because ?, *, and ~ are wildcard characters, searching for them can be tricky, adding a tilde in front of them, makes them searchable. |
For example: searching for you~? Would return something like How are you? or Where are you? but not your.
Using Wildcard Characters in Excel
You can use wildcard characters to help you search or lookup data in Excel in a variety of ways including:
- Searching using Ctr+F
- Filtering data
- Lookup functions like VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, or XLOOKUP
- Conditional Formats based on cell contents
- IF functions such as COUNTIF, SUMIF, etc
- and more!
FYI, this was created using the desktop version of Excel in Microsoft 365.