Office Q&A: Find and Replace tricks, disappearing margins, and accommodating graphics

Susan Harkins helps a few readers find simple Office solutions, including how to perform some Find and Replace tricks, create disappearing margins, and accommodate graphics.

Office Q&A

This is a something old, something new month for me. When a reader's question stumped me, I turned to my Office network and quickly found a solution using Find and Replace. I should've thought of it myself but didn't. This month's other three solutions are well known to me, but they're worth repeating: Use Find and Replace to insert characters, find out how to reclaim a document's white space, and learn about Word's Wrap Text options.

Word Find and Replace trick

Leonia wants to insert a space after every character in a selected range or document. Doing so manually would be ridiculous, so don't even try. If something's too hard, always look for a built-in feature to help. In this case, Word's Find feature does the trick with the help of wildcards. Here's how to insert a space character after every character:

  1. On the Home tab, click Replace in the Editing group, or press [Ctrl]+[h].
  2. In the Find what control, enter ? (that's a literal question mark used as a wildcard, which I'll explain later).
  3. Enter ^&[spacebar] in the Replace with control.
  4. Click the More button to display more options. (This button will say Less if these options are already displayed).
  5. Check the Use wildcard option (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  6. Click Replace All, Yes to confirm, and then OK. Figure B shows the results — there's a space following each character.
    Figure B
    Figure B

If you skip step 5, this trick won't work. That's where most readers go wrong. If you don't specify the wildcard option, Word will find the literal character — question mark. The ? character is also a wildcard that represents any single character. When using it as a lone wildcard, Word finds every character. The Replace with string uses the ^& component to replace the found character with itself. Because you included the space character, Word replaces each character with itself and a space character.

To learn more about this versatile feature, read "10 cool ways to get more from Word's Find and Replace feature."

Excel Find and Replace trick

Andre wants to update common cell references in formulas. Now, that sounds easy enough. Simply move the dependent cell and Excel will automatically update the cell references. However, Andre doesn't want to move the referenced cell — he just needs to update the reference. I admit, this one left me scratching my head.

Much to my surprise, you can do this without moving the dependent cell by using Excel's Find and Replace feature. I can illustrate using an extremely contrived example:

  1. Select the cell that contains the formula you want to modify.
  2. Press [Ctrl]+[h] to open Excel's Replace dialog.
  3. Enter the original cell reference in the Find what control.
  4. Enter the new cell reference in the Replace with control (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C
  5. Click Replace All to replace all occurrences of the original reference (Figure D).
    Figure D
    Figure D
  6. Click Close.

That was quick and easy! You can select more than one formula, so modifying multiple formulas at once is just as easy. In addition, if you want to pick and choose which references to update, you can click Find Next instead of Replace All.

A sharp colleague of mine, David McAfee, suggested this quick solution. I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of it myself, but I have to give credit where credit's due. Thanks David!

A mystifying Word mishap

Arthur's Word documents suddenly lost their header and footer sections. He searched for a solution, but in the end, he couldn't find a setting or option that worked. There's a simple cure, but it's not obvious.

Figure E shows the default layout. As you can see, the top and bottom margins are visible. For better or worse, Word has a built-in shortcut that toggles between displaying white space and displaying no white space. The problem is that most users don't know about it, and they toggle between the two displays without realizing what they've done.

Figure E

Figure E

Top and bottom margins are visible by default.

You can recreate this quickly enough as follows:

  1. Hover the mouse over the gray area between the top and bottom margins until it changes into a two-arrow pointer.
  2. Double-click and Word will remove the white space between the two pages (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F

Word will remove the white space between the two pages.

This shortcut is a toggle, so another double-click in the same spot will restore the white space. There's also an option for controlling this display:

  1. Click the File tab (or Office button) and choose Options.
  2. Click Display in the left pane.
  3. In the Page display options, check or uncheck, the Show white space between pages in Print Layout view.
  4. Click OK.

Regardless of the setting, you can still use the double-click shortcut.

Word's Wrap Text option

Rene wants to insert text to the right of an image file she inserted into a Word document. Unfortunately, all text ends up under the image. Fortunately, Rene is just an option away from success.

I suspect that the graphic's Wrap Text option is set to Top and Bottom. This result of this setting, shown in Figure G, allows text above and below the graphic, but you can't insert text to the left or right. You'll find this option on the Format tab in the Arrange group (when the graphic is selected).

Figure G

Figure G

The right setting lets you control the flow of text around a graphic.

If you want to drop a picture in the middle of text, as shown in Figure H, you might choose the In Line with Text option instead.

Figure H

Figure H

The In Line with Text option allows text to the sides of a graphic.

Graphics are either in line or floating. In line is the default, and Word treats the in-line graphic as any other character; the picture is on the same line as the text. That line's height will increase and decrease to accommodate the picture. In addition, the picture will move as you add and delete surrounding text. Paragraph formatting is relevant as well. All this means that the picture flows with the text; you can't force an in-line graphic to stay where you put it.

Floating graphics live in a magical place called the drawing layer. It's magical because you can't see it, and you can't control its behavior without special potions and nonsensical words. The drawing layer was created by a seriously demented mind. The good news is that the drawing layer is more manageable in the ribbon versions. In fact, you really don't notice it anymore at all. If you'd like to learn more about it, read "10+ ways to avoid drawing layer headaches in Word."

Floating graphics exist independently of text. As a result, you can position them anywhere. Use the wrapping options to control how the text wraps around a floating graphic:

  • Square: Wraps the text around a rectangular box that encloses the graphic. You can see the boundaries (of the bounding box) by selecting the graphic.
  • Tight: Similar to square, but it follows the shape of the graphic file rather than the bounding box. Figure I shows both square, tight, and the bounding box.
  • Through: Allows text to flow into the white space surrounding the graphic — not the document's white space, but the graphic's white space.
  • Top and Bottom: Text stays above and below the graphic.
  • Behind Text: Text flows behind the graphic — this isn't a wrap in the truest sense.
  • In Front of Text: Text appears on top of the graphic — again, not a true wrap.

Figure I

Figure I

Square conforms to the bounding box; tight conforms to the graphic's shape.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise, nor do I ask for a fee from readers. You can contact me at

About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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