How to Quickly Search-and-Replace Text on Any Computer

Need to replace a word with another word, or quickly remove bits of text from a document? Just use search-and-replace — whatever application or browser you’re using, you already have an easy find-and-replace tool available to you.

Copy-paste the text into one of the below applications and then copy-paste it into your original application later. You can usually step through the replacements one-by-one or click a “Replace All” button.

Windows

The Notepad application included with Windows doesn’t offer this feature, but WordPad does. To open WordPad, tap the Start button to open the Start menu or Start screen, type WordPad, and press Enter.

Copy-paste the text you want to modify into WordPad. Click the Replace button in the Editing section on the ribbon — it’s under the Home tab. Type the text you want to replace into the “Find what” box, type the text you want to replace it with in the “Replace With” box, and then click the “Replace All” button to replace all of it. You can remove text by entering it in the “Find what” box and then leaving the “Replace With” box empty.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office has its own built-in search-and-replace functions, as do alternative office suites like LibreOffice and Apple’s Pages application. You’ll generally just find this option under the Edit menu in any office suite or powerful text-editing application you’re using.

In Microsoft Word, click over to the HOME tab on the ribbon and click Replace in the Editing section. You can click the More button to access a variety of options, including wildcards.

To use wildcards, use the * character — it can match all different characters, and any number of them. For example, let’s say you entered “h*k” into the Find what box. This would match “heck,” “hack,” and “how-to geek” — any string of text beginning with an “h” and ending with a “k.”

Google Docs

You can also do this in Google Docs. If you’re not yet using Google Docs,  go to the Google Drive website and create a new document. Copy-paste your text into the new document, if you need to, and use the Edit > Find and Replace menu option to perform a search-and-replace.

This is a good solution for searching-and-replacing text on a Chromebook, too. You won’t have typical desktop text editors, but you will have Google Docs.

Mac OS X

The TextEdit text editor included with Mac OS X includes this feature. To use it, open the TextEdit application and copy-paste the text you want to modify into it. Click Edit > Find > Find and Replace. After entering the text you want to find and replace, click the “All” button to replace all instances of it in the document.

You can also click and hold down on the All button to access additional options — for example, you could select a section of the text document with your cursor and run the search-and-replace operation only on that selected text.

Linux

Linux text editors will have this powerful feature, too. Whatever text editor your desktop environment includes, you’ll probably just need to open it, click a menu like “Edit” or “Replace,” and select a “Find and Replace” or “Search and Replace” option.

For example. in the Gedit text editor included with Ubuntu’s Unity, Linux Mint’s MATE and Cinnamon, and other GNOME-based desktops, you just need to click the Search menu and select Replace to get started.


Sure, you can probably just perform a web search for “search and replace text” and you’ll find a dedicated website with a few easy  ones you can use. But you don’t necessarily want to paste potentially sensitive text into a random website. Just use whatever tool already comes on your computer.

For more advanced operations, some tools may allow you to search-and-replace with regular expressions.

Image Credit: Andrew Mason on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.