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## SEARCH Function and FIND Function in Microsoft Excel

Excel has two very similar functions for finding data inside cells that match the criteria you enter: SEARCH and FIND. There are so many similarities, in fact, that one wonders why there are two separate functions that exhibit almost identical results and are identical in formulation. This article will discuss one, fundamental difference between them.

**Search for an introduction**

The SEARCH function is a way to find a character or string within another cell, and it will return the value corresponding to the starting position. In other words, if you’re trying to find where a character is within a cell that contains a word, sentence, or other type of information, you can use the SEARCH function. The format for this function is:

=SEARCH(“find_text”,”within_text”, start_num).

If, for example, the word “Alphabet” was in cell C2, and your model required the location of the letter “a” in that cell, you would enter the formula =SEARCH(“a”,C2,1), and the result would be 1. To continue this simple example, if you are searching for the location of “b” in the word, the formula will be =SEARCH(“b”,C2,1), and the result will be 6. Also use search on a string of letters. If, for example, cell F2 contains 1023-#555-A123, the formula =SEARCH(“A12”,F2,1) will return 11.

**Find an introduction**

The FIND function is another way to find a character or string within another cell, and it will return a value corresponding to the starting position, just like the SEARCH function. The format for this function is:

=FIND(“find_text”,”within_text”, start_num).

Using the same example as before, the location of the letter “a” in cell C2 will be found using =FIND(“a”,C2,1), and the result will be 1. When searching for “b” in cell C2 do =FIND(“b”,C2,1), resulting in the number 6. Finally, continuing along the same path, if cell F2 contains 1023-#555-A123 (as before), the formula =FIND(“A12”,F2,1) will return 11. As you can see, up to this point, both methods will give you the same result.

Note: You probably quickly recognized that the word in cell C2 contains two a’s. By specifying the starting point as 1 in each formula, we will pick up the first instance of the letter “a”. If we need to choose another instance, we can have the “start_num” part of the formula be 2, thus leaving the first instance of the letter leading to an answer of 5.

**The main differences**

The main difference between the SEARCH function and the FIND function is that FIND is case sensitive and SEARCH is not. Thus, if you use the formula =SEARCH(“A”,C2,1) (note the capital “A”), the result will still be 1, as before. If you were to use the formula =FIND(“A”,C2,1), you would get #VALUE. FIND is case sensitive and there is no “A” in the word “alphabet”.

Another difference is that SEARCH allows for the use of wildcards while FIND does not. In this context, a question mark will search for an exact phrase or series of characters in a cell, and an asterisk will search for the start of a series of characters just before the asterisk. For example, in our alphabet example the formula =SEARCH(“a?p”,C2,1) will return 1, because it is looking for the correct group of letters “a” immediately followed by any “p”. Since it is at the beginning of the word, the returned value is 1. Continuing with the alphabet example, the formula =SEARCH(“h*t”,C2,1) will return a value of 4. In this case, the wildcard “*” can represent any letter between “h” and “t” as long as the string begins and ends with the two letters you use in the formula. If the formula =SEARCH(“h*q”,C2,1), you will get #VALUE!

In short, these two formulas are very similar, and unless you need to confirm an exact character or string of characters, you’ll err on the side of using SEARCH. Examples where this may not be the case may include searches involving specific SKUs or employee names. In my experience, SEARCH has been more helpful in specific financial modeling exercises, but it is useful to understand the differences in usage and results as you work through your own modeling projects.

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