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- SEARCH Function and FIND Function in Microsoft Excel
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## SEARCH Function and FIND Function in Microsoft Excel

Excel has two very similar functions that search for data within cells that match the parameters you specify: SEARCH and FIND. They are so similar, in fact, that one wonders why there are two different functions that perform virtually identical results and are identical in formula construction. This article discusses one key difference.

**SEARCH Introduction**

The SEARCH function is a way to find a character or string in another cell and returns a value associated with the starting location. In other words, if you’re trying to figure out where a character is in a cell that contains a word, phrase, or other type of information, you can use the SEARCH function. The format of this function is:

=SEARCH(“find_text”,”within text”,startnumber).

For example, if the word “alphabet” was in cell C2 and your model needed the location of the letter “a” in that cell, you would use the formula =SEARCH(“a”,C2,1) and the result would be 1. To continue this simplified example, if you searched for the word “b” location, the formula would be =SEARCH(“b”,C2,1) and the result would be 6. also use search by character strings. For example, if cell F2 contains 1023-#555-A123, the formula =LOOKUP(“A12”,F2,1) would return 11.

**FIND Introduction**

The FIND function is another way to find a character or string in another cell, and it returns a value relative to the starting location, just like the SEARCH function. The format of this function is:

=FIND(“find_text”,”within text”,startnumber).

Using the same example as before, the location of “a” in cell C2 would be found using =FIND(“a”,C2,1) and the result would be 1. Looking for “b” in cell C2 would achieve =FIND(“b”,C2,1) , which results in the number 6. If cell F2 contains 1023-#555-A123 (as before), then continuing down the path of similarity, the formula =FIND(” A12″,F2,1) would return 11. As you can see, both methods give you same result.

Note. You probably quickly recognized that the word in cell C2 has two a’s. By specifying 1 as the starting point in each formula, we select the first instance of the letter “a”. If we needed to select the next instance, we could simply have the “start_number” part of the formula be 2, thus skipping the first instance of the letter and resulting in 5.

**The main differences**

The main difference between SEARCH and FIND is that FIND is case sensitive and SEARCH is not. So, if you used the formula =LOOKUP(“A”,C2,1) (note the capital “A”), the result would still be 1, as in the previous case. If you used the formula =FIND(“A”,C2,1) you would get #VALUE!. FIND is case sensitive and the word “alphabet” does not have an “A”.

Another difference is that SEARCH allows wildcards, while FIND does not. In this context, the question mark looks for an exact phrase or series of characters in a cell, and the asterisk looks for the start of the series of characters just before the asterisk. For example, the formula =SEARCH(“a?p”,C2,1) returns 1 in our alphabet example because it looks for the exact grouping of the letter “a” with something “p” next to it. Since it is at the beginning of a word, the return value is 1. Continuing with the alphabet example, the formula =SEARCH(“h*t”,C2,1) returns 4. In this case, the wildcard “*” can represent any number of characters “h” and between “t” if there is a string that starts and ends with the two letters used in the formula. If the formula was =LOOKUP(“h*q”,C2,1), you would get #VALUE!.

In short, the two formulas are very similar, and unless you need exact character or character sequence validation, you’re probably wrong to use SEARCH. Cases where this may not be the case may include searches involving specific SKUs or employee names. In my experience, SEARCH has been more helpful for specific financial modeling exercises, but it helps to understand the differences in usage and results as you work through your own modeling projects.

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