The Excel SEARCH Function

Related Function:
FIND function

Basic Description

The Excel SEARCH function returns the position of a specified character or string within a supplied text string. The function is not case-sensitive.

If you want to perform a case-sensitive search, use the Excel Find function instead.

The syntax of the Search function is :

SEARCH( search_text, within_text, [start_num] )

Where the function arguments are:

search_text - The character or text string that you wish to search for
within_text - The text string that is to be searched
[start_num] -

An optional argument that specifies the position of the character from which the search should begin

If omitted, this takes on the default value of 1 (i.e. begin the search at the start of the within_text string)


You can also use the following wildcards in the search_text argument within the Search function:

?    -    matches any single character
*    -    matches any sequence of characters

eg. the condition "A*e" will match any substring beginning with "A" and ending in "e".

If the supplied search_text is found, the Search function returns a number, representing the position of the search_text in the within_text. If the supplied search_text is not found, the Excel #VALUE! error is returned.

Search Function Examples

The following spreadsheet shows examples of the Excel Search function used to search for various characters within the text string "Original Text".


Examples of use of the Excel Search Function


Excel Search Function Results

Note that, in the above examples:

Example 2 - Use of the Search Function to Show Cells Containing Specific Text


Example of use of the Excel Search Function


Excel Search Function Example Results

The example on the right uses the Excel Search function to highlight cells containing a specific text string.

The example spreadsheet lists a company's members of staff, in column A and their office skills in column B. The Search function is used in columnn C, to highlight the members of staff who have the skill 'Typing'.

If the string "Typing" is found, the Search function returns the position of the start of this string within the searched cell. If the string "Typing" is not found, the function returns the #VALUE! error.

Note that cell B3 contains the string "typing" (in lower case). However, because the Search function is not case sensitive, it still matches this with the search_text "Typing" and so returns the start position 19 (see cell C3).

You might want to tidy up the results of the Search function in the example above. This can be done using the If and Iserror functions. For example, the formula in cell C1 could be written as

=IF( ISERROR( SEARCH( "Typing", B1 ) ), 0, 1 )

This would return the value 1 if the text "Typing" was found in cell B1 and 0 otherwise.

Further information and examples of the Excel Search function can be found on the Microsoft Office website.

Search Function Error

If you get an error from the Excel Search function this is likely to be the #VALUE! error:

Common Error

Occurs if either:

- the supplied search_text is not found in the supplied within_text string
- the supplied [start_num] is less than zero or is greater than the length of the supplied within_text