The new search feature (Ctrl-F) in Word 2010

Anyone who has used Microsoft Word down the years will be familiar with the keyboard combination Ctrl-F to bring up a search box. Well, all that’s changed in Word 2010. Hitting Ctrl-F now brings up the Navigation pane on the left which is a little different, but I think an improvement – at least once you’ve tried it for a day or two.

So how is it an improvement? Well for me, one annoyance of search and replace in earlier versions of Word was the way the search box would jump around over the document when you clicked the Find Next button often obscuring the search results. Now in Word 2010, the search box is in the Navigation pane in the left panel. Search results are highlighted in the main window as you type your search word. If there are few enough occurrences, a snippet of text containing the words is displayed in the Navigation pane. Clicking on a particular snippet will take you to its location in the document and the words remain highlighted. The Navigation pane can be docked and undocked if you wish by clicking the down arrow to the right of the word Navigation. The pane can also be closed by clicking the cross next to the down arrow.

I was sceptical at first. Is this really an improvement? Well it’s not obscuring the search results any more but it doesn’t seem to be case-sensitive – searching for Table brings up Table and table and words like adjustable which end in table.


No problem. There’s a drop-down box which you can access by clicking the down arrow at the right end of the search box. Select Options here.


Now if you like, you can select Match case and Find whole words only to improve your search results – and if you like you can make this your default search option by clicking the Set As Default button. Incidentally, you can also select Advanced Find (the old style search box) from this drop-down menu.

Okay, so you’ve tried it and you still don’t like the new Navigation pane. Well, you can try remapping the Ctrl-F key combination to the old style search box, now called Advanced Find. I’m indebted to Jay Freedman for instructions on how to do this:

– Right-click the ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar and choose Customize the Ribbon.

– Click the Keyboard shortcut Customize button in the dialog.

– Select the Home Tab category.

– Select the EditFind command.

– Click in the “Press new shortcut key” box and press Ctrl+F (note that the “Currently assigned to” label shows that you’re taking the shortcut away from the NavPaneSearch command, which is what you’d change to if you ever want to restore the default.)

– Click the Assign button and then click Close.

I’ve also discovered another quick way to access this Advanced Find box by adding its icon to the Quick Access Toolbar at the top of your screen. Follow my instructions in an earlier post on the Quick Access Toolbar, but this time you want to go to All Commands and scroll down to Advanced Find (with the binoculars icon), highlight it, then click Add to add this to your Quick Access Toolbar. Now when you click the binoculars icon on the Quick Access Toolbar, as shown in the top screen shot above, the familiar old style search box should appear.

Finally, I should point out that clicking Ctrl-H to bring up the good old Find and Replace box hasn’t changed in Word 2010 – and you can also access Advanced Find by clicking the Find tab at the top of that box. Of course Replace still has that old annoyance of obscuring results just like the old style Find did.

So give searching with the new Word 2010 Navigation pane a good try out first before you revert to old habits… if you must – I think you’ll like it.

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33 Responses

  1. Karen H. Says:

    Thanks for this! I hit it on a Google search and it was just exactly what I needed to do: remap the shortcut so it worked like the old Word that my muscle memory still knows.

    A tip: if you clear the dialog box and then hit Ctrl-PgDn, it repeats the search without calling the dialog box. Knowledge of this shortcut changed my life!

    I didn’t actually object to the Search pane in the left-hand margin; I objected to the way it made my document shift back and forth.

  2. techandlife Says:

    That’s a great tip which I didn’t know about! Lets you move down through the search results very easily. Thanks for that Karen.

  3. Alex Says:

    This article is very helpful, thanks.

  4. Tom Says:

    Thanks for this.

    One step at a time, I am restoring Word 2010 to usability.

  5. Tony Says:

    when we hit ctrl-f in a 15-page word document, the new navigation pane on the left takes a minute to open. Any idea why it takes to so long to open?

  6. Mikey Says:

    Thank you times a billion! The Ctrl+F window is a huge part of my life and I don’t like the nav pane for finding and replacing. I’m not sure if that is sad or what but yeah!

  7. raju Says:

    can any body tell me that do we have a option similar to that in pdf where you can do advance search….like search for a content in several files….is the same option there in word 2010. IF ANYBODY CAN HELP ME OUT IT WOULD BE A GREAT HELP.

  8. Dave Says:

    @Karan, if you turn off incremental find in the find options it will not move the view on you (I hate that too.)

  9. Vinnie Says:

    There are some commercial tools that can assist you in multiple find and replace in multiple doc and word files and here are few links

  10. Pipper Says:

    Thanks for the instructions on how to remap the Ctrl+F shortcut so it worked like the old Word! My searches usually are complex (search for underlined words, find and replace the ^p with something else, etc.). That nav pane was a pain and I don’t mind the having the advanced serch box jump out of the way when finding a term.

  11. JOHN PAGE Says:

    I need to search selected column in a Table. FIND used to search in selection by default & now does in Advanced. But I would like to do it using the Navigation Pane in 2011. Can’t find a way to search in selection with results shown in Navigation Pane? Ideas???

  12. corkyj Says:

    I do everything from the keyboard. With the old search, I hit my keyboard shortcut, got the search dialog box, entered the string, hit return (which located the first occurrence of the string), hit esc (which closed the dialog box), and then hit a new keyboard shortcut to go to each subsequent occurrence of the word.

    Now I cannot just hit return to reach the first occurrence of the string. I have to do some tabbing or some such. INFURIATING!

    How to get back to the earlier form of search? I use it constantly to navigate around documents and loathe having to use additional keystrokes. Thank you.

  13. Jeremy Says:

    Thanks!!! Just what I was looking for.

  14. Dexxzter Says:

    This NavSearch in Word2010 was starting to annoy me and thats when I found your tip – very helpful. Cheers

  15. Vinnie Says:

    Some good commercial tools are available which help in Find and replace words in Multiple files.

  16. tommykay Says:

    I found this tip, and it WORKED then. But now, I get the dummmy search pane again, and “advanced find” is not listed under “all commands” anymore.

    Any idea why?

    Microsoft, why do you keep breaking things that worked perfectly?

  17. kate Says:

    Thank you for posting how to change the link. I’ve had this set to the navigation pane for far to long and only actually used it for the first time earlier today. Not worth it. I usually use CTRL+F to get to the replace tool. Now I will feel relieved.

  18. Sean Sinclair Says:

    Thanks for the remapping tip, don’t like that navigation pane, doesn’t leave you located on what you found, great to have control+f back home again

  19. Heidi Says:

    Thank you – the navigation pane was driving me crazy. The Cntrl-PgDn tip is also great.

  20. Hooray - such a help! Says:

    Thanks for the tip about customising shortcut keys, I might try it with some others.

  21. Brian Says:

    For those that just learned of the “Ctrl-PgDn” shortcut here, note that “Ctrl-PgUp” can also be used as a “find previous” after an initial find has been done.
    Strangely these shortcuts do not work in Word’s spreadsheet sibling Excel.

  22. Ergin Says:

    Thanks mate, this is just what I wanted, why did MS change what Ctrl+F has done (and does in other programs) for years, crazy!


  23. April Says:

    THANK YOU!!! I just started a new job where they use Word 2010. That Find navigation pane was driving me crazy. The screaming was annoying my office mates. I am a writer, and the navigation pane was driving me crazy! My blood pressure also thanks you!

  24. Carol Says:

    Thank you, thank you–I was ready to slash my wrists. I know how to customize my keyboard, but I never would have looked under EditFind if I hadn’t googled the problem and found you. Bless you!

  25. David Says:

    Thanks a lot. I use CTRL+F a lot, whether in Word, the Internet browsers, Adobe Reader, etc. Since I hated this navigation pane (I work with documents with hundreds of pages), I found myself obliged to use CTRL+H to find what I want. This made me, by the force of habit, press CTRL+H when I want to find a text in the browser and Reader. This was so vexing! But I’m okay now. My CTRL+F is back.

  26. Justin Says:

    I need to replace the text £10.680 with £11,280 in a large number of documents. I cannot find any way of doing this in Word 2010 (though think I used to be able to do it in previous versions?) – can anyone help pls??

  27. Jonathan Says:

    Tools work better and that too in Batch process here are few examples from the net

    and one more

  28. Jonathan Says:

    Thanks a lot you. You saved me. I was just thinking of uninstalling it just because of this annoyance for not being able to use Ctrl+F shortcut.

  29. OldOllie Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This has been driving me nuts for MONTHS! I’ve been using f for 25 YEARS, and these tools had to go and change it. Since switching, I’ve been using h and then mousing to switch tabs. I also have had to use the mouse to resume a search after editing. Worst of all, I now find myself hitting h to do a page search in my web browser, which brings up the History pane. It’s been absolutely MADDENING!

    Thanks for making my computer work like it has for the last 25 years!

  30. Loga Says:

    Its really helpful for me. Thanks a

  31. Bill Slater Says:

    I use the navigation for search but I had not explored its possibilities. So, thanks much for that information. However, what bugs me is that after executing the search & finding the word or term, the only way I know to turn off the highlighting, & thus the search, is to to insert a “false” key stroke in the file & then backspace to remove it. There must be a less clunky way to do this. It is probably obvious, but could someone enlighten me?

  32. KDob Says:

    Brilliant thanks to all.
    What the nav pane was missing was the ability to press down arrow button to use previous searches (I use many times and alternately) and with Karen’s tip of using Ctrl+PgDn to find next also, there is no further hiding of the screen after first use of the old Find :-)
    I’m a very happy chappy thanks!

  33. Dominic Francis Says:

    Hi. I recently messed up the Ctrl F feature on my Word 2013. Before that, whenever I typed in a word in the search pane, the specific word in the document would highlight automatically. But now, I have to press Enter to highlight the word(s). Kindly advise on how to get back to the original settings. Thanks!

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