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Search Text in Multiple Excel Files

Contents

1. File Explorer
2. SeekFast
3. Agent Ransack
4. PowerGREP
5. Office Search
6. Other software
7. Conclusion

 

 

In this article, I will explain how to search text in multiple Excel files in Windows.

 

There are two main methods:

1. Using the File Explorer.

2. Using an external program.

 

I have personally tried many search applications. Most of them search only in the first sheet of the Excel files. Only a few of them can search within all sheets: SeekFast, Agent Ransack, Office Search, and PowerGREP.

 

I will explain the pros and cons of each searching method. So, let's get started.

 

 

1. File Explorer

 

File Explorer is the Windows built-in application for managing and searching your folders and files.

 

Here are the steps to search text in your Excel documents with File Explorer:

 

1. Navigate to the folder that you want to search in.

 

2. Click on the search bar at the upper right corner to make the search settings appear.

 

 

 

3. Go to "Search" -> "Advanced options" and enable "File contents".

 

 

 

4. Type your searched words and press "Enter".

 

 

If you want to search in Excel files only (.xls and .xlsx), type: "ext:xls*" followed by the searched words, for example: "ext:xls* best".

 

If you just need a list of the files containing your keywords, this method is perfect for you.

 

However, in most of the cases you need to view the context in which the searched words are found, which is not available in File Explorer. To view them, you will have to open each file and manually search for the words inside.

 

File Explorer also offers many other convenient options for setting up and filtering the search, such as filtering by date modified, by type of files (photos, videos, music, etc.), file size, etc. Detailed instructions for their use, as well as much other additional information about searching through File Explorer, see in our article on searching files in Windows 10.

 

Pros:

  • Windows built-in.
  • Searches in all sheets within the Excel file.
  • Possible to choose to work with or without indexing.
  • Many settings and filters available – by date, file size, and more.

 

Cons:

  • Doesn’t show the parts of the text containing the searched words.
  • Cannot search for combinations of words contained in a single sentence.
  • Cannot sort results by relevance.
  • The search is slow if you do not turn on the indexing of the file contents.

 

 

 

2. SeekFast

 

SeekFast is a popular searching tool with easy-to-use interface. It has both free and paid versions, and supports all Windows versions from 7 onward, as well as macOS.

 

The biggest advantage of SeekFast is its intelligent ranking system, which resembles the search in Google. It allows you to search for words that occur in random order in a sentence in your documents, with the most relevant results ranked at the top.

 

SeekFast can search in all the sheets of the Excel files.

 

Searching with SeekFast is pretty easy:

 

1. Download, install, and launch SeekFast.

 

2. Click on the "Browse…" button to choose the folder to search in.

 

 

 

3. Wait until SeekFast reads the files in the folder.

 

 

 

4. On the search field, type your searched words and press "Enter."

 

 

 

There are several useful features available in the search results:

 

1. Click on a sentence to see a larger part of the context.

 

 

 

2. Click on the file name if you want to open the file.

 

 

 

3. Click on the folder path if you want to open the folder containing the file.

 

 

 

If you want to search in Excel files only, click on the "Options" button, then the "File types" tab and uncheck all types except Excel documents (.xls, xlsx and .xlsxm).

 

SeekFast offers many other useful options, including:

 

1. If you want to select a folder you've already searched, select it from the drop-down menu and SeekFast will read it in a second.

 

 

 

2. In addition to the default ranking by relevance, you can sort the results by date or by file name.

 

 

 

3. You can choose to make a case-sensitive search as well as exact word search.

 

 

 

Pros:

  • Intelligent search – sorts results by relevance.
  • Searches tens of thousands of documents in less than a second.
  • Shows the text excerpts with your keywords.
  • Searches within all Excel sheets.
  • Easy to use interface.
  • Has a free version.
  • Doesn’t use indexing.

 

Cons:

  • The free version can search through up to 50 files only for one search.

 

 

3. Agent Ransack

 

Agent Ransack is a well known searching tool, first released in 2000. It is compatible with Windows 7 and higher versions.

 

Agent Ransack has a free version with limited functionality. The main advantages of the paid version are the ability to add indexing, Boolean operators search, and showing larger context.

 

Here are the steps to search in multiple Excel files with Agent Ransack:

 

1. Download, install, and run the application.

 

2. Click on the "Browse for single folder" button to choose the folder you want to search in.

 

 

 

3. On the "Containing text" box, type your keywords and press "Enter."

 

 

 

4. In the results section, when you click on a file name the text containing the keywords will be shown in the right pane.

 

 

 

If you want to search only in Excel files (.xls & xlsx), type "*.xls;*.xlsx" in the "File name" box.

 

A drawback of Agent Ransack is that it reads the folder contents again and again in every single search, which makes searching slower.

 

An additional inconvenience is that you cannot see the found text immediately – you have to click on each file to view it.

 

Pros:

  • Has a free version.
  • Searches through all Excel sheets.
  • Doesn’t use indexing.
  • Supports many Boolean operators.

 

Cons:

  • Very slow search in big folders.
  • Cannot view all the texts found in one place.
  • Cannot search for combinations of words.
  • Cannot sort results by relevance.

 

 

4. PowerGREP

 

PowerGREP is shareware software, with a 15-day free trial. It was initially designed to be a Windows equivalent of the very popular UNIX tool grep, created to search text in files with the help of regular expressions.

 

PowerGREP supports Windows 7 or higher.

 

Let’s see how to search in Excel spreadsheets with this tool:

 

1. Download the free trial, install, and run the application.

 

2. In the left pane, from the "Folders and files" box, choose the folder to search in.

 

 

 

3. On the right pane, in the "Search" box, type your searched words.

 

 

 

4. On the top toolbar press the "Search" button.

 

 

If you want to search in Excel files only, type "*.xls*" in the "Include files" field in the left pane.

 

Like the original grep tool, PowerGREP shows the lines of the text where the searched words are found. Also, if you double click on any result, it will show the whole text of the file.

 

Pros:

  • Shows all the lines containing the keywords from each file in the results section.
  • Doesn’t use indexing.
  • Searches among all Excel sheets.
  • Offers many advanced tools and options.

 

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a free version.
  • Complicated interface.
  • Cannot open the files found directly.
  • Cannot search for a combination of words.
  • Cannot sort results by relevance.

 

 

5. Office Search

 

Office Search is free and open-source software for searching text in documents. It supports Windows 7 and above.

 

The program is easy to use, has a simple interface, and searches within all Excel sheets. However, you cannot view the text found unless you open each file from the results pane.

 

These are the steps showing how to search through Excel files with this tool:

 

1. Download the application and unzip the archive in any folder.

 

2. Navigate to the "Office Search" folder and run "OfficeSearch.exe."

 

3. Click on the "Browse" button to choose the folder for searching.

 

 

 

4. Click on the "Include sub-folders" checkbox if you want to search in subfolders.

 

 

 

5. Type your searched words in the "What to search" field and press the "Search" button.

 

 

 

6. To view the found text, double-click on a file from the results pane and search again in the corresponding program.

 

If you want to search only in Excel files (.xls and .xlsx), type "*.xls*" in the "File pattern" field.

 

If you select an entire disk, the program could show you an "Access denied" error message, so you will have to choose a specific folder.

 

Pros:

  • Completely free and open source.
  • Searches in all Excel sheets.
  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • Doesn’t use indexing.

 

Cons:

  • Doesn’t show the parts of the text containing the searched words.
  • Cannot search for combination of words.
  • Slow search in big folders.

 

 

6. Other software

 

There are also other worthy searching tools, but none of them is suitable for searching Excel files because they cannot search in all the sheets (usually they search in the first sheet only). Some of these are: FileSeek, Wise JetSearch, Everything, and UltraSearch.

 

 

7. Conclusion

 

These were the best methods and software programs I have found for searching text in multiple Excel files.

 

Do you have any questions or remarks? I will be glad to hear your opinion. Leave a comment below!

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