Search Text in Multiple Excel Files


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.


File Explorer click on search bar



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


File Explorer enable searching in file contents



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


File Explorer type search words


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.



  • 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.



  • 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.


SeekFast browse the file system to choose a folder to search



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


SeekFast reading files



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


SeekFast type search terms



There are several useful features available in the search results:


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


SeekFast how to see a larger part of the text found



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


SeekFast open a file from the search results



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


SeekFast open the folder containing the found 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.


SeekFast open a folder that has been previously searched



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


SeekFast sort results by relevance, date or file name



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


SeekFast options for case-sensitive search or exact word match




  • 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.



  • 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.


Agent Ransack browse for single folder to search



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


Agent Ransack type you keywords to search



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


Agent Ransack click on a file name to see the text containing the search words



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.



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



  • 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.


PowerGREP choose a folder to search



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


PowerGREP type search words



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


PowerGREP press the search button to make the search


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.



  • 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.



  • 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.


Office Search browse for folder



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


Office Search choose to search in subfolders



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


Office Search type your search words in the What to search field



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.



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



  • 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!

About the author
Borets Stamenov
Borets is a specialist in electronics and software technologies from Sofia, Bulgaria. In his articles, he tries to explain as synthesized as possible the most helpful things in using software tools.
  • Eugene L Summers says:

    Mr. Stamenov,
    Thanks so much for posting the directions for searching multiple Excel files in a folder using File Explorer; I have 23 inventories and your method worked perfectly. I sincerely appreciate your hard work.
    Eugene Summers

  • TARUN says:

    Yes, it also worked for me. Thank you so much for a elaborate guidance tom search particulars name in multiple excel files

  • Aaron Swarthout says:

    Hello. I am using the simple “advanced options” feature to find which workbooks that contain my search words (without opening each workbook). It seems that if the workbook is password protected, it will pass over those workbooks and not even tell me that that workbook has that word. Is there anything I can do to search in password-protected workbooks? I can always ask the owner to open the workbook for me if I have the search results – I am not trying to do anything bad. :). Thank you!!

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