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How to Search In Google Sheets (3 Easy Methods)

Google Sheets is a versatile spreadsheet application that empowers users to organize data, crunch numbers, and collaborate seamlessly. Among its many features, one skill every beginner should master is how to search in Google Sheets effectively. 

Whether you’re tracking expenses, managing inventory, or simply trying to locate a specific piece of information within your spreadsheet, knowing how to search in Google Sheets can save you valuable time and effort. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of searching in Google Sheets and provide you with practical tips to make your data-hunting adventures a breeze.

Use Case/Scenario: Finding Contact Information

Imagine you’re managing a contact list for your organization in a Google Sheets document. Your contact list has grown substantially, and you need to find specific individuals who share the same first surname, like “Smith.” You want to quickly access their contact information without sifting through the entire list manually. 

You can do that seamlessly by taking advantage of the several search tools provided by Google Sheets. 

As we delve further into this guide, you’ll learn how to search in Google Sheets without sweating it. And the best part is that we will show you several ways to get it done in this comprehensive guide. 

Copy Our Sample Sheet

To practice the various Google Sheets search methods, we’ll be demonstrating in this guide, you can start by copying the sample data below.

Copy Sheet

If you already have your own spreadsheet, you can simply replicate the steps we’ll highlight.

Search In Google Sheets Using the Find Option to Highlight All Matching Cells in the Sheet

Having highlighted a real-life scenario that might warrant you to search in Google Sheets, let’s quickly show you how to search in Google Sheets using the famous find option. 

But before we get into the practical aspect of this guide, here is what you should know. 

Searching for specific data within a Google Sheets document becomes incredibly efficient when you use the “Find” option. This feature not only helps you locate the information you need but also highlights all matching cells in the sheet, making them easily identifiable. 

Let’s dive into this method step by step. 

To demonstrate how you can search in Google Sheets using the find option, we will use the following sample data. 

Our objective: The objective of this method is to efficiently search and identify individuals with the last name “Smith” within the dataset. 

By utilizing the “Find” option in Google Sheets, we aim to highlight all matching cells containing the surname “Smith,” enabling us to quickly locate and manage contact information for individuals sharing this common last name.

Now that we have our data figured out, let’s go over the step-by-step process of searching in Google Sheets using the find option. 

Step 1: Open Your Google Sheets Document

The first thing you need to do is open the spreadsheet document where you want to search for specific data. If you’re following along, you can simply copy our sample data into your spreadsheet and continue to the next step we will highlight shortly. 

Step 2: Use Keyboard Shortcuts for Quick Access

To initiate the search process swiftly, you can utilize keyboard shortcuts, which are especially convenient for both Windows and Mac users:

  • For Windows users, press Ctrl + F on your keyboard.
  • For Mac users, press Cmd + F on your keyboard.

These keyboard shortcuts provide an efficient way to activate the “Find” feature, saving you time and allowing you to start searching for specific data in your Google Sheets document with ease.

If you did exactly as we showed you, you should see something like this: 

Step 3: Enter the Search String with the Objective in Mind

Now, with the “Find” feature activated, it’s time to enter the search string that aligns with our objective: locating individuals with the last name “Smith.” 

To do this, head to the search bar, which should now be visible after using the keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + F for Windows or Cmd + F for Mac), and enter the search string “Smith.”

Note: By inputting the specific search string “Smith,” you’re directing Google Sheets to look for all instances of this last name within the entire worksheet. This step is crucial in achieving our objective of identifying individuals with the common surname “Smith” in the dataset.

From the screenshot above, you can see that after inputting the search term “Smith,” Google Sheets automatically highlights cells with that search term. What’s even more interesting is that the cells are highlighted in green, so you don’t miss a thing. 

Search in Google Sheets Using the Search And Replace Option

If you don’t prefer using keyboard shortcuts like CTRL + F (or CMD + F for Mac users) to search in Google Sheets, you can accomplish the same task using the traditional method. Here’s how:

Step 1: Locate the “Edit” Menu And Select 

Open your Google Sheets document containing the data you want to search through.

At the top of the window, look for “Edit” in the menu bar. Click on it to reveal a dropdown list of options.

From the dropdown menu that appears when you click “Edit,” navigate down and select “Find and Replace.” 

After selecting the option for Find and replace, Google Sheets will automatically launch a pop-up window where you can search for a specific search string. It should look exactly as this: 

Step 2: Enter Your Search Query

With the find feature now launched, it’s time to enter our search string. Here is how to go about it:

Type the search term or phrase you’re looking for within your spreadsheet. For our example,  since we are searching for all occurrences of the last name “Smith,” we will enter the search term “Smith” into the search box.

Step 3: Begin the Search

After entering your search query, click the “Find” button. Google Sheets will initiate the search and take you to the first cell where the search string appears.

Keep in mind that It won’t highlight the search string within the cell but will position your view at the cell containing the first occurrence.

To see different instances of the search string within the spreadsheet, you can click the “Find” button repeatedly. 

Each time you click “Find,” Google Sheets will move your view to the next cell where the search string appears. This allows you to navigate through the different occurrences of the search term in the document.

The video below provides better insight into what we explained above: 

By following these steps, you can effectively use the “Find” option in Google Sheets without relying on keyboard shortcuts. 

This method offers a more traditional approach for users who prefer accessing features through the menu bar. It’s all about flexibility and choosing the method that works best for you when it comes to searching for specific data within your spreadsheets.

Unlocking Advanced Search Abilities: Conditional Formatting in Google Sheets

In our journey to navigate Google Sheets efficiently, we’ve explored two robust methods for searching. 

We began by introducing the convenience of keyboard shortcuts, providing you with a step-by-step guide on how to use them. Then, we took it a step further by diving into the search and replace method, which, although a bit more complex, still gets the job done.

But our quest for mastering Google Sheets doesn’t end here. In this section, we’ll introduce you to an even more precise technique: searching in Google Sheets using Conditional Formatting.

This method will elevate your data discovery skills, bringing accuracy and visual aids into the equation. Here, we’ll delve deeper into the details of this technique, equipping you to locate and highlight your desired information effortlessly.

To illustrate how to use Conditional Formatting for searching in Google Sheets, we’ll stick with our trusty sample data, the same one we’ve used in previous examples. For the purpose of clarity, here is what it looks like: 

Our objective: The objective of this method is to introduce you to the advanced technique of searching in Google Sheets using Conditional Formatting. What we want to do here is locate and visually highlight the search string “Smith” in our spreadsheet. 

With our objective clearly spelled out, let’s show you how to search in Google Sheets using conditional formatting. 

Step 1: Open Your Google Sheets Document

First things first, open the Google Sheets documents housing the data you want to search through. For us, we will stick to the sample data we have used for the previous methods.

Step 2: Identify the Range to Search

Determine the range of cells where you want to perform the search. This could be a specific column, row, or a custom range containing the data you wish to search within.

Step 3: Select The Range 

Having identified the range you want to search through, you need to select the range you identified. For this example, we will go ahead and select range B5:B14. 

Step 4: Format > Conditional Formatting

Now that we have selected the range of data we intend to search through using conditional formatting, it’s time to get into the tricky aspect of this method. 

To do that, navigate to the Format menu and click on it. You’ll be presented with a list of options. What we want to do here is navigate all the way down and select the option for conditional formatting. 

This action will instantly launch the conditional formatting rule window to the extreme right for your spreadsheet. 

Here is what it should look like: 

Step 5: Configure the Conditional Formatting Rule

With the conditional formatting rule panel now launched, let’s tweak things exactly as we want it. 

In the “Conditional format rules” panel, set the dropdown menu to “Text contains.”

In the input box next to it, enter your search string. For example, since we are searching for “Smith,” we will go ahead and enter that search string there. 

Step 6: Adjust the Formatting for Clarity

Now that we’ve entered our search term, “Smith,” it’s essential to make it stand out. We’ll keep it simple by focusing on changing the background color.

By default, this background color is set to green, but for this guide, we’ll change it to yellow. Here’s how:

  • Click on the paint bucket icon.
  • Change the color from green to yellow.

This adjustment will help us clearly see the search term within the data.

Step 7: Confirm and Apply Formatting

After setting up the rule, click the “Done” button.

Google Sheets will now automatically apply the formatting to all cells within the selected range that contain the search string “Smith.” These cells will be visually highlighted, making it easy for you to identify and work with the data you need.

Here is precisely how our spreadsheet now looks after applying the formatting rule: 

Now, take a look at the screenshot above. It’s evident that we’ve successfully used the conditional formatting method to search in Google Sheets. What’s truly impressive about this method is the formatting options it offers.

By allowing us to format our data, we can effortlessly emphasize precisely what we’re searching for. This makes it stand out from the rest of the data in our spreadsheet, ensuring we can spot it easily.

Final Thoughts

Throughout this guide, we’ve explored various powerful methods to help you search for and locate specific data within Google Sheets. These techniques are essential for efficient data management and analysis. Let’s quickly recap what we’ve learned:

Method 1: Keyboard Shortcuts

We began by introducing you to the speed and convenience of keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + F for Windows or Cmd + F for Mac). This method allows you to quickly navigate through your spreadsheet and locate your desired data.

Method 2: Search and Replace

Next, we demonstrated the search and replace method, which simplifies data updates and replacements. This method is ideal when you need to make bulk changes to your data.

Method 3: Conditional Formatting

Lastly, we delved into the world of Conditional Formatting. This advanced technique not only helps you find specific data but also visually highlights it, making it easier to spot within your spreadsheet.

By mastering these methods, you now have a versatile toolkit to tackle data searches, updates, and organization efficiently in Google Sheets. Whether you’re working with large datasets or conducting detailed analyses, these techniques will streamline your tasks and boost your productivity.

Remember, the method you choose depends on your specific needs and preferences. So, go ahead and explore these techniques to find the one that suits your workflow best. With practice, you’ll become a Google Sheets pro, effortlessly managing your data with precision and speed.