Word 2011: Scope of ‘Replace All’ all wrong

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
December 15th, 2010 • 6:51 pm

Here’s a simple Word document with some text and a table containing figures:

Text and table

In the process of translating documents from English to French, I often have to convert the English number format to a French number format. This involves, among other things, replacing the decimal period with a comma, which is the standard decimal separator in French.

But of course, I only want to change the periods to commas in the table with the figures!

So I select the table only and then I bring up the sidebar on the left and type a period in the “Find” field and a comma in the “Replace” field:

Text and table

There are two things to note here. One is that my original selection highlighting has disappeared and there are now two types of highlighting: yellow highlighting for all the occurrences of the search string in the (former) selection, and green (my default selection colour) highlight on the first occurrence of the search string.

The other one is that the list of occurrences in the sidebar only includes the four occurrences that are part of my initial selection. In other words, even though my initial selection highlighting has disappeared, the scope of the search still appears to be limited to my initial selection.

So, what do you think the scope of the “Replace All” button is going to be now? Well, let’s find out…

Text and table

Yes, you are seeing this right. Even though only four occurrences were listed in the list of search results, “Replace All” has replaced all five occurrences of the search string in my document, including the period in the text below the table that was not part of my initial selection.

Thanks Microsoft.

This means that, even though the introduction of the sidebar has relegated the traditional Find/Replace feature to the status of “Advanced Find and Replace” and made that traditional feature much more painful to use, the old feature is the only way to do a Find/Replace operation that is limited to a specific scope and does not apply to the entire document. And the new feature is totally misleading and replaces occurrences that are not listed in the search results!

Now, of course, I have already written about the fact that it is impossible to limit the scope of a “Replace All” operation in a Pages ’09 document. (My original post was about Pages 1.0. The feature is still missing in Pages ’09, six years later.)

So the situation with the competition is not any better. But that’s not an example to emulate! One of the very few benefits of using Word over Pages was that you could restrict a “Replace All” operation to the current selection. Now Microsoft has just made it harder to take advantage of that feature, to the point that it’s probably just as easy to use Pages ’09 and to just copy the selection to a new blank document, do the “Replace All” operation there, and then copy the result and paste it back in the original document.

So yet another reason to give up on Microsoft Word, even if Apple really need to get their act together and add the ability to restrict the scope of the Find/Replace dialog in their own software.

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