How to Enable if Ctrl+F not Working in Excel [SOLVED]

Finding data in Excel is a crucial operation, and it can easily be done using the Find tool with the Ctrl+F shortcut on the keyboard. When you type in a keyword or a combination of characters, all matches should be returned from the spreadsheet.

But, sometimes even though you know the presence of some text, the Find tool of Excel may not find a match. In this tutorial, we will learn what could be the reasons for this, and how to solve them.

5 Simple Solutions to Enable Ctrl+F in Excel

The data that we’re going to use is random names and ages of hypothetical people. We will look at five solutions to the problem, and I advise you to follow these checks one by one, and one of them will most probably return successful results.

Random names and ages of people

First, open the Find and Replace dialog box by pressing Ctrl+F on your keyboard. Click on Options to reveal special settings for the finding operation.

Reveal options for Find

1. Does Ctrl+F search within values?

Excel’s Find and Replace tool is capable of searching in many settings. For example, you can search for text within formulas, values, notes, and comments. However, usually, you’re aiming for a search within values.

Let’s see an example: I’m looking for the name “Bethany”. When I type “Bethany” next to “Find what”, and press Enter, a warning pop-up appears that says “We couldn’t find what you were looking for…”, even though there’s a matching entry in cell A2.

Bethany cant be found

The reason for this is that the Find and Replace tool is currently looking for text within Notes:

The find tool looks in Notes

Since the text that we’re searching for is within cell values, we should enable the Find tool to look in Values.

Open the dropbox next to “Look in”, and select Values:

The find tool should look in Values

Now, if this was the problem with your Ctrl+F (Find and Replace), you should have successful matches.

Successful match once values are searched for

2. Are multiple cells selected?

The Find and Replace tool also doesn’t work as expected, when multiple cells, rows, or columns are selected. When multiple cells are selected, the search is only conducted within these cells.

In the below example, I once again search for the text “Bethany”, and receive a warning indicating zero matches:

Match not found when multiple cells are selected

This is because there are multiple cells (two cells) under selection. To enable search within the whole spreadsheet, close the warning pop-up, then click anywhere else in the spreadsheet, or select only one cell. When you click on Find All or Find Next to search for the text, the tool should come up with a match.

3. Does Ctrl+F look for a match in entire cell content?

If the previous solutions didn’t enable Ctrl+F, once again reveal Options in the Find and Replace dialog box.

Reveal options for Find

Suppose we are looking for the substring “le”. Matches should definitely be found, since there are cells with values “Elle”, “Noble” and “d’Antille”. But the warning pop-up indicates no matches:

No match found due to entire cell content match

This time, the reason for this error is the “Match entire cell contents” option. If this box is checked, the text is found only if the entire cell content equals “le”. But this isn’t usually the desired behavior.

Uncheck the “Match entire cell contents” option. This way, the sub-matches within the spreadsheet can successfully be found:

Match is found when entire cell content match is deactivated

4. Is Ctrl+F case-sensitive?

Case sensitivity is also an important option in Excel’s Find and Replace. Sometimes, you may want to match the exact case of a word. But usually, when you type “bethany”, you want to find cell values that contain “Bethany”. This means that you don’t want to match the case.

If this is the case, control whether the “Match case” option is checked under Options.

Uncheck the “Match case” option:

Match is found when match is case-insensitive

This way, even if you write “bethany” with lowercase letters, the capitalized “Bethany” value can be found, which means that the search is case-insensitive.

5. Are there extra spaces within the query or the data?

If none of the above solutions worked, there may be a problem with the data or the query. Sometimes, spaces within the data that are not visible to the human eye may cause the issue.

Below, a search for the value “Elle” returns no matches:

Match not found due to spaces

 Since we looked at the first four solutions, we may suspect an error within the query or the data.

When we click on the “Find what” text box, it seems that there are extra spaces at the end of our query, which results in a mismatch.

Spaces present within the query

Delete the extra spaces in your query to get rid of this problem.

There may also be extra spaces within the cell values. In the below example, we look for the value “Bethany Mary”, but it can’t be found:

Match not found due to spaces within cell

When we look closely, we can see that there are two spaces between “Bethany” and “Mary” in cell A2, but a single space within our query. Due to the extra space within the cell value, the match can’t be found.

Two spaces in the cell value

Delete the extra space within the cell, and try searching again. A match will now be found.

I listed the most common solutions to the Ctrl+F not working problem.

In summary:

  • Make sure that the Find tool is searching for values,
  • Make sure that multiple cells aren’t selected,
  • Uncheck the “Match entire cell content” option,
  • Uncheck the “Match case” option,
  • Make sure that there aren’t any extra spaces within the query or the data.

 I hope that your problem was solved after trying out these solutions.

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