Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Searching a Workbook by Default.

Searching a Workbook by Default

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 30, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


When you display the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box (pressing Ctrl+F is the easiest way), Excel makes certain assumptions about what exactly you want to search. (See Figure 1.) What you want to search is dictated by the setting of the Within drop-down list. When you first display the Find and Replace dialog, Within is set to Sheet, by default. This setting is true regardless of whether you select one worksheet or multiple worksheets prior to displaying the dialog box.

Figure 1. The Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

If you want the Within drop-down list to default to Workbook (instead of Sheet), there is no way to specify this in Excel. You can take some solace in the fact that the setting of the Within drop-down list is persistent for the current session with Excel. In other words, if you set it to Workbook, complete your search, and later display the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog, box then Within is still set to Workbook.

It is interesting that, at first blush, there appears to be no way tackle this issue using a macro. This is because Excel doesn't provide a way for a macro to easily display and modify the settings in the Find and Replace dialog box. Many dialog boxes can be displayed using the Dialogs collection, but not the Find and Replace. Instead, VBA allows you to display an older version of the Find dialog box, using this code:

Sub ShowFind1()
End Sub

Unfortunately, this version of the Find dialog box does not have a control that allows you to specify the scope of the search, as can be done with the Within drop-down list in the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

There is a way to display the correct Find and Replace dialog box, but it isn't by using the Dialogs collection. Instead you need to pull up the dialog box using the CommandBars collection, which essentially displays the dialog box using a menu command. Here's how to do it:

Sub ShowFind2()
    ActiveSheet.Cells.Find What:="", LookAt:=xlWhole
    Application.CommandBars("Worksheet Menu Bar").FindControl( _
      ID:=1849, recursive:=True).Execute
End Sub

The Find method allows you to set the different parameters in the Find and Replace dialog, and then the CommandBars object is accessed to actually display the dialog box.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3170) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Searching a Workbook by Default.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 4 + 0?

2019-03-07 20:48:19


I tried out your code. It doesn't seem to affect the search workbook or search worksheet parameter at all. The lookAt parameter primariliy seems to affect look in cell or look in entire cell instead. I have yet to see any effect search worksheet or entire workbook.

2018-10-23 22:00:08


Thanks, your site helped me fix a setting in my dialog box that was preventing me from doing a find.

2017-04-29 04:18:49

Alan Elston

Hi gill,
Interesting. I too cannot see how to use the code to set the search to Workbook when the dialogue box is called up from the code.
I am using XL 2007, so I just asked the same question here:

The code is useful in my opinion.

As example:
Make sure the Find and Replace dialog box is closed
Run the code below
Close the Find and Replace dialog box. ( That is important )
Delete the line 2 in the code
Run the code again
You will see that the default settings have changed.

So you see you have a way to define some of the default settings every time you bring up the dialogue box.

You can make this more convenient to use as follows:
You can assign a Short cut key combination to the macro.
_ in XL 2007 + you can add a quick access symbol
and/ or
_ in XL 2010 + you can add a button to the ribbon

Then you use the short cut key combination or the symbol or the button as an alternative to bring up the dialogue box. It will always come up in the settings you have in the code. ( Mut like you, I am puzzled as to how to set the Within to Workbook.
Maybe someone can enlighten us. ( Or confirm that it is not possible )

Sub ShowFind2() '
1 ActiveSheet.Cells.Find After:=ActiveCell, What:="", LookAt:=xlPart, LookIn:=xlValues, SearchOrder:=xlByColumns
2 ActiveSheet.Cells.Find After:=ActiveCell, What:="", LookAt:=xlWhole, LookIn:=xlFormulas, SearchOrder:=xlByRows
3 Application.CommandBars("Worksheet Menu Bar").FindControl(ID:=1849, recursive:=True).Execute
End Sub

2017-04-28 06:56:02


I don't see the point of this - it's a macro that just does the same as clicking on 'Replace'! I thought it would let me set it so that it would default to 'workbook' but it doesn't, it just goes back to 'sheet'.
In fact, it's worse, because the usual find/replace remembers what you set for the session, but this one doesn't, it goes back to 'sheet' every time.

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