Word: Wildcard replace transposes characters when track changes is on

February 26, 2015

A bug in Microsoft Word has had me baffled for several hours and at various times in the past. I thought it was me. But it’s not –it’s Word, and it’s a bug that’s been around since at least 2006. Microsoft have never bothered to fix it (I use Word 2010 and 2013 and it’s evident in both those versions).

What happens?

When you do a Wildcard find/replace in Word AND you have track changes turned on, the replace action transposes/reverses the items you want to replace!

For example, I have numeric values followed by their units of measure (e.g. 90 km) and I want to replace the normal space with a non-breaking space. To do this, I do a wildcard Find for ([0-9])( )(km) (i.e. any numeral followed by a space followed by km), and a Replace with \1^s\3 (i.e. replace the first part with itself, delete the normal space and replace it with a non-breaking space [the ^s bit], and replace the third part with itself).

If I have track changes on when I do the Replace, I get this: 5km<non-breaking space>, instead of 5<non-breaking space>km.

How to avoid it

Turn off track changes BEFORE you do the wildcard find/replace.


See these sites for information on how long this bug has been around, and other examples of it:

[Links last checked February 2015]


  1. Hello,

    Interestingly, this bug manifests itself only if the text being replaced is not an insertion. If I insert “5 km” in the text using Track Changes mode and then do the replacement, the replacement works correctly.

    Best regards,

  2. Thanks for that extra information!

  3. Don’t know whether it’s just my version of Word 2007, but I’m getting the bug even when Track Changes is off; the bug produces the same result either way.

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