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Word: Wildcard find and replace to put parentheses around numbers

June 20, 2019

In another post (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/word-wildcard-find-and-replace-for-numbers-inside-parentheses/), Thomas asked: “I have to find any number within a document and put it into brackets: 2 -> (2); 12 -> (12); 123 -> (123)”. But he wasn’t having any luck.

A standard Find can use ^# to find any single number (but not multiple numbers), but that command doesn’t work in a wildcard find and replace.

Here’s what I came up with instead; it assumes the numbers are surrounded by a space on both sides—it won’t find any numbers that include punctuation marks (e.g. 1,000,000), that start or finish with a punctuation mark (e.g. comma, period, parenthesis, semicolon, etc.), or those that are in a word (e.g. Model1345):

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog.
  2. Click More, then select the Use wildcards check box.
  3. In Find What, type: ( )(<[0-9]{1,}>)( ) (NOTE: there is a single space between the first set of parentheses and between the third set)
  4. In Replace With, type: \1(\2)\3
  5. Click Find Next, then click Replace once the first is found. Once you’re happy that it works, repeat until you’ve replaced them all.

What the find and replace ‘codes’ mean:

The three elements (each is enclosed in parentheses) of the Find are:

  1. ( ) — For the first and third elements, you type a set of parentheses, with a space inside the parens.
  2. (<[0-9]{1,}>) — The < and > represent the beginning and end of the ‘word’ respectively (in this case, the ‘word’ is a set of numbers with NO punctuation, e.g. 1, 12, 1234, 7896543); [0-9] represents any number from 0 to 9; {1,} says to look for one or more of the same (i.e. numbers) to any length immediately after that number, thus not limiting the find to only single digit numbers.

For the Replace:

  • \1 — Replaces the first element (the space) with itself
  • ( — Inserts an opening parens
  • \2 — Replaces the second element of the Find with what was in the Find (i.e. a number).
  • ) — Inserts a closing parens
  • \3 — Replace the third element (the space) with itself

 

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