Archive for January, 2020


Word: Find whole numbers inside square brackets or parentheses

January 29, 2020

In the comments on my post on using wildcards to replace and reformat text inside square brackets, Simon J asked what he’d need to use to find all numbers inside brackets.

I can think of a scenario where I’d want to do what Simon is asking—some of my authors, usually from an engineering background, will write out a number in full then put the numeral in brackets after the word (e.g. seventeen (17) joists, five (5) days). I usually delete one of these when I’m editing, as there’s typically no reason to have both.

Find what field:

  • To find numbers inside square brackets, make sure Use wildcards is on, then type this in the Find what field: \[[0-9]{1,10}\] 
  • To find numbers inside parentheses (round brackets), make sure Use wildcards is on, then type this in the Find what field: \([0-9]{1,10}\) 

Replace with field:

  • To replace what you found with nothing (i.e. delete all such occurrences), then leave the Replace field empty. Note: You may end up with double spaces (the spaces either side of the deleted bracketed number string), so do a standard find and replace to replace them with a single space.
  • To replace what you found with something else, then add that to the Replace field.

Notes and warnings:

  • This method only finds WHOLE numbers. Numbers with anything else in them (letters or any sort of punctuation, such as decimal points, any sort of hyphen or dash, commas as thousand separators, percent symbols etc.) will NOT be found.
  • You can change the parameters of the search string—the example above looks for one to ten consecutive numerals inside the brackets (this is the {1,10} bit). If you wanted different parameters, then you can change these values. For example, {2,5} would look for any whole numbers with 2, 3, 4, or 5 numerals (it would ignore single numbers and numbers with 6 or more numerals), and {1,} would look for numbers of any length from single-digit numbers through to an unlimited string of numbers.
  • This method does not allow you to replace just parts of the found string with other characters. For that you would need to surround each element in parentheses. For the first example, you’d use (\[)([0-9]{1,10})(\]), and for the second you’d normally use ([\(])([0-9]{1,10})([\)]), (Hint: Copy this string—there are lot of punctuation marks in here that you could get wrong if you try to type is out).

[Links last checked January 2020]





Word annoyance: Insert row/column icon appears when try to select a row/column

January 26, 2020

Update: You can now turn this off in recent versions of Word for Office 365 (possibly Word 2016, and 2019 too)! Thanks to Lene Fredborg, who commented on this post (below), the solution is File > Options > Advanced, Display section, clear the Show pop-up buttons for adding rows and tables.

I’ll leave the original post here for the workaround for those on earlier versions that don’t have this option.


Since Word 2013 (Word for Windows, not sure about Mac), you haven’t been able to select a table row or column easily from outside the row/column, without inadvertently inserting what you’re trying to select! Instead of hovering the cursor immediately to the left of the row/above the column and then clicking to select, Microsoft added these (not so) helpful tools that insert a new row/table, and you have to fiddle with the mouse a bit to move the cursor a tad further away to get table row/column select mode. I suspect they added this icon for those using touch screens, but they are more of a curse than a help to desktop users with a keyboard and mouse. More times than not, when I want to select a row/column to delete it, I end up clicking one of these ‘helpful’ icons and add a new row/column instead, which means I now have to delete two rows/columns! This is what one of these not so helpful icons looks like when you hover your cursor to the left of a row:

Outline of table with the insert row icon highlighted

A quick search of the main websites for Word issues indicates that there’s no way to turn these things off.

Possible solution

However, I did come across a way to disable them that may be useful if you have a lot of table manipulation to do, and that’s to switch to draft view, where these tools won’t appear. Switching to draft view is clumsy in itself (Microsoft inexplicably took away the Draft icon from the icons on the right of the status bar several versions ago), but it may be the solution you need if you’re fiddling with the rows/columns on a large table or on several tables:

  • To switch to draft view, go to View > Draft.
  • To switch back to print layout view, click the relevant icon in the status bar, or go to View > Print Layout.



Solved: Wireless mouse stops working

January 2, 2020

Scenario: Every time my computer did a backup to an external hard drive, my wireless mouse would stop working. I could click it and move it but there was no response on the screen. Changing the batteries didn’t help. The (wired) keyboard worked fine. The external hard drive was plugged into a USB port on the front of the computer, as was the dongle for the wireless mouse.

Solution: After Googling for solutions, I decided to try to the simplest first—move the wireless dongle for the mouse from the USB port on the front of the computer to a USB hub some distance from the computer (this hub is plugged into a USB port on the back of the computer). Once I did that, I reran a backup to test that the mouse would not be affected. It wasn’t, so problem solved! It seems that conflicts between devices—especially those plugged into the front USB ports—are common.