Book Review: Jack Lyon’s Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word

It’s likely that most of Word’s users don’t use its search and replace feature to its full potential. Its power, including regular expressions (which Word calls wildcards), hides behind a confusingly named check box one level deep in the Find and Replace dialog. In my experience, most users never get past the stage of using the ? and * characters as wildcards in their searches. Jack Lyon, author of the excellent Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, has taken some of the content from that book and combined it with new material into a new book, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, with the goal of showing users how to fully exploit the power of Word’s search and replace feature.

The book begins with an overview of the basic options of the Find and Replace dialog, then moves on to explaining how to use Word’s built-in codes, which let you search for special characters and formatting elements like section and page breaks. Especially useful in this section is the table showing which codes work in the search field but not in the replace field. For example, you can search for section breaks but not replace something else (a page break) with a section break.

The next chapter goes into detail about searching and replacing with character codes. This will be useful to anyone working on a Macintosh or who has to deal with Unicode characters. He includes a small macro that will show you the character code if you are confronted with a character that you don’t recognize.

The meat of the book comes in the next chapter, which explains searching and replacing with wildcards, starting with the well-known ? and * characters. He shows how these can be surprisingly powerful when coupled with a few pattern matching operators like [], >, <, and @. A useful table provides a list of ANSI codes that can be used in replacements instead of Word’s character code equivalents, many of which don’t work when using wildcards.

The next and longest chapter is called “Wildcards in the Real World” and is full of examples of how to put wildcards to work in your documents. One example that I’ve bookmarked and used more than once explains how to delete duplicate paragraphs from a list. He includes many reader-provided examples; one being how to change the format of phone numbers, another how to convert HTML format codes to Word’s formatting. There are many examples dealing with different styles of bibliographic and index entries.

A handy reference section at the end of the book includes all of the tables and lists from throughout the book. I’ve printed this out and pinned it to my cubicle wall for quick reference.

At an entirely reasonable price of $9.99, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word is a handy reference for both power users and anyone who wants to delve deeper into one of Word’s most useful features. As a bonus, now that FrameMaker includes regular expression searches, many of the techniques he describes will be directly applicable in FrameMaker.

Title: Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word
Author:  Jack Lyon
Publisher: The Editorium (September 11, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434103986
ISBN-13: 978-1434103987

 

Keith Soltys

After a series of sales and office jobs, Keith Soltys discovered technical writing in 1987 and never looked back. He currently works at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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