How to Do a Reverse String Search in Excel Using FIND

Reverse String Search LeadExcel has some great functions available for working with long phrases (strings). It has RIGHT, LEFT, and TRIM to manage sub-strings. It also has FIND and SEARCH to look for specific characters or sub-strings inside a phrase. The only problem is that FIND and SEARCH look from left to right in a string. If you need to look for something starting at the end of a string, there isn’t a good tool built into Excel to do so. Fortunately, it is possible to build a formula to do just that – a reverse string search. Here’s how…

 The Normal FIND Function

Let’s assume we have a simple string of characters we want to manipulate:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

If we were looking to identify the first word in the string, we could use a basic FIND function. The syntax for FIND is as follows:

=FIND(find_text, within_text, [start_num])

Assuming our string is in cell A1, the FIND function that locates the first space in the sentence is as follows:

=FIND(" ",A1)

The function returns 4. To get the first word in the sentence, we can use a LEFT function. The syntax for the LEFT function is as follows:

=LEFT(text, [num_chars])

The LEFT function that gives us the first word is as follows:

=LEFT(A1, FIND(" ",A1)-1)

It returns The. But what if we want the last word in the sentence? For that, we need to reverse the FIND function…

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Andrew Roberts ThumbnailAndrew Roberts has been solving business problems with Microsoft Excel for over a decade. Excel Tactics is dedicated to helping you master it. You can read more of his writing on his personal blog at NapkinMath.io.

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23 thoughts on “How to Do a Reverse String Search in Excel Using FIND

  1. Improvement using mid instead of right?!?

    A1=The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

    =IF(ISERROR(FIND(” “,A1)),A1,MID(A1,FIND(“~”,SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,”~”,LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,””))))+1,LEN(A1)))

  2. Please check your fourmula – when converting it to Danish Excel i find I have to make the following change (A1);A!) etc. and not A1));A1 etc.:

    =HVIS(HVIS.FEJL(FIND(” “;A1);A1);MIDT(A1;(FIND(“~”;UDSKIFT(A1;” “;”~”;LÆNGDE(UDSKIFT(A1;” “;”~”))-LÆNGDE(UDSKIFT(A1;” “;””)))))+1;LÆNGDE(A1)))

    1. The formula uses ISERROR, not IFERROR, I’m not fluent in Danish but I think you should use ER.FEJL and not HVIS.FEJL.

    1. Beautiful!

      Good tips stand the test of time, thanks!

      FYI, my mid string reverse search was not quite as simple, but modified from Deepak’s version, works for most of the text strings I need. Data set coding is inconsistent, so I’m always left with some manual cleanup.

      =VALUE(TRIM(RIGHT(SUBSTITUTE(TRIM(

      (TRIM(LEFT(SUBSTITUTE(TRIM($A1),”XYZ”,REPT(” “,99)),99)))

      ), ” “, REPT(” “, 99)), 99)))

      Essentially, find string “XYZ”, and THEN find the string BEFORE that (again delimited with ” “, but still could be any other delimiter or another substring).

      In my case, I’m looking for product wgts buried anywhere within a product description.

      “bucket o’ widgets, 21.5 oz, yellow polka dotted” (search of ” oz”, look backwards for 21.5, converted to VALUE). similar for lb, kg, or cnt, etc.

    1. That really is a bit of impressive latteral thinking to create a reverse find – I was looking for a vba solution to create a customer right find function, but that really is impressive…. sometimes you just get schooled… thanks Andrew

  3. Awsome use of functions to do someting that is not inherent in excel. Used the concept to find initials for a cell with FM&L name or a F&L name.

  4. Thank you for the excellent sample and explanation.
    Was able to easily change to fit my requirements.
    Thank you Andrew!!!

  5. This seems like just what I need, except it’s not working if I have more than one character as my search value. I’m a beginner with this stuff, and any simple tips would be appreciated.

  6. =MID(A11,FIND(“~”,SUBSTITUTE(A11,” “,”~”,LEN(A11)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A11,” “,””))),1)+1,999)

    for extracting text from right before space

  7. A) Tweaking the structure of IF(ISERROR( to IFERROR and parsing as a value:

    =IFERROR(VALUE(RIGHT(A1,
    LEN(A1)-FIND(“~”,
    SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,”~”,
    LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,””))
    )
    )
    )),A1)

    B) Using a User Defined Function with InStrRev:

    – Functions reside in Personal.XLSB,but can be viewed if not protected in VB Editor
    – Functions (in Personal.XLSB) load at startup from XLStart and are global
    – Path: C:\Users\[UserName]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART

    Public Function MyV(CellRef As String)

    ‘Creative Commons License – Fred Kagel

    ‘Reverse string search looking for normal space

    Dim i As Integer
    CellRef = Trim(CellRef)
    i = InStrRev(CellRef, ” “) ‘finds position of space from end of string
    MyV = Val(Right(CellRef, Len(CellRef) – i)) ‘Parse as value

    End Function

    1. To clarify the value of i above: inStrRev finds the first space from the end of the string (going right to left), but i returns the position of the space counting from the beginning of the string (left to right). To see the value of i, enter the MsgBox line:

      Public Function MyV(CellRef As String)
      Dim i As Integer
      CellRef = Trim(CellRef)
      i = InStrRev(CellRef, ” “) ‘finds position of space from end
      Msgbox (“The value of i is: ” & i) ‘but counts left to right — thanks to Henry H
      MyV = Val(Right(CellRef, Len(CellRef) – i))

      End Function

      Also, functions do not have to be global via Personal.xlsb; they may be self-contained within a module of a given workbook.

    1. No need to use VBA… use this formula to get the same thing… position of first space from right of a string in cell A1…

      =IF(ISERROR(FIND(” “,A1,1)),0,FIND(“\”,SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,”\”,LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,””))),1))
      returns 0 (zero) if no spaces in the string…

      To find first space to left of any position in a string, use…

      =IF(ISERROR(FIND(” “,LEFT(A1,n),1)),0,FIND(“\”,SUBSTITUTE(A1,” “,”\”,LEN(LEFT(A1,n))-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(LEFT(A1,n),” “,””))),1))
      where n=desired position, returns 0 (zero) if no spaces left of position n

  8. Possible to do a reverse lookup for multiple character types? So what if I wanted to do the reverse lookup until either a “.” or a line break (CHAR(10))?

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