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Wildcard Characters used in String Comparisons

Office 2007

Built-in pattern matching provides a versatile tool for making string comparisons. The following table shows the wildcard characters you can use with the Like operator and the number of digits or strings they match.

Character(s) in patternMatches in expression
?Any single character
*Zero or more characters
#Any single digit (09)
[charlist]Any single character in charlist
[!charlist]Any single character not in charlist

A group of one or more characters (charlist) enclosed in brackets ([ ]) can be used to match any single character in expression and can include almost any characters in the ANSI character set, including digits. In fact, the special characters opening bracket ([ ), question mark (?), number sign (#), and asterisk (*) can be used to match themselves directly only if enclosed in brackets. The closing bracket ( ]) can't be used within a group to match itself, but it can be used outside a group as an individual character.

In addition to a simple list of characters enclosed in brackets, charlist can specify a range of characters by using a hyphen (-) to separate the upper and lower bounds of the range. For example, using [A-Z] in pattern results in a match if the corresponding character position in expression contains any of the uppercase letters in the range A through Z. Multiple ranges can be included within the brackets without any delimiting. For example, [a-zA-Z0-9] matches any alphanumeric character.

Other important rules for pattern matching include the following:

  • An exclamation mark (!) at the beginning of charlist means that a match is made if any character except those in charlist are found in expression. When used outside brackets, the exclamation mark matches itself.
  • The hyphen (-) can be used either at the beginning (after an exclamation mark if one is used) or at the end of charlist to match itself. In any other location, the hyphen is used to identify a range of ANSI characters.
  • When a range of characters is specified, they must appear in ascending sort order (A-Z or 0-100). [A-Z] is a valid pattern, but [Z-A] isn't.
  • The character sequence [ ] is ignored; it's considered to be a zero-length string ("").


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