Waging war with Word

Reader Kathleen Hanover is unhappy with Microsoft Word. She writes:

I send out monthly meeting notices for a local organization. I don’t, however, manage the contact lists. Recently another member sent me the organization’s 204 contacts in the body of an email. Unfortunately, each entry on the list looked like this:

‘blah@example.com’ <mailto:'blah@example.com'>

…repeat x 203.

You can’t paste this into the BCC field in Mail.

So I copied everything into Word, thinking, “I’m sure it’s powerful enough to get rid of the extraneous stuff and leave me with a clean list.” I was so wrong! All I want Word to do is Find and Replace everything from between < and > inclusive. Then, a couple more Find and Replace actions could get rid of the extra ’ and ; characters.

So I tried using the search phrase <*>. However, if you search with wildcards, apparently Word doesn’t understand < or > anymore. I tried numerous search phrases, numerous times, and got nowhere. Word’s Help feature did not live up to its name.

I hate Word anyway, so I’m prepared to believe that, bloated as it is, it still doesn’t have the brains to accomplish this simple task.

I like a challenge as much as the next guy (and because I do, I’ll show you how to do this in Word in a second), but you could do this far more easily in a text editor like Bare Bones’ free TextWrangler2. Just pull up the program’s find and replace feature and enter the stuff you don’t want—<mailto:'blah@example.com'> in this instance—do a second find and replace to get rid of the ’ characters and you’re good to go. If more than one address occurs per line, use TextWrangler’s Hard Wrap command to move each address to its own line.

As for Word, you can do it with a bit more effort. I worked around the problem by performing the following actions:

1. To get rid of the pesky < > characters I replaced them by searching for each and clicking Replace All. The characters were deleted.

2. I then clicked the triangle that revealed the bottom portion of the Find and Replace window and enabled the Use Wildcards option.

3. In the Find What field I entered mailto:’*’ and clicked Replace All. This cleared out the mailto:’blah@example.com’ entries.

4. I then entered ’ in the Find What field and clicked Replace All. That took care of the remaining ’ characters.

5. Finally, because two addresses—separated by two spaces—appeared on each line, I needed to insert a paragraph mark where the two spaced occurred. I entered those two spaces in the Find What field and typed ^p into the Replace With field to split the addresses into separate lines.

To make the process easier in the future you could record a macro of this routine and fire it off whenever you receive similar email.

Note: I’m the first to admit that I’m a little lamebrained when it comes to performing Word wildcard searches. If you know of an easier way to tackle this, I’d love to hear it. Use the Comments link below for just that.

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