# Excel Formula with Wildcard: How to Use Wildcards in Excel Formulas

If you frequently work with large datasets in **Microsoft Excel**, you may find yourself needing to search for and manipulate data that matches certain patterns. This is where **wildcards** come in handy. Wildcards are special characters that can represent one or more characters in a text string. By using wildcards in your **Excel formulas**, you can greatly expand the power and flexibility of your data analysis. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start using **wildcards in Excel formulas** effectively.

## What are Wildcards in Excel?

In Excel, a wildcard is a special character that can be used to represent one or more characters in a text string. There are two main wildcard characters in Excel:

- The
**asterisk (***)**: Represents any number of characters. For example, “a*” would match “apple”, “apartment”, and “a”. - The
**question mark (?)**: Represents a single character. For example, “a?” would match “at” and “an” but not “apple”.

By using these wildcards in combination with Excel functions like `SUMIF`

, `COUNTIF`

, `VLOOKUP`

, and more, you can perform powerful searches and manipulations on your data.

## How to Use the Asterisk (*) Wildcard in Excel Formulas

The asterisk wildcard is useful when you want to match a specific text pattern that may have any number of characters before or after it. Here are some examples of how you can use the asterisk wildcard in Excel formulas:

### COUNTIF formula with asterisk wildcard

The `COUNTIF`

function allows you to count the number of cells in a range that match a certain criteria. By using the asterisk wildcard, you can count cells that contain a specific text string anywhere in the cell.

For example, let’s say you have a list of product names in column A, and you want to count how many of them contain the word “apple”. You could use a formula like this:

`=COUNTIF(A:A,"*apple*")`

This would count all cells in column A that contain the word “apple”, regardless of what comes before or after it.

### VLOOKUP formula with asterisk wildcard

The `VLOOKUP`

function allows you to look up a value in a table based on a search key. By using the asterisk wildcard in your search key, you can match partial text strings.

For example, let’s say you have a product list in columns A and B, with product IDs in column A and product names in column B. You want to look up the product name based on a partial product ID. You could use a formula like this:

`=VLOOKUP("A*",A:B,2,FALSE)`

This would look up the product name for any product ID that starts with “A”.

## How to Use the Question Mark (?) Wildcard in Excel Formulas

The question mark wildcard is useful when you want to match a specific text pattern with a single character that can vary. Here are some examples of how you can use the question mark wildcard in Excel formulas:

### SUMIF formula with question mark wildcard

The `SUMIF`

function allows you to sum values in a range that match a certain criteria. By using the question mark wildcard, you can sum values based on a specific text pattern with one varying character.

For example, let’s say you have a list of sales data, with region codes in column A and sales amounts in column B. The region codes are in the format “A1”, “A2”, “B1”, “B2”, etc. You want to sum the sales for all regions that start with “A”. You could use a formula like this:

`=SUMIF(A:A,"A?",B:B)`

This would sum all sales amounts for regions that start with “A” and have any single character after it.

### VLOOKUP formula with question mark wildcard

You can also use the question mark wildcard with `VLOOKUP`

to look up values based on a specific text pattern with one varying character.

For example, let’s say you have a product list in columns A and B, with product IDs in column A and product names in column B. The product IDs are in the format “A1”, “A2”, “B1”, “B2”, etc. You want to look up the product name based on a product ID that starts with “A” and has any single character after it. You could use a formula like this:

`=VLOOKUP("A?",A:B,2,FALSE)`

This would look up the product name for any product ID that starts with “A” and has any single character after it.

## Combining Wildcards in Excel Formulas

You can also combine the asterisk and question mark wildcards in a single formula to create even more powerful searches. For example:

`"a*b?"`

would match “apple”, “acrobat”, and “a b” but not “atlas”.`"*a??"`

would match “apple”, “back”, and “cast” but not “banana”.

By combining wildcards in creative ways, you can create formulas that match very specific text patterns.

## Tips for Using Wildcards in Excel Formulas

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using wildcards in your Excel formulas:

- Wildcards are case-sensitive.
`"A*"`

will match “Apple” but not “apple”. - If you want to match an actual asterisk or question mark character, you need to escape it with a tilde (~). For example,
`"*~**"`

would match cells that end with an asterisk. - Be careful not to overuse wildcards, especially the asterisk. Broad wildcard searches can slow down your formulas significantly.
- If you’re not getting the results you expect, double-check your wildcard placement and syntax. A misplaced wildcard can completely change the meaning of your formula.

## Real-World Examples of Using Wildcards in Excel Formulas

To help solidify your understanding, let’s look at a couple real-world examples of using wildcards in Excel formulas.

### Example 1: Counting Orders by Product Category

Let’s say you work for a company that sells products in three main categories: Hardware, Software, and Services. You have a spreadsheet with all of your sales data, and the product category is indicated by the first letter of the product ID (H for Hardware, S for Software, V for Services).

You want to count the number of orders for each product category. You could use a formula like this:

`=COUNTIF(A:A,"H*")`

to count Hardware orders`=COUNTIF(A:A,"S*")`

to count Software orders`=COUNTIF(A:A,"V*")`

to count Services orders

### Example 2: Summing Sales by Region

Now let’s say your company has sales offices in several regions, indicated by a region code in the format “A1”, “A2”, “B1”, “B2”, etc. You want to sum the total sales for each top-level region (A, B, C, etc.).

You could use a formula like this:

`=SUMIF(A:A,"A?",B:B)`

to sum sales for region A`=SUMIF(A:A,"B?",B:B)`

to sum sales for region B

And so on.

## Final Thoughts

Wildcards are a powerful tool for working with text data in Excel. By using the asterisk (*) and question mark (?) characters in your formulas, you can perform complex searches and manipulations that would be difficult or impossible with regular text matching.

Whether you’re counting cells, summing values, or looking up data, wildcards can help you work more efficiently and effectively in Excel. So, the next time you find yourself working with text data, give wildcards a try!

## FAQs

### What are the two main wildcard characters in Excel?

The two main wildcard characters in Excel are the asterisk (*), which represents any number of characters, and the question mark (?), which represents a single character.

### How can I use the asterisk wildcard in a COUNTIF formula?

To use the asterisk wildcard in a COUNTIF formula, you can place it before and/or after the text you want to match. For example, `=COUNTIF(A:A,"*apple*")`

would count all cells in column A that contain the word “apple”, regardless of what comes before or after it.

### How can I use the question mark wildcard in a SUMIF formula?

To use the question mark wildcard in a SUMIF formula, you can place it in the position where you want to allow any single character. For example, `=SUMIF(A:A,"A?",B:B)`

would sum all values in column B where the corresponding value in column A starts with “A” and has any single character after it.

### Can I combine the asterisk and question mark wildcards in a single formula?

Yes, you can combine the asterisk and question mark wildcards in a single formula to create more complex text matching patterns. For example, `"a*b?"`

would match “apple”, “acrobat”, and “a b” but not “atlas”.

### Are there any potential downsides to using wildcards in Excel formulas?

While wildcards are very powerful, overusing them, especially the asterisk, can significantly slow down your formulas. It’s important to use them judiciously and double-check your wildcard placement and syntax to ensure you’re getting the desired results.

Vaishvi Desai is the founder of Excelsamurai and a passionate Excel enthusiast with years of experience in data analysis and spreadsheet management. With a mission to help others harness the power of Excel, Vaishvi shares her expertise through concise, easy-to-follow tutorials on shortcuts, formulas, Pivot Tables, and VBA.