Search For Carriage Returns/Tabs In Documents [OS X Tips]

Search For Carriage Returns/Tabs In Documents [OS X Tips]

Sometimes within an OS X application you might want to search and replace all single tabs with two tabs, for example, or remove double carriage returns. However, if you type a Tab or hit Return in the search field of an app, it won’t have the desired effect. There’s a simple trick that can be used.


Here’s another tip from Mac Kung Fu, which contains over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for OS X. It’s Amazon ($2.48) as well as other bookstores, and also as an eBook for all eReaders.

Open the search box as usual (i.e. within TextEdit by hitting Command + F), then hold Option while hitting Tab or Return. Doing so in most OS X apps will insert an “invisible” tab or carriage return character, allowing you to search for tabs and carriage returns within the document. You won’t see a symbol for each. Rather you’ll literally insert a tab or line break into the search field–and you can use the Up cursor key to return to the previous line in the case of a line break.

The ‘invisibles’ can be combined with any other search term. To search for a tab preceding the word “the”, for example, you would hold Option, then hit Tab, then type the.

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  • bshirley

    Pages 5.0.1 no longer supports inserting carriage returns in the search box with alt-return. #broken

About the author

Keir ThomasKeir Thomas (http://keirthomas.com) is the author of Mac Kung Fu, which contains over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for Mac OS X Lion. He's also the author of over 10 other computing titles.

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