Beware if Using Ctrl+F to Search Websites for Keywords in Internet Explorer

I hate being reminded of the fallibility of technology. I love the confidence I feel from noting up a case using an electronic database; I hate it when I find that (contrary to the results of my electronic search) the case has in fact been overturned on appeal. I recently experienced a similar feeling when using the federal government’s laws website

Perhaps I’m spoiled by the ability in electronic database programs like QuickLaw and WestLaw to step from “hit” to “hit” in my search results. Or maybe I’m just lazy. When I am looking for something on a webpage that does not offer this feature, I use the Ctrl+F shortcut available in Internet Explorer to “Find (on This Page)”. You can imagine my surprise when, in viewing sections 468-492.2 of the Criminal Code, I was unable to find s. 487 (entitled “Information for search warrant”) by pressing Ctrl+F and searching the page for the word “warrant”. The only hit returned was in s. 475. Even using Ctrl+A to select all of the text on the page did not alter my results. Only if you highlight s. 487 itself will the search work (which defeats the purpose, if you did not know that the search warrant section was s. 487 to begin with). 

I always assumed that, so long as one clicked at least once in the relevant frame, the Ctrl+F shortcut would produce all of the instances of the searched words on the page. Obviously, this is not so. I’m assuming it has something to do with the way in which the page is coded. I raised the matter with the website’s administrator, who advised that they are aware of the problem, but that it will only be addressed when a new version of the website is prepared (at some as-yet-unknown point in the future).

Similarly, I later opened the Criminal Code in CanLII. I tried to used Ctrl+F to find s. 686 by searching for “686”. My search produced no results. And yet, by scrolling down, I was able to locate s. 686. Of course, using the federal legislation search template to find the text “686” and title “Criminal Code” brings up CanLII’s handy step-by-step search tool, which leads you right to s. 686 (and highlights all other instances of the number throughout the Code).

All this to say – take heed that using the Ctrl+F shortcut in IE to search for words on a page may not always bring up all the relevant results. Better read through the page yourself, just to be sure! Or else switch to Firefox…


  1. IE will find the term if you click on Previous instead of Next. For some reason, it starts looking from the bottom of the page instead of the top.

  2. Brent A. Blanchard, Esq.

    I make it a habit to ALWAYS search web pages for keywords until the results say the search has reached the end of the page and returned to the top, then quickly a second time to avoid the \started from somewhere else\ problem.

    But I use FireFox for a large number of reasons. Undocumented \features\ like this seem to pop up less frequently with FFx.

  3. Reason #652 that I love Firefox. I can’t stand IE’s Ctrl-F feature and have no idea why they don’t improve it. Chrome’s is horrible, too.