Expanding Colors Available for Highlighting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 19, 2016)

Word provides a highlighter tool that allows you to...well, "highlight" text, much as you would do with a highlighter pen on a printed document. The default color for highlighting is yellow, but you can change the color if you click the down-arrow to the right of the Highlight tool on the Formatting toolbar. Word allows you to pick any of fifteen different colors.

The colors used for highlighting cannot be changed beyond what is offered in the fifteen colors. (The colors appear to be hard-wired into Word.) You can, however, highlight text in a different way, if you prefer: by using shading. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the text you want to highlight.
  2. Choose Borders and Shading from the Format menu. Word displays the Borders and Shading dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Shading tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Shading tab of the Borders and Shading dialog box.

  5. From the colors displayed, select the one you want to use. (If you'd like to choose from more colors, click the More Colors button.)
  6. Click OK.

Word then applies the selected color to the selected text, and it looks exactly like what you apply using the Highlight tool. If you find a color you like to use a lot, you can create a macro that applies the shading to the selected text. The following macro applies pale yellow shading to the selected text.

Sub HighlightPaleYellow()
    With Selection.Font
        With .Shading
            .Texture = wdTextureNone
            .ForegroundPatternColor = wdColorAutomatic
            .BackgroundPatternColor = wdColorLightYellow
        End With
    End With
End Sub

With the macro in place, you can assign it to a shortcut key or to a toolbar button so you can apply your own "highlighting" whenever you want. Or, if you prefer, you can bypass macros altogether and simply create a character style that applies the desired shading to selected text.

There is only one downside that I can find to using shading to highlight text, and that has to do with Find and Replace. One of the formatting attributes that you can search for is if the text is highlighted, but you cannot search for shading applied to text. If this is a big concern for you, then I'd suggest defining styles for your shading, since you can always search for specific styles.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (105) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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