Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Highlighting Text Using the Keyboard Only.

Highlighting Text Using the Keyboard Only

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 26, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


4

Frank noted that it seems the Highlight tool is only accessible by using the mouse. He prefers to not use the mouse, preferring the keyboard instead. He wondered if there was a way to highlight selected words using just the keyboard.

Before answering, there is something that needs to be clarified: There is some ambiguity when it comes to the word "highlight." For instance, if I say I am going to highlight a word, some people think that means I am going to double-click the word. This isn't highlighting; it is selecting. In Word parlance, the two words have very specific meanings. You select text before you are going to do something with it, such as applying an editing or formatting command. Highlighting, on the other hand, is a formatting task accomplished by using the Highlight tool. (The Highlight tool is available on the Formatting toolbar. It is analogous to a highlighter you use to mark text on a printed page.) In short, you first select text, and then you highlight the selected text by using the Highlight tool.

The ambiguity around the word "highlight" was evident when WordTips subscribers were asked how they can highlight text using the keyboard only, and not the mouse. Many were quick to respond with ways that told how to use the keyboard to select text, such as holding down the Shift key while using the arrow keys or using any number of other selection methods. While this is helpful, it is only part of the solution. The other part deals with how you can actually highlight whatever text has been selected, using just the keyboard.

Word provides no built-in shortcut that will apply a highlight to text, but you can easily create your own shortcut by following these steps:

  1. Choose Customize from the Tools menu. Word displays the Customize dialog box.
  2. Click on the Keyboard button. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  4. Using the Categories list, choose All Commands.
  5. Using the Commands list, choose Highlight.
  6. Position the insertion point in the Press New Shortcut Key text box.
  7. Press the shortcut key you want to use for highlighting. For instance, you might want to press Alt+H.
  8. Click Assign. This assigns the shortcut key to the Highlight command.
  9. Click on OK to dismiss the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  10. Click on OK to dismiss the Customize dialog box.

You can now use the shortcut key you specified in step 6 to highlight any text you've selected.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (526) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Highlighting Text Using the Keyboard Only.

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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Comments

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What is six more than 5?

2022-04-18 01:41:17

Shyama Patil

Will this work on power point too ?


2021-03-04 05:38:37

William WALLACE

I may be missing the point (or being particularly obtuse) but I consider I'm highlighting selected text (rather than all text via Ctrl+A) by simply sliding the mouse pointer over the relevant text, typically for the purpose of Copy and Paste but equally for changing the font colour or other attributes of that selection. This is a very simple operation, far simpler than the use of the Customize keyboard route advocated.

Or are we arguing about semantics when we talk of highlighting?

Whatever, keep up the good works with Tips.net


2021-03-03 09:40:34

Kim Ferguson

Hello, I'm an occupational therapist working with clients with physical disabilities. I have a client who would like to be able to step through a digital book saved into Word by highlighting sentence by sentence. If this can be done by keyboard shortcuts we could set that up for him in buttons on an onscreen keyboard that he could control using eye gaze. Do you think this is possible using keyboard shortcuts?

Thanks very much!


2020-12-26 05:10:37

Ron S MVP

That is a start.
.
The "next level" is to create a macro, or macros, for the various highlight colors, then a either assign specific "logical" shortcut keys to the macros, or put the macros on the QAT, select more appropriate buttons. With the macro buttons on the QAT you can use the default numbers that display when you press and hold the ALT key. Numbers that start at the left with 1-9, 09-01 (???), oA-o...
.
Creating Multiple Highlighter Tools 2020 08 24
https://wordribbon.tips.net/T002608_Creating_Multiple_Highlighter_Tools.html
.
And then there is this alternate approach to get more colors:
Expanding Colors Available for Highlighting (Paragraph Shading) 2016 03 19
https://word.tips.net/T000105_Expanding_Colors_Available_for_Highlighting.html
Want more colors to use with the highlighter? The colors used for highlighting cannot be changed beyond what is offered in the fifteen colors. Unless you decide to use the approach illustrated in this tip.
.


Changing the Default Highlighting Color 2017 04 01
https://wordribbon.tips.net/T000144_Changing_the_Default_Highlighting_Color.html

Finally, please go to these "UserVoice" suggestions to MS asking for more Highlighter colors. Vote for them AND add your comments!
https://word.uservoice.com/forums/304924-word-for-windows-desktop-application/suggestions/9389778-improve-highlighting

https://word.uservoice.com/forums/304924-word-for-windows-desktop-application/suggestions/40168108-highlight-colors#comments

https://word.uservoice.com/forums/304924-word-for-windows-desktop-application/suggestions/15723993-enhance-the-text-highlight-color-gallery#comments


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