Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Highlighting Text Using the Keyboard Only.

Highlighting Text Using the Keyboard Only

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 29, 2021)


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 the Font group of the ribbon's Home tab. 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.

Fortunately, Word includes a shortcut you can use to highlight text: just select it and then press Alt+Ctrl+H. The selected text is then highlighted, as desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11643) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word 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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What is 5 - 4?

2020-01-02 13:05:26


On my computer the command is just alt+H

2017-11-27 20:16:27


Also, like, we can put control characters in find replace box, like ^p for paragraph,

are there any ^ representations of putting such formatting command in find/ replace box.

like, is there any ^h for "highlight", or ^something for superscript, or ^something for subscript???

I mean it would be easier if they had given such representation for more commands and setting so that we could have quickly written manually in find/ replace box, instead for circling through menus.


2017-11-27 20:12:41


in my previous reply below, I had written - "highlight" or "not highlight" setting doesn't stick in find/ replace box.

correction: that day the behavior I had found was like that - not sticking.

but now I find that once I select "highlight" or "not highlight", it does stick in find/ replace box, until I manually click clear formatting.

so I clarified hoping members would not get inadvertently misguided.


2017-11-20 12:58:08

Surendera M. Bhanot

Another keyboard shortcut is to use <Alt> Key.
01. Just select the text by pressing and holding <Shift> or <Shift+<Ctrl> keys and using arrow keys to select the text;
02. Press <alt>+H+I the Highlight tool will be active on your screen. Use arrow keys to select the colour you want;
03. Press Enter

That's it!!

2017-11-19 00:41:09


Help wanted.

in Find/ Replace box, what is the keyboard shortcut for "highlight" or "not highlight".

I have checked, and Alt+Ctrl+H doesn't work there. (whereas most of the other formatting keyboard shortcuts do work in find/ replace box.

We have to click "More..." then click "Format", then click "Highlght", to select highlight attribute,
and becaue format popcut closes on clicking "higlight", if we have to set it to "NOT highlight", we have to do the same once again, so we have to again "format", "highlight" to "NOT highlight".

quite long way, so there should be a keyboard shortcut for find/ replace box also.

I wonder why Alt+Ctrl+H is not put to work there.

And the problem is: "highlight" or "not highlight" setting doesn't stick in find/ replace box. you do it for one text, and then you change the text, and "highlight" or "not highlight" setting disappears, and you have to re-do the above lengthy steps again each time, and there is no keyboard shortcut working there.

MS knows how to irritate users.


2017-11-19 00:35:28


ADD: Alt+Ctrl+H is a toggle, so it adds highlight to the selected text, and, if the selected text is already highlighted, it also removes the highlight from the selected text

Just for those who are wondering what is the keyboard shortcut to remove highlight.

2015-06-22 10:25:48


Phil, make sure the Text Highlighter's color is not set to 'no color'.

The text highlighter color can be set with the keyboard. Select text. Select Shift+Alt+H+I. Select color with arrow keys and then Enter. This will remain as the default color for text highlighting until changed.

To remove highlighting, select text then Shift+Alt+H+I+N.

2015-06-22 09:21:20

Rick G.

John & Phil,
You have to set the color you want to use for highlighting before using Alt+Ctrl+H. The easiest way to do that is to highlight something via the mouse & ribbon first. After that (until you close Word), you can just press Alt+Ctrl+H to highlight.

Another way would be to record a macro to set the color and asign a key combination to that macro.

2015-06-22 08:48:12


Word 2010 Cntrl-Alt-H does NOT work for me either.

2015-06-22 06:54:16


This works nicely to de-highlight text already highlighted, but not to highlight. How and when do you indicate the color of the highlight to be applied.

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