Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. 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: Shortcut for Show/Hide.

Shortcut for Show/Hide

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 24, 2021)


Word has a number of non-printing characters that it commonly uses in a document. These characters include spaces, tabs, paragraph marks, and a few other such characters. When you are editing and formatting documents, it is often useful to view these characters, as they can affect the appearance of your document.

The normal way to display the non-printing characters is to click on the Show/Hide tool (it looks like it has a backwards P—a pilcrow character—on it). If you are loathe to remove your hands from the keyboard in order to use the mouse, you might want to memorize a quick little shortcut: Ctrl+* (that's the asterisk), which can also be written as Shift+Ctrl+8. This shortcut key toggles the Show/Hide tool on and off.

Note that this keyboard shortcut only works on the 8 key on the alphabetic keyboard—not on the numeric keypad. So, pressing Ctrl+* (multiplication key) on the numeric keypad will not work to toggle the Show/Hide tool.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13029) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Shortcut for Show/Hide.

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. ...


Removing a List

If you have lists in your document, either bulleted or numbered, you may want to change them back to regular text at some ...

Discover More

Inserting the Total Number of Pages in Your Document

Word keeps track of many statistics for each of your documents. One statistic is the total number of pages in the printed ...

Discover More

Renaming a File

Need to rename a disk file from within a macro? You can do it using the Name command, described in this tip.

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Changing Dialog Box Pull-Down List Item Order

When selecting options within dialog boxes, Word frequently uses drop-down lists to display the options. While ...

Discover More

Viewing Document Statistics

As you develop a document, Word keeps track of certain statistics about the document itself. Here is how you can review ...

Discover More

Helpful Pop-up Screen Tips

Screen tips can be helpful to people reading your document on-screen. Using the technique described here, you can add ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three less than 3?

2021-05-03 18:44:25

John Tompa

Thank you Andrew. I have done that, using Ctrl-* and it works correctly.
Interestingly, it showed ShowAll having Ctrl-8 assigned to it. So I tried Ctrl-_ , (_ and 8 are on the same key, 8 being the uppercase value, _ the lowercase value). But it showed Ctrl-8. And when later I tried Ctrl-_, nothing happened.
But Ctrl-* works fine.

BTW, I previously tried Ctrl-* using the * on the numerical keypad, and nothing happened. Here I used the value on the alphabetic keypad.

2021-04-30 10:23:20


John - You can assign any key or key combination you want to this by assigning it to the "ShowAll" command in the Customize Keyboard dialog (which is available through the Customize Ribbon dialog).

2021-04-29 04:53:10

John Tompa

I tried this shortcut and Ctrl+* didn't work. I have a French keyboard and the layout is different. Ctrl+8 does work, but is less convenient because the 8 is in the shift position of the _ key on the top line, which makes it a three key press: Ctl+Shift+_.
As expected neither the Ctl+8 or the Ctl+* work with the numeric pad.
Any ideas for a 2 key press alternative?

2021-04-26 10:10:41

Paul Stregevsky

If someone can share a shortcut for toggling "Show text boundaries" on and off, I'd be much obliged. Ideally, a shortcut that doesn't require a macro.

2021-04-25 04:38:36

Arya Larijani

Thanks, Allen

2021-04-24 04:38:19


The shortcut for Show/Hide in the form Shift+Ctrl+8 does not work on my MacBookPro, the Microsoft Word for Mac version 14.46

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.