Finding Text Using a Specific Highlighting Color

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 21, 2018)

Amir uses different highlighting colors throughout his documents. When he uses Find and Replace to find highlighted text, it treats all highlighting colors the same. Amir would like, specifically, to use Find and Replace to locate only text highlighted in yellow, having it ignore any other highlighting color used in the document.

Before getting into how to possibly do this, it is important to discuss terms for a moment. When using the term "highlighting color," some people think that is referring to the color applied to some particular text; it is not. Highlighting doesn't change the font's color. Highlighting is accomplished by using the Text Highlight Color tool, which is available in the Font group on the Home tab of the ribbon. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Word allows you to highlight text using different colors.

When you use the Find and Replace dialog box, you can specify that you want to search for text that is highlighted. (Put the insertion point in the Find box, click Format, then click Highlight.) When you click on Find Next, Word selects the next highlighted text, regardless of the color used to highlight that text. In other words, you cannot specify that you only want to find text highlighted in yellow or blue or green or any other color; it is all treated the same.

We haven't been able to find any reliable way around this. Some information we've seen indicates that Word will only find whatever highlight color is specified in the Text Highlight Color tool, but this is not true. Other folks have indicated that if you select some highlighted text (that is highlighted with the color you want to find) before displaying the Find and Replace dialog box, only that highlight color will be found when you click Find Next. This, too, is not true. In all cases, Find Next will find any highlighted text, irrespective of color used for highlighting.

The only way around this is to use a macro to do the finding. VBA allows you to detect the color used to highlight text, which is why this approach will work. The following macro uses Find and Replace to do the finding, but then it checks to see what the HighlightColorIndex property is for what was found. If it is equal to wdYellow (an enumeration for the color yellow), then the text is selected and the macro is exited.

Sub FindNextYellow()
    With Selection.Find
        .ClearFormatting
        .Replacement.ClearFormatting
        .Text = ""
        .MatchWildcards = False
        .Forward = True
        .Wrap = wdFindContinue
        .Highlight = True
        Do
            .Execute
        Loop Until Selection.Range.HighlightColorIndex = wdYellow _
          Or Not .Found
        Selection.Range.Select
    End With
End Sub

You can search for different colors simply by changing the wdYellow enumeration to the enumeration for whatever color you want.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13552) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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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