Learn how to streamline your translation workflow -
Learn how to streamline your InDesign translation workflow -
Register for our webinar now

Show hidden characters — InDesign step by step guide

Show hidden characters in InDesign

This is a step-by-step guide to help you show hidden characters in InDesign and any invisible symbol text. Showing InDesign hidden characters is especially helpful for having complete control over your content.

In this post we will see how to:

  • Make InDesign show hidden characters
  • Solve an issue that may not show any invisible text character
  • Change the color of the hidden characters

Are you looking for an invisible text symbol?

What are hidden characters?

InDesign uses special text characters that are invisible to your eye and in the printed version of your document. These characters are called control characters. They are used, for example, to wrap lines, break paragraphs, space words in a specific way, etc.

Why do I have to activate hidden characters?

If you want to have complete control over your text while creating or editing your document, you want to see any invisible text characters because, as we mentioned, they control how your text is formatted.

For example, as we have already seen in another post, using a specific control character (soft-return or hard-return) to wrap your text may influence the way your text behaves when you apply a paragraph style.

What are the advantages of control characters correctly?

Being careful while using these special characters in InDesign will make a big difference in your experience with using the software. It also increases your ability to spot eventual mistakes made while creating the document (here is a list with the 20 most common InDesign mistakes) or hidden characters mistakenly pasted in your file from other sources.

Let’s see how to show invisibles in InDesign.


How to show paragraph marks in indesign or any hidden text characters?

To show hidden characters in InDesign, you need to check the hidden characters setting.

Click on Type in the main menu bar and then turn on Show Hidden Characters

InDesign Hidden Characters: Turn on Show Hidden Characters

This will force InDesign show hidden characters.

Be aware though that these InDesign special characters are visualised only when the Screen Mode is set to Normal. If your Screen Mode is set to Preview you won’t be able to see any invisible character text.

Is your screen mode set to Normal, but you still can’t show hidden characters?

If you activated the setting “Show Hidden Characters,” but for some reason you can’t see any special characters in InDesign, it might be that you turned on “Overprint Preview.” If this is the case, you will see [Overprint Preview] written next to the title of the document.

To turn off this feature and make all the hidden text characters visible:

Click on View in the main menu bar and then turn off Overprint Preview

InDesign Hidden Characters: Overprint Preview

How to change the color of the Hidden Characters shown in InDesign?

The special characters InDesign shows are generally in this blue #4f99ff. Let’s say that you want to change that color. It's very simple. To change the color of the hidden characters, you just have to change the Layer color. To do so:

  1. Click on the Layers menu in the panels to the right
InDesign Hidden Characters: layer
  1. Double-click on the layer name, so that this menu opens
InDesign Hidden Characters: Layer menu
  1. Change the Color value and press OK
InDesign Hidden Characters: change hidden characters color

Must-know InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts

Command macOS Windows
Activate Show Hidden Characters Alt + Cmd + I Alt + Ctrl + I
Deactivate Overprint Preview Alt + Cmd + Shift + Y Alt + Ctrl + Shift + Y

Complete list of InDesign hidden characters

InDesignSecrets has the perfect list of all (or at least most of) the InDesign hidden characters in a pdf that you can download from this page.

In the following tables the most common ones are shown.

White space

Hidden Character name InDesign macOS Windows
Normal Space Space bar Space bar
Em Space Alt + Cmd + M Alt + Ctrl + M
En Space Alt + Cmd + N Alt + Ctrl + N
Third Space - -
Quarter Space - -
Sixth Space - -
Thin Space Alt + Cmd + Shift + M Alt + Ctrl + Shift + M
Hair Space - -
Nonbreaking Space Alt + Cmd + X Alt + Ctrl + X
Nonbreaking Space (fixed width) - -
Punctuation Space - -
Figure Space - -
Flush Space - -

Text Flow Breaks

Hidden Character name InDesign macOS Windows
Paragraph Break (Return) Enter Enter
Column Break Fn + Enter Fn + Enter
Frame Break Fn + Shift + Enter Fn + Shift + Enter
Page Break Fn + Cmd + Enter Fn + Ctrl + Enter
Odd Page Break - -
Even Page Break - -

Line Breaks

Hidden Character name InDesign macOS Windows
Forced line break Shift + Enter Shift + Enter

Other Specials

Hidden Character name InDesign macOS Windows
End of text in the story - -
Tab Tab Tab
Right Indent Tab Shift + Tab Shift + Tab
Indent to Here Cmd + \ Ctrl + \
Custom Anchored Object - -

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with future posts or major updates. If you have questions feel free to post them in the comments. If you liked the post, I'd really appreciate you sharing it!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

30 practical tips for InDesign users
Download guide
Blue arrow pointing right
No email required
Icon of an eye
Read by more than 25k people
Stefano Bernardi HeadshotStefano Bernardi Headshot
Save your spot for our free webinar
Book your free 30-mins demo with one of the founders
(not a random salesperson).

Streamline your translation workflow with zero downtime. Discover how.