Show hidden characters — InDesign step by step guide

by Stefano Bernardi

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This is a step-by-step guide to help you show special 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 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

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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:

Click on the Layers menu in the panels to the right
InDesign Hidden Characters: layer

Double-click on the layer name, so that this menu opens
InDesign Hidden Characters: Layer menu

Change the Color value and press OK
InDesign Hidden Characters: change hidden characters color

 

Must-know InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts

Command OS X 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 Symbol in InDesign Shortcut OS X Shortcut 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 Symbol in InDesign Shortcut OS X Shortcut 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 Symbol in InDesign Shortcut OS X Shortcut Windows
Forced line break Shift + Enter Shift + Enter

 

Other Specials
Hidden Character name Symbol in InDesign Shortcut OS X Shortcut 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 - -

 

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Stefano Bernardi
Stefano Bernardi

Stefano has worked on numerous mid to large–sized InDesign projects for Alstom, DeLonghi, Philips, and many others before starting Redokun in 2015.
As Redokun’s Co-Founder, Stefano spends most of his time helping customers to optimize their InDesign work-flow. He also holds in-house InDesign courses for companies in the Venice, Italy area.

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