Word: About hidden text

March 20, 2009

Word has had a hidden text feature for many years. For example, teachers might use it to enter the answers to questions directly on to a test. The test can be printed out for students with just the questions, while the teacher can change the print settings to print both the questions and answers.

When the option to show hidden text is turned on, such text displays with a small dotted underline. Index entries are always formatted as hidden text — if the option to display hidden text is turned on, you’ll see things like { XE indexentryname } scattered throughout the document, which can be very confusing if you’ve never seen it before.

So, how do you hide text? And how do you display all hidden text in a document? And how do you print a document with and without the hidden text? The steps for Word 2003 and Word 2007 are very similar.

Hide selected text

  1. Select the text you want to hide, including the ending space (if there is one).
  2. Open the font dialog box: Word 2003: Format > Font; Word 2007: Go to the Home tab, then click the launch button Dialog launcher on the Font group.
  3. Select the Hidden check box, then click OK.
Font dialog box showing Hidden check box

Font dialog box showing Hidden check box

Display hidden text

As expected, you cannot see text you’ve hidden until you toggle the option to display it or not.

  • Word 2003: Open the Tools > Options menu, then go to the View tab. Select the Hidden Text check box, then click OK.
  • Word 2007: Click the Office  Office button button. Click the Word Options button, then select Display on the left. Select the Hidden Text check box, then click OK.

You should see the dotted line below the text that’s hidden:

Hiddent text displays with a dotted underline

Hidden text displays with a dotted underline

Print hidden text in a document

Unless you explicitly set Word to print hidden text, it will not print when you click the Print icon. You can set Word to always print hidden text (in the Word Options), or just set it at the time of printing. Below are the steps to set it at the time of printing:

  • Word 2003: Open the File > Print menu. On the Print dialog, click the Options button (bottom left). Select the Print Hidden Text check box, then click OK.
  • Word 2007: Click the Office  Office button button. Click Print on the left. On the Print dialog, click the Options button (bottom left). Select the Print Hidden Text check box, then click OK.


  1. Just wondering if there is an easy way to make the hidden text occupy space even when it is hidden. This is useful for handouts for students where blanks are necessary for the students to write the extra information down when it is projected overhead by a teacher.

  2. A quick and easy workaround might be to put the hidden text inside a borderless table cell with a defined row height. That might work.

  3. yes that did work!
    Thank you! :)
    Now if also wanted to hide shapes, drawings or pictures… do you know if there is any way to accomplish that?

  4. I just tried in Word 2003, and you can make an inserted picture hidden when it’s ‘in line with text’. Insert the picture, right-click on it and go to Format Picture. Select the Layout tab and make sure In line with text is selected, then click OK. Next, select the picture, then go to Format > Font and select Hidden.

    You can also make text inside a text box hidden, but you can’t hide the text box itself as far as I can see. However, you could remove the border from it so it appears to be hidden. I don’t think you can hide drawing shapes like arrows etc. — only those that can contain text. However, I only spent a few minutes looking at this, so there may be something down deep that you can do to hide those things.

  5. Hi Rhonda, i should thank you on this. I was trying to create handout as mentioned by Jordan and spend days to figure that. Your reply to Jordan had saved my time! thanks

  6. It should be noted that hidden text is a dangerous feature that can lead to sensitive info leaks if the file is given away in its electronic form without first removing the hidden text with Document Inspector or one of the third-party tools like BatchPurifier ( http://www.digitalconfidence.com/BatchPurifier.html ) and Workshare Protect ( http://www.workshare.com/products/wsprotect/ ).

  7. Thanks Duxi. Yes, hidden text can be a real problem if it is left in an electronic document that then gets routed into hands where it should never go (e.g. corporate/government leaks, students getting their hands on test answers prior to taking the test, etc).

  8. There is a new addin for Word, called More, which makes it very simple to hide/show or collapse/expand any part of a Word document. Just select part of the document and click on the More tab and it will create for you a button on the page for hiding or showing that part. See http://www.moreaddin.com

  9. Is there any way to show hidden text in the TOC but not in the body of the text if the hidden text is part of a heading?

  10. Thank you !!

  11. Thank you thank you THANK YOU… couldn’t figure this one out – so simple too! Cheers!

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