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Why is my InDesign text highlighted in blue?

This is an increasingly common problem: InDesign users suddenly find that some (or all!) of their text highlighted in blue. For example, check out this image:

InDesign text highlighted in blue

What on earth is going on?! The text is still editable, and the blue disappears when you export a PDF, print, or even just switch into Preview mode.

The answer is that you’ve enabled a feature inside the Paragraph Styles or Character Styles panel called Toggle Style Override Highlighter. It’s a button with a [+] icon, in the upper-right corner of the panel (and is also listed in the panel menu):

toggle style highlighting to control text highlighted in blue in InDesign

When that is on, InDesign highlights any text that has local formatting applied to it. Remember that “local” formatting is any formatting over and above the paragraph style. For example, if you select some text and change its size in the Control panel, that’s local formatting. If you change the first line indent of a paragraph, that’s local. However, if you apply a character style in the Character Styles panel, that is not local formatting.

In the first image above, the text in blue highlighting has character-level local formatting (such as a different font, size, leading, color, style, and so on). The text near the bottom (the paragraph that has a blue vertical bar to the left, just outside the text frame) has paragraph-level local formatting (such as a different indent, drop cap, or something like that).

The Toggle Style Override Highlighter feature is awesome because it lets you find local formatting really quickly. But if you don’t know why you’re seeing text highlighted in blue, it can be really confusing!

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at Lynda.com are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
David Blatner

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22 Comments on “Why is my InDesign text highlighted in blue?

  1. Oh my lord. Thank you for solving my problem.

    (You left me a comment for my problem earlier)
    Thank you for much! :)

  2. New features like this tend to freak out designers when they come automatically turned on, and you can’t tell where to turn it off. Adobe should have a smarter way to introduce things than just turning them on automatically.

    Why do engineers think that we want a button that says “toggle”? What’s wrong with “turn on” or “turn off”, or in this case, simply “on” or “off”?

    It’s not clear whether it is already on or off as a default unless you have a document open. And then when you close the doc to set your default pref, you can’t tell which it is.

    Can we ask Adobe to change this to “on” or “off” in the next release?

    • Well, it wasn’t turned on be default for me.

      I see your point about stuff being turned on by default and it’s annoyance. One thing that really bugged me was when I was creating a library in CC2015 and it kept asking me to upload it to my cloud account. I finally figured out how to turn that off.

  3. I deleted prefs just to make sure if it’s set up to be on or off by default. (oh the sacrifices I make … )

    In CC 2015.4, it’s OFF by default. Weird, because I thought it was on by default, too.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure you can turn it OFF as a default by clicking the toggle on either the paragraph and character styles panels with no documents open. When it’s off, the state of the button should look the same as the lightning bolt (Quick Apply) right next to it.

    Then restart InDesign to write the setting to its app preferences.

    • Yes, you’re right that it’s not on by default. But you can still get a file from another designer that has it turned on – this just happened to a coworker and they didn’t know how to fix it. It took me a few minutes to solve because I rarely use this feature and most designers don’t even know about it.

      Adobe could do a much better job of naming things in the dialogs, and this is an example. Why not just “on” and “off” instead of toggle.

      I still cannot explain to anyone what “Allow Document Pages to Shuffle” means. I know what this feature DOES, but the naming make no sense. Maybe they should hire a native English speaker to work in their engineering dept.

  4. I certainly agree about simple names: Toggle Style Override Highlighter?! What about Show Local-Format Use (or Hide Local-Format Use)? And putting in a bunch of new features without clear notice can bloat everyone’s documents for little gain; at least make them obvious and, consequently, more effective/commonly used. (This is one of the few newer features about which I have read that I would actually like to have available in CS4; oh, well.)

  5. Thank you for this post! I fixed all the character overrides from text brought in from Microsoft Word. One issue remains for me. Every frame has a blue highlight bar inside the frame at the top left. It looks much like the one you showed with the bar outside the frame except mine appears at the start of every frame.
    I checked the object styles with the frame selected and removed the object override on the frame, and on master frames, yet this highlight remains. I will be creating an epub with this document and am concerned about a span override for every page appearing in the .css.
    Any thoughts?

    • The blue highlight bar on the outside of the frame means “paragraph formatting override.” The object styles don’t cause this highlighting; just text formatting. If it’s right at the top, then perhaps place the cursor in the first paragraph and look to see if the paragraph style (in the para style panel) has a + next to it?

      • Thanks David. Unfortunately this is INSIDE the frame – I guess I wasn’t clear enough. It is a vertical bar like you show but it is inside the frame, every frame on every page. There is no character or paragraph style that has a + beside it. I have moved the cursor from the end of the previous frame through to the first characters of the next frame and there are no +.
        Any other thoughts? I can send you a screen shot if that helps.

      • Okay, with a bit more work I have found the problem. I’m not sure why this happened but when I placed the text it seems to have created a second set of threaded frames directly on top of a first set of frames. The override sits on the frames underneath. In trying to figure out why each of the over 250 pages/frames has an override I went back into the master pages, put a cursor in the frame and changed the paragraph style to another style then back to normal. That solved about half of my problem. Now I am installing a script that will delete empty frames to really clean things up.
        Thanks for your posts! Most helpful :)

  6. OMG Thank you! I remember reading about this in your Lynda class somewhere but I got a job and havn’t gotten back to it. I’ve been reading your books for decades. XXOO

  7. I was going crazy trying to figure out how to turn this off!! And Toggle? What the heck? Why does Adobe consistently make things more difficult than they need to be?

  8. Thanks for this. I found two other “features” which can cause text to be highlighted in non-preview mode: Substituted Fonts and Custom Tracking/Kerning. Both of these settings are under Preferences/Composition/Highlight/

    In the file that I received, all three features were turned on. I had no idea what was happening! Font substitution was occurring since I opened a file that had been collected and Indesign was using the fonts that were supplied in the fonts folder without me actually loading them.

    I fixed this by re saving the file somewhere else and replacing the fonts with my local versions. When I followed the advice in this article, toggling off the style overrides, that fixed the dark blue highlighting but revealed a light blue highlighting. This was the Custom TrackingKerning being highlighted.

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