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Is it possible in Microsoft Word to search for text based upon its color?

So I can find all text set to a white fill in a Word file?

Or . . .

Is it possible in Adobe InDesign to search for text based upon its color, without a paragraph or character style being applied to the text?

If a style were applied I know I could search based upon the style, but no unique styles are applied to this white text.


To explain....

My traditional workflow:

  • Open Word file
  • Save as Plain Text
  • Place the Plain Text file into InDesign and proceed with layout
  • I keep the Word file open on a second monitor so I can visually refer to it while creating the layout. So I know what was envisioned as headers, bullets, captions, etc.

This ensures all Word formatting is killed and allows me to start with entirely "clean" text.

While performing these steps today and working through the layout, I noticed an oddity. The Word file showed 3 bullets in one area - but the plain text file shows 4 bullets in that same area. It took me a while to sort out what was taking place to cause this (I had never seen this before). The extra bullet, in Word, has text set to a white fill. So you don't see it, but it's still there in Word nonetheless.

I could merely select all in Word and reset the text color to black. But that won't tell me what was white in order to better pseudo-proof the piece as I work through it. This wouldn't be any different than merely using the Plain Text file. If I know what's white in Word, I can simply remove it as I come across it.


For the record, how this happened... after speaking with the writer and hearing their workflow - copy/paste from a previous PDF to Word, then edit in Word. The PDF had text set in white. So, when copy/pasted, white text remained white, as expected.

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Note: All the locations and screenshots here are for macOS. They’re probably a little different on Windows.

Microsoft Word

In Word, there are two ways to find white text, one a bit more flexible than the other.

With Advanced Find and Replace

In EditFindAdvanced Find and Replace, click on the Format dropdown at the bottom:

Advanced Find and Replace dialog

Click on the first option, Font, and then select white from the Font colour dropdown:

Find and replace font formatting options

Doing a search now should find any text that’s white, regardless of other formatting.

Select all with same formatting

This is quicker, but less flexible, since it only matches exact formatting. I’m also not entirely sure this feature exists in the Windows version of Word, so this may be Mac-only.

  • On the Home tab, click on the Styles Pane button to reveal the styles pane
  • Find one of the offending white bullets in the text and select it (just the characters in white)
  • Click Select All in the styles pane (on the right in the screenshot)

Styles Pane Select All option

This will select all text in the entire document which has this exact formatting applied. Note that ‘exact’ here means exact – that is, only text whose formatting matches the description shown just above the Select All button precisely will be matched (in the screenshot paragraph Style Normal + what it for some reason calls »Background 1«, which apparently means white text colour).

If you have some text that’s white, but has a different font, size, slant, line height, kerning, or anything else, then it won’t be matched.

InDesign

In InDesign, you can search by more or less any parameter that’s available in the options for creating/editing paragraph styles. Go to EditFind/Change and click on the little T🔍 icon under Find Format:

InDesign Find/Change dialog

In the dialog that pops up, click on Character Color on the left and select the swatch you’re looking for (in your case, since it’s a Word import, it would likely have an auto-generated name along the lines of Word_R255G255B255):

Find Format options

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  • Thanks! Using older Word (14.7/Mac) first method didn't work for me. All the options are where you indicate, but ultimately nothing is actually ever found. I know the document contains 5 "white" instances based upon earlier troubleshooting. Second Word method works like a charm. The style pane is located a bit differently based upon app versioning, but once I found it, no issue. The INDD method.. well.. I had a stroke apparently. I should have known that, just didn't occur to me. Ideally I wanted the Word method rather than importing the Word file into INDD and then finding white.
    – Scott
    Jun 24 at 7:58
  • @Scott Are you sure you’re searching for the right white in the first way? It may be that the text is actually a custom colour like #fffffe instead of the regular white ‘swatch’ so it won’t match. Jun 24 at 8:25
  • Yup. That was it. Highlighted one white section where I knew one was.. added that color to the "More Colors" panel then selected it when using your first search method... it then found the others. .. the key.. it seems is the text appears to be actually a CMYK white...Word, of course, only uses RGB colors within its own color choosing options. So saving the CMYK white to "More Colors", then using that to search on does work. Thanks again!
    – Scott
    Jun 24 at 9:42
  • @Scott Ah, the vagaries and bugginesses of Word! Jun 24 at 9:49
  • Tell me about it.. the white text still says it's black in the formatting ribbon, And the white text doesn't highlight or become visible in a selection. But f you copy/paste it to anything else or change the color, it suddenly appears. - So Word will paste a CMYK color, but just never know what it actually is! :)
    – Scott
    Jun 24 at 9:54

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