Microsoft Word – Show all formatting marks

Microsoft Word 2016 and earlier versions have a handy toggle for ‘Show/Hide paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols’. It’s that backwards P looking thing in the Word ribbon:

… but also choosable from Word’s options under the Display section, called ‘Show all formatting marks’:

By default, this option is off. I had a business requirement to have it on by default, which proved harder to work out than I thought.

Normally for Word and Office, a user option is controlled by the registry. Procmon is great for capturing those changes, but I couldn’t see anything when toggling this option.

Jeremy Moskowitz from PolicyPak gave me a hint on finding the solution on this one; Word sets some of it’s user settings at the time of closing Word, rather than changing an option and pressing ‘OK’.

Once I knew that, the setting was easy to find.


DWORD Value - ShowAllFormatting

1 - Enabled / On

0 - Disabled / Off

Word will read this setting at startup, and write to it at shutdown based on what the setting was last set to.

Using Group Policy Preferences and setting the option ‘Apply once and do not reapply’ to push out the registry setting will make it the default, but let users change it as they please.

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