Highlight selected word

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This nbextension highlights all instances of the selected word in either the current cell’s editor, or in all cells in the notebook. It is based on the CodeMirror addon Match Highlighter, but now uses its own codebase in order to permit matching across multiple editors.

There are a few configurable options, all of which sit under the config key highlight_selected_word in the notebook config section.


Options are stored in the notebook section of the nbconfig. The easiest way to configure these is using the jupyter_nbextensions_configurator serverextension, but you can also configure them directly with a few lines of python.

The available options are:

  • highlight_selected_word.highlight_across_all_cells - if true, (default) highlight matches across all cells. If false, only matches within the currently selected cell will be highlighted.
  • highlight_selected_word.code_cells_only - Only apply highlights to editors for Code cells, not, for example, Markdown or Raw cells
  • highlight_selected_word.highlight_color - Color used to highlight matching words in the focused (active) cell
  • highlight_selected_word.highlight_color_blurred - Color used to highlight matching words in blurred (non-active) cells
  • highlight_selected_word.outlines_only - Highlight words using just an outline, rather than the background color. In contrast to the default background-color highlight, the outline-only is also applied to the currently-selected word
  • highlight_selected_word.outline_width - Width, in pixels, of the outline used to highlight words when the outline-only setting (above) is selected. Defaults to 1.
  • highlight_selected_word.delay - Wait time (in milliseconds) before highlighting the matches
  • highlight_selected_word.words_only - If true, only highlight matches if the selected text is a word
  • highlight_selected_word.highlight_only_whole_words - Only highlight matches which are surrounded by non-word characters. This will use the token highlight_selected_word.show_token to identify word characters, if it’s set, otherwise the regular expression [\w$] will be used.
  • highlight_selected_word.show_token - Token (regex) to identify word characters, used to determine what to highlight when nothing is selected. If blank, nothing is highlighted when nothing is selected. This regex is also used to determine word boundaries for highlight_selected_word.highlight_only_whole_words.
  • highlight_selected_word.min_chars - Minimum number of characters that must be selected for the highlighting behavior to occur
  • highlight_selected_word.use_toggle_hotkey - Bind the highlight_selected_word.toggle action to a hotkey. Defaults to false.
  • highlight_selected_word.toggle_hotkey - Which hotkey to bind to the highlight_selected_word.toggle action (if set to use, see item above). Defaults to alt-h
  • highlight_selected_word.only_cells_in_scroll - Only apply highlights to editors which are visible in the scrolled view. This may offer performance benefits for larger notebooks, but may be annoying if you’re doing a lot of scrolling :/
  • highlight_selected_word.scroll_min_delay - Minimum delay in ms between updating highlights on scrolling the notebook (used only if highlight_selected_word.only_cells_in_scroll is true). If set to zero, no update is done on scroll.
  • highlight_selected_word.hide_selections_in_unfocussed - Hide any text selection in non-focussed cells. Otherwise, each cell can show a text selection even when its editor is not focussed, which can be confused with match highlights.

For example, to set the delay to half a second, and limit highlighting to code cells, we can use the following python snippet:

from notebook.services.config import ConfigManager
cm = ConfigManager()
cm.update('notebook', {'highlight_selected_word': {
    'delay': 500,
    'code_cells_only': True,


If you have any feedback, or have any problems, please let me know by opening an issue at the project’s github repository.