Visual Studio 2013: Reference Highlighting

5-16-2012 12-02-27 PM


This one is absolutely one of my favorite tips because you don't have to do anything to make it happen!  By default in a code file in the editor, when you click a symbol, all instances of the symbol are automatically highlighted in the current document.  Highlighted symbols may include declarations and references, and generally anything else that Find All References would return. This includes the names of classes, objects, variables, methods, and properties.


In Visual Basic it will also highlight certain control structures:

5-16-2012 12-12-02 PM





All you have to do is click in any symbol and it will automatically highlight any references in the current document.  You can navigate through the highlights by using CTRL+SHIFT+DOWN ARROW (forward) or CTRL+SHIFT+UP ARROW (reverse). 




Turning it off

So what if you don't like this feature?  Well, you can always turn it off by following the instructions below:

VB:  Go to Tools | Options | Text Editor | Basic | VB Specific.  Uncheck the "Enable highlighting of references and keywords" option.

5-16-2012 12-14-44 PM



C#:  Go to Tools | Options | Text Editor | C# | Advanced.  Uncheck the "Highlight references to symbol under cursor" option.

5-16-2012 12-14-20 PM

Comments (11)

  1. bin says:

    Do you know when VS 2013 will be available to buy?

  2. zainnab says:

    Hey Bin 🙂

    We haven't announced a release date yet as far as I know.


  3. bin says:

    Ok, I was searching a lot of site and no date so thanks a lot for confirmation that is currently unknown (we would like to buy 10 licences of 2012 Prof in work but now we have to reconsider it so the premiere date of vs 2013 is for us crucial ;))


  4. zainnab says:


    With my customers I usually suggest Professional only for interns, low-level consultants, and other similar roles in an organization. Visual Studio Professional was misnamed in my opinion and should really be called Visual Studio Express Plus. I think that Visual Studio Premium is the lowest level for day-to-day developers. Take a look at the comparison of the editions and see which one fits your goals best:…/compare


  5. Axel says:

    The best is you can turn it off. I don't want my editor to look like a Christmas tree. This is just a huge distraction that actually RUINS concentration and productivity.

  6. John S says:

    Is there a way to change the highlight background?  I can't seem to find any setting that affects it in the "fonts-colors" section

  7. Judy Zhang says:

    Yes, you can. There is a Highlighted Reference in the Display Items list which allows you to change the Item background color.

  8. Chris B says:

    Can anyone narrow down that setting for the highlighting colour? Got my foreground set to blue and background to green through two active settings. Looked in Tools->Options, search "Highlighted Reference", search "Display Items" don't have an affect.

  9. Argh says:

    You can't turn this off for Javascript!  And there is definitely a CPU overhead when it is enabled.  Can someone please tell me how to disable it for Javascript files?

  10. JudyZ says:

    "Tools" → "Options" → "Environment" → "Fonts and Colors" → "Display Items:"

  11. knuckleHead says:

    There is no "Environment" → "Fonts and Colors" → "Display Items:"

    on my .net 2013. Please, please, please; do not turn all these new options on by default when opening .net. If a user wants them, let them go and turn them off. There is so much time wasted on these trivial options from real programmers figuring how to turn them off. Even using my old settings file from 2010 did not solve all the christmas lites, 🙁

    Or, make a single option to turn off all the useless crap so we can get to work.

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