I’m going to teach you how to type one of my favorite characters. If you’re on Windows, open up Word and go ahead and type:
Alt + 8203
If you did that correctly, then you’ll see…nothing?
That’s because you just typed a “zero-width space.”
A zero-width space is, for the most part, invisible. It’s a space that you can put into Word and other programs to divide up a long line of text without breaking it up visually. That matters for one big reason: line breaks.
Let me show you an example. Look at this table of filenames I have in Word:
The filenames are too long for the cell width, and there are no spaces dashes or underscores in the file path. So, if I want to tell Word exactly where to put line breaks, I can insert a zero-width space. Here, I’ve stuck one right after “Desktop\”:
As you can see, the filename now wraps right after the slash. But if I were to change the width of the column, the character is invisible. Take a look at this comparison between a zero-width space and a regular space:
The zero-width space lets you handle tables with unpredictable or dynamic widths without breaking things up visually if the line doesn’t have to wrap around. I use it all the time when making tables with long lines of data in it. Often, I’ll do a Find and Replace to insert a zero-width space after every slash. Simply type in Alt + 8203 in the “Replace with” field. You won’t see anything, but it’ll be there.
That way, I can control where the lines break in a table.
And that’s pretty much all there is to the zero-width space. I realize this is a minor and fairly niche tip, but I use it all the time and for someone who is picky about table formatting, it brings me a small amount of joy to be able to control where my lines break in table cells.
So, check it out: zero-width space. Alt + 8203. Fun times!
One more thing. Not on a Windows desktop? You can select all the text in the field below and copy it to your clipboard to get a zero-width space.