Tips & Tricks: MS Word

This is a fantastic article with tips and tricks for MS Word and Excel.  It inspired me to share a few of my own with you. I am a self-taught MS Office user.  I never opened a book or took a course on how to use the programs (which is the case for every program that I use), I just started using them and clicking on things to see what they do until I learned advanced techniques.  I picked up a few tricks from peers and colleagues, learned some while writing my thesis, at work, and of course, from googling how to get out of “format hell,” as I like to call it.  But by now, I can make Word, Excel, Power Point and Outlook sing and dance.

1. Show/Hide Formatting marks.  This is probably my favorite feature of word.  I often reveal the formatting marks while I write and edit.  The first thing to know about these little marks is that they hold all of the formatting for the entire line of text.  If you highlight the paragraph symbol at the end of a line and copy and paste it over the next line’s mark, then that line will have the same formatting.  (It is similar to the functionality of “Format Painter,” but it is more specific.)

To show the formatting marks, click on the symbol (shown below) in the Paragraph section of the Word ribbon at the top of the screen.

It will look like this when it is turned on:

2. Use Styles religiously.  Along with revealing the formatting marks while I write and edit documentation, I also reveal the styles.  If you have no clue how a word or line is being formatted (or if it is doing something totally wacky – which it usually is), simply click anywhere in the line and look at which style is identified in they styles pane.  In the example below, the cursor is on Normal text.  You can use this feature to select a line and click on your desired style set for that line and it will change the formatting for the selected line(s).

This is also where you can modify the default styles. Hover over the style name, then click on the arrow to open the drop-down menu and select Modify.

This will open the Modify Style Editing window.  From here, you can change everything about that style and make it your own.  This is crucial to being a professional writer.  Using the default styles is usually the mark of an inexperienced writer.  It is very easy to modify the styles and it can have a major impact on your work.

3. I have two words for you… Find and Replace.  Warning: This might change your life.  Have you ever spent hours going through a document to change 1 word to another?  This feature of word will change everything.  From the Home tab on the Word Ribbon, click Replace.  This will open the Find and Replace window.  In the first box, type the word you wish to replace.  In the second box, type the word that will replace the first word.  Click Replace All.  Voila!

4. Track Changes is your friendWhen you need to edit a document and mark it up with your changes, track changes is the way to go.  I’m often surprised by  how many people don’t know about track changes.  They manually change the color of their text each time they type and manually enter comments, when all that work is done for you with track changes.  From the Review tab on the Word ribbon, click on Track Changes to turn it on, then freely edit the document and save.  You can also add comments from the review tab and it will mark them with your initials.

5. Compare/Combine.  Here is a scenario for you: Two people are editing the same document.  One is using track changes, the other isn’t.  You need to compare the edited version to the original and see what they changed, you can use the Compare feature in word.  It will prompt you to locate both versions in your files and then it will markup the edited one with track changes so you can see what they changed.  Now, let’s say that you need to merge their marked up copy with yours, use the Combine feature. These features are both accessible on the Review  tab of the Word ribbon.

And now for my favorite time-saving keyboard shortcuts!

  • Ctrl+C = Copy
  • Ctrl+V = Paste
  • Ctrl+B = Bold
  • Ctrl+U = Underline
  • Ctrl+I = Italic
  • Ctrl+Z= Undo (love this one)
  • Ctrl+X= Cut (it copies and deletes at the same time)
  • Crtl+A = Select All (very useful)
  • Ctrl+P = Print
  • Ctrl+Scroll = Scrolling up on your mouse scroll wheel increases the size of the page you are viewing and scrolling down decreases it.  This works on most windows.
  • Alt+Tab = switch between open programs  (You can continue holding down Alt and pressing tab to toggle through all your open programs.  When you release the Ctrl button, it will open the last page that you stop on.)
  • Alt+F4 = Quit Program or closes current window
  • Windows Icon+D = minimized all of your open windows
  • Windows Icon = opens the Start menu
  • Enter+Shift = In MS Word allow you to enter a carriage return (space) without carrying the formatting from the line above.  For instance, you are writing a bulleted list and you want to add a sentence in the middle of the list without interrupting the bullets.

Am I forgetting any?  What are some of your favorite time-saving tips and tricks for windows and MS word?

3 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks: MS Word

  1. Ctrl+Y … REDO what you just undid!! I use that one alot when I get a little overzealous with Ctrl-Z. Lauren, I just love this blog!

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