Six clicks: Microsoft Word tricks to make you an instant expert

There's much more to Word than just pointing, clicking, typing, and spell-checking. In this gallery, I present six of my favorite hidden features to make you more productive when creating and editing Word documents.

1 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Power tips for Microsoft Word

Most people use only a fraction of the features in Microsoft Word. That's not surprising, given the sheer breadth of capabilities that Word has.

The secret of maximum productivity with Word is learning how to shave steps off the tasks you perform everyday. In this gallery, I present a half-dozen of my favorite time-saving shortcuts, which work in Word 2010 and Word 2013.

2 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Master Heading styles in Word documents

The built-in heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and so on) are incredibly useful, especially in longer documents such as reports. When you use headings, you can switch into Outline view (from the View tab) to see your document in the form shown here. Click the plus sign to the left of any heading to collapse it. Click and drag that plus sign (it turns to a minus sign if collapsed) to drag everything under that heading to a new place in your document.

Here are two secrets every Word user should know about headings:

  • You can automatically apply the first three levels of Heading styles using keyboard shortcuts. Click anywhere in the line you want to use as a heading and press Ctrl+Alt+1 to apply the Heading 1 format. Use Ctrl+Alt+2 or Ctrl+Alt+3 for Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles.
  • In Draft and Outline views, you can make the Style pane visible on the left, showing you at a glance which styles are in use for each paragraph. Normally, this pane is hidden. To turn it on, click File, Options, then click Advanced in the Word Options dialog box. Scroll down to the Display section and find the "Style area pane width" section. Enter any value greater than zero (start with 0.5") and click OK. Choose Draft or Outline from the View tab to see the newly visible pane, which you can resize with the mouse.

 [Updated to fix a typo in the keyboard shortcuts.]

3 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Use the Navigation pane to tame long documents

The Navigation pane is normally hidden. For anything more complicated than a simple memo, I recommend turning it on using the checkbox on the View tab, as shown here.

If your document includes paragraphs formatted using heading styles, the Navigation pane will show them when you click Headings. You can click any heading to jump directly to that section.

The Pages view, shown here, lets you see thumbnails of your document and jump to any page with a click. It's especially useful for long files in PDF format.

Finally, use the Results view to open a search box where you can find every instance of a word or phrase in your document. The list in the Navigation pane shows each result in context.

4 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Keyboard shortcuts every Word user should know

Word is, first and foremost, about typing, so it stands to reason that you'll be more productive if you master some keyboard shortcuts instead of constantly grabbing for the mouse.

You can find the full list of keyboard shortcuts for Word 2013 here. The equivalent list for Word 2010 is here.

These are my two favorite Word keyboard shortcuts. Even most Word experts don't know about them:

Press F8 to turn on extend mode. You can then use the left arrow or right arrow to extend the selection in either direction. But that's not the real secret. Press F8 again to increase the size of the selection: Press F8 twice to select the current word. Press it a third time to select the current sentence, once more to select the entire paragraph, and one more time to select the entire document. You can then cut, copy, or apply formatting to your selection.

To turn off extend mode, press Esc.

Press Ctrl+Y to redo or repeat the last action. If, for example, you're working your way through a document changing the formatting of certain words, you can apply that formatting once, then go to the next instance and press Crl+Y to repeat the action.

5 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Paste text without all that pesky formatting

How many times has this happened to you? You copy some text from a web page to use in a Word document you're preparing, but when you paste the Clipboard's contents into your document the formatting messes up your document.

If you want fine control over the formatting of what you paste, use one of the Paste Special options. They're available when you click the arrow beneath the Paste command on the Home ribbon, but there's a much easier keyboard shortcut:

Instead of using Ctrl+V to do a standard Paste, press Ctrl+Alt+V to open the Paste Special dialog box shown here. The exact options vary, depending on what you copied, but for most text you can choose the Unformatted Text option to merge the text into your document without any extraneous formatting.

6 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Add random text to any Word document

Every designer knows about Lorem Ipsum text, the gobbledygook Latin words used to fill in the body of a document so that anyone can see what it will look like without being distracted by actual content. (If you're curious about the origins of this feature, see this brief history of "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet" text.)

To enter some random Lorem Ipsum text in the current document, use the lorem function. Start with an equals sign, add the word lorem, and then enter one or two numbers in parentheses.

The first number defines how many paragraphs you want, so =lorem(3) adds three paragraphs of different lengths.

Add a comma and a second number to define the length of each paragraph—the higher the number, the longer the paragraphs. Thus, =lorem(4,6) adds four longish paragraphs of pseudo-Latin text.

If you prefer text in your native language, use the =rand function instead.

7 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Change the default formatting for new documents

Word default documents are boring. Boring layouts, boring fonts, boring spacing between paragraphs.

Don't settle for boring. Personalize Word so that every time you start a new document it uses your preferred fonts and paragraph.

The trick is saving your preferences into the Normal document template, and you can do that automatically.

Press Ctrl+Shift+F to open the Font dialog box. Choose your preferred font and font size, and click OK. Now reopen that dialog box and click the Set As Default button. In the resulting dialog box, choose the All documents based on the Normal template option. Save your changes.

You can do the same with paragraph formatting. Right-click any text and choose Paragraph from the shortcut menu to open the Paragraph Formatting dialog box, which also has a Set As Default button.

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