Ten things I wish everyone knew about Word

By Stuart J Stuple

Mastering Word isn’t about understanding the architecture or the intent of the designers; it’s about finding the features and shortcuts that make your day-to-day job easier.

Copy just the formatting

Almost everyone knows how to copy and paste text to re-use the same boilerplate in more than one document. But did you know you can do the same thing with formatting? The Format Painter is located on the Home tab, it’s that little paintbrush icon. When you click the Format Painter, Word copies the formatting of from the start of your selection and the cursor changes to a paintbrush. Now, wherever you click in your document, that same formatting will be applied. Whether your selection will just be text formatting or both text and paragraph formatting depends on what is included in the selection. And if you want to keep pasting the same formatting, you can double-click the Format Painter button to make it “sticky.” When you’re finished “painting” just press Escape to release the painter.

Move from one spelling errors to another without using the dialog

Many people do a final edit of their document, checking each unrecognized word to see if it needs to be correct. There’s nothing wrong with opening the Spelling dialog to do this but you can accomplish the same text by clicking on the spelling icon in the status bar. At each unrecognized word, it displays the context menu with suggestions for you.

Change the formatting of an entire list

When you click on a number or bullet for a list, the entire list is selected. You can then apply text formatting for just that list without changing the paragraph formatting. You can also change the type of numbering or bullets used by selecting from the gallery associated with the bullet or numbering button.

Save a set of formatting as a style

Format Painter provides a convenient way of copy formatting from one spot to another but you can also store formatting for later use. Simply select the text that has the formatting that you want, right-click, and select Save Selection as New Quick Style. Once you give your new Quick Style a name, it will appear in the Style gallery on the Home tab.

Repeat an action

If you’ve just gotten through performing a complex task with a dialog and find yourself needing to do the same task again, you can click the Repeat button next to the Undo button or press Ctrl+Y.

Move between objects by clicking

At the lower right side of the window (just below the scroll bar) is the “Object Browser,” which consists of three buttons–a selection menu and a pair of Previous and Next arrows. One use of the Previous/Next arrows is after you’ve search for something using Find. When you close the Find dialog, the arrows are blue, indicating that you have a stored search. You can just click on the arrows to repeat the Find in the indicated direction. You can also use the “middle” button to select the type of object to browse. You can select to move among pictures, pages, headings, or any of a dozen object types.

Scale the text in your document

If you’re struggling to get text to fit in a certain number of pages, the first thing you’ll probably try is adjusting the margins on the Page Setup tab. But if that still doesn’t give you enough room you can select all of your text and use the Shrink Font button to reduce all of the text in your document–text at different sizes reduces proportionally so that your headings remain larger than the rest of your text. And you can squeeze just a portion of your document if you prefer; the command works on any selection.

Change the formatting of the standard paragraph

When you start a new document, Word makes some assumptions about the spacing of the typical paragraph (in Word 2007, it puts a bit of space between lines and almost a 1/6th of an inch of space between paragraphs). If you don’t like that spacing, you can make changes to any sample paragraph and then right-click on the “Normal” Quick Style and select “Update Normal to Match Selection.” Any existing paragraphs in your document and any new ones you create will use this formatting.

Show or hide the gridlines for tables

Tables in Word 2007 do not display the dividing lines between cells by default. These lines are called gridlines and show the borders of each cell. But unlike “real” borders, they don’t print with your document. You can use the Show Gridlines command at the bottom of the Borders menu or on the Table Layout tab to control whether or not these lines are showing.

Templates are a convenient way to store the starting point for a document

Most of us have documents that contain boilerplate text that we frequently need to reuse. And most of us who have a standard document that we use as a starting point have made the mistake of saving over the original of that document. If you have a document that you frequently use as a starting point for other documents, save a copy of it as a Template (DOTX) on your desktop. Then, when you double-click on that template, a copy of the document will be opened—no risk of ever saving over the original.

Comments (5)

  1. Peter Sefton says:

    Regarding templates: I wish everyone knew how to save templates to the ‘proper’ place under windows.

    Back in the old days there was a templates folder in which one was supposed to save templates, but recent versions of Windows have shipped with the file explorer set to hide that folder! This makes it almost impossible to correctly install a template. This must be why Joe recommends putting in on the desktop (where you can’t use File / New to select it – not that File / New exists any more :-).

    I have been involved in developing templates and we had to resort to shipping a self-installing template with a macro that attempts to save itself. See http://ice.usq.edu.au/instructions/downloads.htm

  2. John says:

    One thing I wish would CHANGE in Word, and all products, is the ability to paste to the DESTINATION format. Yeah, you get that little icon and you can change it, but it is inconvenient. Maybe in 1 out of a 30,000 pastes do I want the source formatting.

  3. Jason says:

    It’s not one of your 10 things, but I’m hoping you can help me locate the readability report in Word 2007. I’ve found it the best way I could, but it feels like it’s just buried and should be easier to access individually as needed. Any help you can provide would be great.

  4. Will says:

    John, quit whining and download the beta 2. You can see you have that option.

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