Five Killer Microsoft Word Tricks

By  |  Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Steve Bass's TechBiteMicrosoft Word: I can’t think of another application I’d like to have re-written to meet my needs. I’ll kvetch some more another time. Today, I have five tricks to fire up the way you use Word.

Tabs for Word. Cool!

You know how quickly you got used to opening multiple tabs in browsers? It’s a smart way to quickly move among Web pages; without it, browsing is lots like running applications in DOS.

Office Tab is a freebie that works in 2003 and older versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Double-click on the tab bar to open a new a document in a new tab; double-click a tab to close it. A right-click brings up a useful menu where you can save or close all your documents; the Options menu lets you change the look and color of the tabs.

You can save or close all your docs with one click, or right-click the tab to close

Have multiple tabs any way you’d like in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access

The program is from a Chinese developer (his name might be wangminbai) and the site is confusing even using Google’s translation. The program, however, is entirely in English. Read the product description, browse through the FAQ, and download the Zipped Word tool.

Work Menu: Favorites for Word

You know about the Work menu? No, I didn’t think so. It’s a nifty–and undocumented feature–in Word 2003 and earlier that lets you add a small pull-down menu onto the toolbar for instant access to often-used docs. For example, I stuck my Time Wasters doc onto the Work menu as well as a to-do list. It takes no time to activate the feature, and it’s really simple, but telling you how to do it takes days.

Add Word docs you often access to the undocumented Work menu

To set up the Work menu, select Tools, Customize, and click the Commands tab.

In the Categories box, scroll down and select Built-In Menus.

In the Commands box, scroll down to the bottom of the list and drag Work to your menu bar. I have mine next to the Help menu. Click the Close button.
Add a file name to the Work menu by opening a document and choosing Add to the Work Menu. When you’re ready to open the document again, click Work and select its file name from the list.

Removing a file name from the menu is a pain. Remember, this is an undocumented feature; I’m convinced that, at this point, the developers gave up. In your version of Word, there may be a Remove Menu Shortcut short, horizontal black line on the Work menu. Click it and the line will follow your cursor–and the Work menu will close. Reopen the Work menu, put the enlarged hyphen on the file name that you want to remove, and click it.

If the Remove Menu Shortcut isn’t on your work menu, press Ctrl-Alt-Hyphen (use the hyphen key next to zero at the top of the keyboard, not the minus sign on the numeric keypad), open the Work menu, and follow the steps above.

Warning: That big hyphen can delete any menu command you click–not just an item on the Work menu. So if you accidentally press this key combination and change your mind about deleting an item, press Esc.

A couple of things to know: The Work menu shows document shortcuts, so if you move the doc, the menu item is toast. You’re limited to nine entries and you can’t sort the list. There, I gave you something to complain about.

Some of you made the move to Word 2007, probably under duress. The Work menu is incorporated into the Recent Documents list–you can pin docs onto it so they don’t scroll off the list (just click the little pushpin icon next to a file name).

Take Control of Your Formatting

Let’s say you have a handful of words scattered throughout a document that you want to make bold or maybe italicized. You could grab a glass of wine and spend a couple of hours changing each individually.

A better bet is this not-very-obvious trick: Hold down the Ctrl key and highlight individual words, then apply the formatting. You can do this with sentences or paragraphs too. My Copy Editor Kim assures me it works fine in 2007.

Change the formatting on bunches of words using the Ctrl key trick

Snappy Toolbar Changes

You ever want to move a toolbar button in Word 2003? There’s a quick trick: Hold down the Alt key and drag the button to its new location. You can copy a toolbar button just as easily by holding down Alt and the Ctrl keys, and then dragging the button to its new location. Alas, these snappy changes won’t work in 2007.

Brush Up with Format Painter

You know about Word’s terrific Format Painter tool? It lets you apply formatting from, say, one paragraph to another one. Select a few words with the formatting you like. Click the Format Painter button, which looks like a little paintbrush (in Word 2003 it should be on the Standard toolbar, and in 2007 it’s in the Clipboard area on the Home tab). A small paintbrush shows up next to your cursor. Now highlight the text that you want to format, and the formatting is applied. Nifty, no?

Take another step by selecting the text you like, then double-clicking the Format Painter button. This lets you select and apply formatting to multiple areas–as many as you want. Press Esc to turn off Format Painter, or click the Format Painter button again.

Tech Tool: Classic Menu in Office 2007

If you’re using Office 2007 and still haven’t adjusted to Ribbons, download Shah Shailesh’s free Office Menu Add-ins for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, or Access. The author explains that a quick click (or keystroke) lets you toggle between the Ribbon and Classic interfaces.

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it, head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]


Read more: , , ,

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Karen Says:

    If you’re wanting to change formatting on every single instance of a word, an easier way to do it is to use Find | Replace. Type the word you want into the Find field AND the Replace field. While you are in the Replace field, click on the “More” button and set the format changes you want. Hit replace all and voila…way quicker than the Ctrl key trick. 🙂

  2. MikeR Says:

    The only problem with using the format painter is that if you change your mind later about how you want to format your document (say all the headings), you have to go back an manually change them all. You’re much better off using styles.