Five Useful Tips For Microsoft Word Users

There are free desktop alternatives (OpenOffice) and online alternatives (Google Docs), but Microsoft Word remains the king of the word-processing pack. Here's five tricks for working with text in Word that you may not know about but that can help make your life simpler.

Like most apps in the Office suite, Word boasts a huge amount of functionality: indeed, the biggest commercial challenge for Microsoft is convincing people that they need to upgrade, given that the basics of formatting, spell-checking and printing have been the same for almost two decades. (That's how we end up with "innovations" like the Ribbon.)

While most people know how to set up a basic document, format it and save it, there's a lot more that can be done inside Word if you know where to look. Here's five features I use frequently but which aren't necessarily obvious. The tips below are based on Word 2010, the most recent version, but will work in pretty much the same fashion for Word 2007 as well. The same principles will also apply in earlier versions.

5. Use the Styles Pane for format fixing

If you get sent a document that's had multiple editors, the formatting styles can often be an ugly mish-mash. The Styles Pane feature lets you see which styles have been applied, and change all those instances simultaneously — but it's not the most obvious feature in Word.

To access it, click the tiny arrow under the Change Styles button. To make it even more useful, click on Options and change the view from 'Recommended' styles to 'In current document'. Now every style in use is visible in the pane, making editing much simpler (you can right-click on a style to select every instance in a document). (Original post)

4. Use the Spike to collect text

The first stage of creating a document often involves copying in text from other documents. You can speed this process up by using the 'Spike' feature, which lets you collate material on the clipboard and then paste it in one fell swoop.

Just select the text you want, type Ctrl+F3 to cut it to the clipboard, and repeat for each stage. To paste the collection, type Ctrl+Shift+F3. If you don't want to cut from your original documents, type Ctrl-Z after each Ctrl+F3 to restore moved text. (Original post)

3. Make Find and Replace easier

The Find and Replace feature offers a lot of special character options. One of the more useful but less known is the ^& shortcut, which tells the Replace field to reproduce the text in the find field. So if you want to change 'John Smith' to 'Mr John Smith', just type Mr ^& in the Replace field. 





2. Easily add tabs to table cells

It's a simple tip, but judging from the response when we first posted it, it's a useful one. To add a tab character to a table cell (hitting Tab in a table normally jumps to the next cell), just type Control-Tab. Done! (Original post



1. Make sure the Developer tab is enabled on the Ribbon

Macros make it easy to type repetitive text in Word (as well as helping automate tasks like pasting plain text), and setting up a basic one doesn't require any more skill than clicking on the Record Macro button in Word. But the chances are you haven't seen that button, because it's on the Developer tab, which is switched off in Ribbon-enabled versions of Word by default.

To ensure you can see that tab, select File, click on Options and select Customize Ribbon. Make sure that Main Tabs is selected, and that the Developer tab is ticked. With that done, setting up simple macros is much easier.

Got your own favourite Word tricks? Share them in the comments.

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


    As to macros and their shortcuts.

    Sometimes it is quite hard to find proper shortcut since many CTRL + letter are taken by other functions.

    My suggestion is to use CTRL + F3 and higher since these combinations tend not to be taken. But if you´ve chosen any shortcut, try it at first to find out whether it is not taken by some other function.

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