Like most of Microsoft’s products, Word contains about ten times as much functionality as most of us will ever even be aware of. That’s the state of PC software these days, and one of the reasons why I find applications on my phone to be quite refreshing – they do one thing very well, but they don’t attempt to do everything.
There are some real time-savers in MS Word, though: things that can make your life easier and make your documents look better. Here’s a few of my favorites.
This key combination inserts a page break, so that the next paragraph will start on a new page. If you ever find yourself inserting fifteen blank paragraphs to get down to the next page, this is what you need. Then when you go back and modify the text up above, the page break will still be in exactly the right place.
Here’s another simple one that is incredibly useful. Select a bunch of text, then hit alt-space. It removes all the character formatting and sets it back to the default. This is wonderful to know when you copy a bunch of text from a web page or other document, and it comes up in some weird font and size. Don’t bother trying to figure out why or how to undo it, just alt-space the text and all that annoyance goes away. And if it’s not what you wanted, just hit Undo – that should be your favorite button (or control-Z keystroke) in the whole program.
This is a little more complicated, but well worth learning. Instead of typing in a heading, then selecting the text, underlining it and changing the font size, just go ahead and give it the style of Heading 1 or Heading 2. In Word 2007, there’s a big box up at the top that shows you the most commonly used styles, so it’s just one click to change the heading. If there’s a bunch of actions that you find yourself repeating constantly, there’s probably an easier way to do it in Word – it’s just a matter of finding it.
It drives me crazy when I see people trying to line up text in Word or PowerPoint by inserting a zillion spaces. It doesn’t line up exactly right, and when you take it to another machine it’s all screwed up. Some people have found that tab is a powerful way to get things aligned, but it’s not always a perfect solution.
If you want the text to line up on multiple lines, use a table. If you have three pieces that need to line up in columns, insert a 3-column table and then type your text in each cell. If you need more rows, Word will automatically add them when you tab to the bottom of the table. If you need fewer rows, just right-click on a row and delete it.
You can have the lines show up or not, you can even have them be color or dotted lines. But the important thing is that a table lines up the text – guaranteed.
Shortcut Keys and Right-Click
Like all Microsoft products, a bunch of timesavers can be found in shortcut keystrokes (like the Control-Enter and Alt-Space that I mentioned). I happen to like using the keyboard, so I’ve learned a whole bunch of them, starting with copy (control-C), paste (control-V), and undo (control-Z).
If you’d rather use the mouse most of the time, then you need to spend some time exploring right-click. An amazing number of functions show up when you click the right mouse button on various parts of the window – on the text, on the blank margins on the edges, on status bar down at the bottom, even on the icons and ribbon at the top. Some of these functions can be impossible to find anywhere else. So start playing around, and remember: Undo (control-Z) is your friend. It can fix just about any mistake you make.
These aren’t advanced tricks by any means, but I’ve found that most people haven’t used them to make their life in MS Word easier. Much, much easier.
Carl Dierschow is a certified Small Fish Business Coach and author of the career management guide, Mondays Stink! 23 Secrets to Rediscover Delight and Fulfillment in Your Work. He is a career coach for those going through interesting transitions, and works with small business owners who seek to create amazing businesses. Find out more at www.Dierschow.com and www.SmallFish.us.