Favorite ADVANCED Word Tips 'n' Tricks?
March 20, 2023 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I have to lead a 15 minute session on MS Word. What are some of your favorite advanced tips and tricks? Or, maybe unknown beginner ones?

I'm not talking like ctrl + x or anything THAT basic. Maybe more on the level of setting your own keyboard shortcuts, or making a short macro, things like that.
posted by misanthropicsarah to Computers & Internet (47 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
You can compare two (or more, I think) documents and it will automatically create a third one that shows you all the differences. You can accept/reject changes.

Similarly, you should be able to look up version history for a document and it’ll show you who changed what, when.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

I don't know whether this will be advanced enough for your purpose, but: styles.
posted by rjs at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2023 [12 favorites]

If your audience has any use for Reference help, EndNote integration is a fun one. I find even folks that haven't needed to reference anything since their formal studies days are pretty impressed with it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

Seconding Styles. I had an instructor really walk me through the purpose and advantages of these and was so shocked at how helpful it was to get a really good handle on this!

Maybe in this digital age, how to work with letterheads and insert signatures?

Best practices for collaboration in documents (ie tracking changes, comments etc?)
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

Sometimes docx/doc format causes problems.

Example 1) I send a document to someone, they're having problems reading it, or reading a portion of it. One solution is to print to pdf.

Example 2) I'm trying to get some verbiage uploading into some other system, but it's not working. Another solution is to print to a generic text printer, effectively saving as text.

Example 3) I'm trying to work with two different versions of MS-word, but there are incompatibilities. The old rtf format is sometimes useful.
posted by at at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Advanced find and replace techniques are very useful when working with long documents, don't need long to teach, but do well with a little handout or reference card.
posted by tavegyl at 10:35 AM on March 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

If you work with shared folders, displaying the file location in the Quick Access toolbar is pretty helpful. You can just click in the address back, copy the address, and then paste it into a Slack or an email.

Personally, I really hate the change where hitting enter jumped two lines down, so I turned that off and set it to only jump one line at a time. But that's maybe a personal pet peeve, not something other people care about.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2023 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The quick access bar allows you to pick your favorite features and once added, they get their own special shortcuts by pressing Alt then 1, 2, 3, etc. You right click any given menu item to add. More broadly you can navigate the whole ribbon by pressing Alt then labels pop up. Alt + Q brings you to the settings search, you then type in the thing you're looking for and press enter once it is selected.

There's a setting available in the search menu called "select all text with similar formatting", this is useful for example if you want to convert a document without styles to use styles.

I don't think it's well known that under the view tab you can open a second window of the same document, a trick I find enormously helpful to copy from one place to another place in the document.

This might not be advanced enough, but the sort button for working with tables with alphabetical info or dates, or just lists.

In advanced settings somewhere, you can change default copy paste settings so that text pasted from another program always merges to the formatting of you document. I never want to preserve the formatting of some web page I copied text from so I use this.

Can you provide any more details about the audience? The type of work they do would help suggest the best tips and tricks.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:38 AM on March 20, 2023 [9 favorites]

Reset autonumbering so they don't have to fight it by hand.
posted by deezil at 10:39 AM on March 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

Styles! Styles! Styles!

I have the enthusiasm of a recent convert. I went 15+ years without styles, 15 wasted years.

Tables can also have styles, isn't that amazing? They are under a different tab, but if your workplace uses a lot of tables, this is so helpful.

My other favourite thing is to reveal formatting - "show/hide [paragraph symbol" - and with advanced find & replace, you can do so global cleaning (like find all manual line breaks and replace with paragraph, or find double paragraph mark and replace with single).
posted by jb at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

Another trick that also works for excel and other programs: "when in doubt, right click". I find so much just by right clicking - and hovering for explanations.
posted by jb at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

F12 is a shortcut to "save as". The "save as" that you want, not 10 menus eventually getting you to "save as"
posted by bbqturtle at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2023 [14 favorites]

Compare docs to get a redline version has been so helpful and I loved teaching that to a coworker recently.
Section breaks - need one page of a doc in landscape? Create some sections!
My secret pet peeve is when titles (for sections or figures) break across pages - "keep with next" is a great tool.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:04 AM on March 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

Best answer: A word document is just a zip file. Rename it and you can unzip it to get at the source data. Most of it is just XML, which is not especially enlightening. But you can pull out all of the images in the document, which is pretty useful (they're in /word/media/)
posted by pipeski at 11:05 AM on March 20, 2023 [17 favorites]

How to work with tracked changes, including the different views so that the people who hate TC do not have any excuses to just accept all changes and ruin it for everybody.

The fact that when they invariably accept all changes anyway you can still use compare to get the changes back…assuming you have an earlier version of the file.

How to work with comments.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:06 AM on March 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

I still routinely blow colleagues' minds by introducing them to Format Painter. It is very helpful where you are combining text from different sources and Word decides to make the formatting go berserk, or where you're working with numbered paragraphs and paste in text that makes the numbering go awry.
posted by greycap at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2023 [11 favorites]

Also came here to say legal blackline (document compare) has saved me countless hours when someone in a review chain of folks who are supposed to track their changes to fairly complex documents don't track them. I was once accused of being a wizard for showing this function to a coworker who was tearing out their hair over changes that they would have otherwise have had to manually figure out.

And yeah, agree with walking through all of the different views of tracked changes (from hiding all markup to showing all of it) makes it easier to sell the idea of tracking changes to people who find it distracting since they've assumed that the "show all markup" view is the only one.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2023 [11 favorites]

I agree with Styles - I used to copy and paste from a Wikipedia article to demo how easy it is to restyle an entire document.

I'm not sure if 15 minutes is enough time, or if this crowd will already be familiar, but a quick demo of mail merge might be useful, especially how it can be used for things other than mail. For example, you could create course completion certificates for attendees of your 15 minute word series.
posted by beyond_pink at 11:13 AM on March 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

Seconding format painter - it's great.

I just learned that there are some translation tools inside Word. I wouldn't trust them for any major work, but it's great for doublechecking a foreign word or phrase.
posted by hydra77 at 11:13 AM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

Another for converting styles, select text showing how you want your headings to look, right-click any given style and click "match selection" or some such.
posted by lookoutbelow at 11:14 AM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

And shortcut I use constantly for format painter, Ctrl+Shift+C to copy format, Ctrl+Shift+V to paste format.
posted by lookoutbelow at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2023 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Two pane view to see two parts of a long document at the same time.. (refer to a table and text).
posted by mathiu at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

There’s a setting down in the advanced options that disables using the insert key to control overtype mode; if you toggle it off and then accidentally hit the insert key on your keyboard, you won’t accidentally turn on overtype, and thus you won’t accidentally start typing over existing text. It makes insert mode fixed until you deliberately toggle overtype mode back on. Saved my bacon more than once.
posted by holborne at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

F12 is a shortcut to "save as". The "save as" that you want, not 10 menus eventually getting you to "save as"
posted by bbqturtle at 2:00 PM on March 20 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

bbqturtle: you have just changed my life. Thank you. /wipes away a tear of gratitude
posted by jb at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

Best answer: If you double click Format Painter it stays selected after you paste your formatting. Super handy if you need to update a bunch of formatting at once!
posted by In Your Shell Like at 11:33 AM on March 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

I don't use MS Word but if it's like other word-like programs, you can use headers to generate a table of contents.
posted by aniola at 11:36 AM on March 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

Regular expressions for find and replace.
Making shortcuts to insert certain symbols quickly.
posted by trig at 11:37 AM on March 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

As a semi-advanced thing or combined with styles, go over the various paragraph formatting options. Most people only know alignment and maybe line spacing, but the good stuff is on the Line and Page Breaks tab of the full Paragraph dialogue box.

And fields! Fields can be dark magic to so many people who have used Word for decades.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

Alt-E-S: gives you the option to paste with or without formatting. This saves my life on a regular basis.
posted by Melismata at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2023 [5 favorites]

Beginners often don't know clicking on the "¶" reveals the hidden formatting characters.
posted by Marky at 12:46 PM on March 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

I use table of contents as an outlining tool: The TOC page has all the scene headings, and the body of the document has extended descriptions. This is helpful in assessing the flow of the text as a whole while I have all the nuts and bolts easily accessible to me.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 1:37 PM on March 20, 2023

There's a bunch of nifty stuff, like using various types of tabs, section breaks, how to insert pictures without wrecking a document. Ask people to tell you what their annoyances are with documents.

Word still accepts the menu commands with underlined characters. Alt, F, A is Save As.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on March 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

Another - cross-references to figures, so if the numbering changes, the text reference changes.
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

Spelling and grammar options are invaluable for formal documents. I would change the settings when writing an essay (check for passive voice) and then change the settings when writing the bibliography (sentence fragments are FINE). Same for cover letter and resume, respectively. It made me a better writer.
posted by meemzi at 2:44 PM on March 20, 2023

Accessibility checker.
So many good suggestions above. If you are pressed for time, my top choices would be styles and basic paragraph formatting, show hidden formatting, paste options, and adding options to the Quick toolbar/keyboard shortcuts.
posted by bunnysquirrel at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

FIELDS! I’m so sorry I don’t have the brain time to look up for you exactly why this is so great as it’s been a while since I used them, but I blew someone’s mind with it when I still had access to Word. I hope someone can perhaps come along and give some use cases, or maybe you do know and just needed prompting. Fields!
posted by lokta at 5:23 PM on March 20, 2023

Fields is probably bigger than 15 minutes now that I think about it. Maybe just a date/time field.

Page and section breaks.
posted by lokta at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2023

Maybe not advanced but I've found that quite a few people don't know this: Shift-F3 to capitalise a letter or word (if you highlight a word it'll cycle through first letter cap, all caps, no caps)
posted by pianissimo at 7:43 PM on March 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

I have learned so much from this thread!
Styles and headers, then use the navigation pane on the left to move around the document.
Table of contents, and how to update
If you use symbols, how to use the autoformat math setting to be able to use latex- \alpha to make a Greek letter. Which I do a lot.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 10:12 PM on March 20, 2023

These answers are all great - one more novice-level, but wonderful trick for Windows users is combining [Windows Key + Arrows] and [Alt+Tab] to rearrange windows at warp speed.

If I'm reading something in Word and need to compare it to another doc I have open, I press
1. Windows+←
2. Alt+Tab (as many times as needed)
3. Windows+→

Suddenly I have both docs side by side and ready to go. It takes under a second and can blow people's minds if they haven't seen it before.
posted by matrixclown at 11:57 PM on March 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

Paste special (alt-e-s) is a good one that was mentioned. If you right click where you want to paste something, it will give you a menu with options to preserve source formatting, merge into the formatting of the document you are editing or just paste plain text with no formatting. I use this one almost every day.

Tables are very useful, not only as a way to organize information, but also as a tool to lay out text and image elements with a good degree of control over alignment/spacing. You can make the borders invisible if you are just using the table for spacing. The text to table function is also very powerful. Say someone sends you a list of items seeking comment. Convert that into a one column table with one item in each row and then right click to add a column to the right where you can record your comment.
posted by clark at 9:03 PM on March 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

It's not especially useful, but you can surprise a lot of people by typing on a line by itself in Word:

posted by straight at 2:52 AM on March 22, 2023 [2 favorites]

or better yet, type

posted by straight at 2:55 AM on March 22, 2023 [2 favorites]

If you double click Format Painter it stays selected after you paste your formatting.

posted by some little punk in a rocket at 1:58 AM on March 23, 2023 [3 favorites]

Wildcard search and replace

Pretty powerful for certains applications
posted by cacofonie at 7:57 PM on March 26, 2023

Specifically the use of regex in find and replace
posted by cacofonie at 8:05 PM on March 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks all. all of these got me thinking. best answer goes to the ones i didn't know about that i thought would be helpful to my team.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:49 PM on April 26, 2023

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