Microsoft Word tips and shortcuts

by Leicestershire Health Informatics Service 2. November 2011 09:42

There are millions of Microsoft Word users in the world, and I expect that, like me, many of you find yourselves wishing there was an easy way to carry out any number of common Word tasks – and the chances are there is! In this post I will be sharing a few of the most popular how-to tips and shortcuts for tasks (in Word 2010) used by some of my colleagues here at Leicestershire Health Informatics Service, in the hope that one or two of them may be of use to you too…


Make the most of keyboard shortcuts

Word has dozens of keyboard shortcuts for performing tasks, many of which you probably know. But, just in case you don’t, check out our top twenty faves:

  • Select all - Ctrl + A
  • Copy - Ctrl + C
  • Cut - Ctrl + X
  • Paste - Ctrl + V
  • Insert a hyperlink - Ctrl + K
  • Find - Ctrl + F
  • Find and replace - Ctrl + H
  • Undo - Ctrl + Z
  • Print - Ctrl + P
  • Insert the current date - Alt + Shift + D
  • Insert a horizontal line - Type three hyphens on a blank line and press Enter
  • Insert a page break - Ctrl + Enter
  • Show / hide all formatting marks - Ctrl + Shift + 8
  • Increase text size by one value - Ctrl + Shift + >
  • Decrease text size by one value - Ctrl + Shift + <
  • Change case - Shift + F3
  • Open the thesaurus - Shift + F7
  • Spellcheck - F7
  • Save as - F12
  • Take a picture of the screen (screenshot) - Alt + Print Screen; then press Ctrl + V to paste your screenshot into Word


Find and replace

‘Find and replace’ is without a doubt one of the handiest word processing features ever. (I love ‘find and replace’ so much, I find myself longing for it in other areas of life besides computing, but that's another matter entirely!) Not only can you quickly and easily change every instance of a word or phrase to something else, you can even use it to replace the extra blank spaces made by writers who haven't trained themselves away from the old typewriter custom of pressing the spacebar twice after each full stop. To quickly change all instances of double spaces to single spaces, just enter two spaces (press the space bar twice) in the 'Find what' field and enter one space in the 'Replace with' field, and click ‘Replace all’.


Undo or disable automatic changes

Word imposes lots of changes on the text you enter in a document by default. For example, it might convert a Web address to a hyperlink, replace straight apostrophes and quotation marks with their curly counterparts, or turn a pair of hyphens into an em dash. If you want to prevent those changes from time to time, reach for the Undo command. Undo isn’t just for reversing something you’ve done; it also undoes some of the actions Word takes. Don’t want that em dash? When Word inserts it, hit Ctrl + Z and change it back to the hyphens you intended to enter.


Occasionally, automatic corrections can get so annoying that you want to stop them happening permanently. For instance, if you want to manually number a list or begin a new line with the - character (without indenting the line) then you can by disabling specific AutoFormat and AutoCorrect options. To do that:


Select Options from the File tab.

Click Proofing, and then click AutoCorrect Options.

On the AutoFormat as you Type tab, click to select or to clear the check boxes for the options that you want to enable or disable.


Hide the page number on the cover sheet of your document

When you add page numbers to Word, it automatically adds these to the footer. But maybe you don’t want the number 1 to appear on the front page of your report, so how do you turn it off? Try this:


Click in the document.

On the Page Layout tab, click the Page Setup dialog box launcher.

Click the Layout tab.

Under Headers and Footers, select the ‘Different first page’ check box.

Click OK.

Numbering should now start on page 2!


Jazz up your bullet points

Word makes it easy to change or customize bullet points if we don’t like the default ones. Click the little drop down arrow next to the bullet point icon on the menu bar (the ribbon) at the top of the page to open the bullet menu and then click Define New Bullet. Next, click on Symbol and select any character you like as your new bullet. You can select from Wingdings and Webdings from the Fonts dropdown list to access a rich variety of symbols to use as bullets. You can see a small preview too. Click on OK to set your new choice of bullet. All of the bullets you create will be saved in the Bullet Point Library for future access.


Make vertical text selections

Usually, we select text horizontally — a word, a series of words, a paragraph — from left to right or vice versa. But sometimes the selection has to be vertical, for instance if we need to delete an unwanted character at the start of each line. To make a vertical selection, hold down Alt as you drag down through the text you want to select. Hit Delete and bam, it’s gone.


Compare and combine two versions of a document

It used to be, when you wanted to compare two documents, you had to open them both and switch back and forth between them. With the Compare feature those days are behind you: on the Review tab, in the Compare group, click Compare, and then click Compare again. Enter the documents in the dialog box, and click OK. To merge comments and changes from two documents into one document: on the Review tab, in the Compare group, click Compare, and then click Combine. Enter the documents as for comparing.


Zoom in and out

If you often change the view of your documents and find yourself zooming in and out quite a bit, you may get tired of using the pull-down zoom control on the toolbar. If you have a mouse that has the wheel between the two buttons, you can do a neat trick. All you need to do is hold down the Ctrl key as you turn the small wheel. Each click of the wheel, up or down, increases or decreases the zoom factor by 10%.


Print only sections of a page

Save on your printer ink by selectively printing sections of text in your document. To do this, highlight the portions of text you wish to print and click Ctrl + P to open the print dialog box. In the printer dialog under ‘Page Range’ choose the option Selection and then click OK.


Visit the Microsoft website to find more keyboard shortcuts for all Microsoft products.

About the author

Rupal Patel, blogging for NHS Leicestershire Health Informatics Service, your one-stop-shop for information management and technology. Writing about some of the work we do, discussing IT issues, introducing some of our terriffic staff and generally shedding a little light on the world of health informatics. Visit our website at:

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