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Eight Microsoft Word Tips 10/05/2009

Posted by Managing Editor in Technical Writing.
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Review by Robert Delwood,
Senior Programmer Writer

By now, Microsoft Office 2007 users should have adapted to the new interface. There are new features that are well documented, although how practical they are remains to be seen. I find that the biggest annoyance is locating those functions that I know exist but have been moved.

Yet, like any pervious version of Office, there are also plenty of hidden features or features many users just don’t know about. Microsoft does a disservice to the community by not documenting these better than they do. It’s been joked that unless you double-click every pixel on the screen, you haven’t found all the functions. That’s not far from the truth. The following are some lesser-known Word features that may be of interest to users. Not all of them are new to 2007, just under-documented.

Switching documents. If you have multiple documents open, you can switch among them by using Alt-F6. As a note, the early keyboards, those from the 1980s through the mid 1990s, had the F keys on the left side, next to the Shift. This allowed one handed operations, such as Shift –F5. I wish they’d bring that back. Moving the Tab key, and removing the Caps Lock altogether. However, I digress.

Sticky Formatting. The Format Painter, the paint brush icon, allows you to apply a style and format by sweeping over the intended text. Put the cursor in text with the style to be copied, click Format Painter (the icon will change), and sweep over the text to change. If you double click that icon, it retains that formatting so you can reapply it multiple times. In general, Format Painter is not a new feature, but properly done this time. Word 2003’s Format Painter would eventually corrupt a document, since Word didn’t handle copied styles elegantly. That doesn’t seem to be a problem with the new XML format (.docx).

Finding Your Way. In large documents, it’s easy to get lost, or at least lose where you had been. Clicking Shift-F5 moves the cursor back to the last location that had the cursor, usually an edit. Keep doing it: Word remembers up to the last four locations. It’ll even remember if one of the last four places was in another open document.

Moving Paragraphs. If you have to move a paragraph, you can use cut and paste, although there may be times you don’t want to lose you clipboard. You can also click and drag the highlighted text to the new location. Alternatively, you can use Alt-Shift and the Up or Down arrow key. This moves the entire paragraph in which the cursor is located in that direction. Be careful not to use the left or right arrows, which change the style. Of more concern is that using Alt Shift changes the keyboard from English to Russian, if you have that installed.

Easy Find. If you’re looking for a term, the annoying Find dialog tends to cover up part of the document, or in some cases, the very term you want to see. A better way is to close the dialog after the first find and use the quick find (the double arrows below the left scroll bar). Clicking up or down finds that occurrence in that direction. That feature is even more useful. Click the circle and additional options can be selected, such as finding tables, fields, or previous edits (see Finding Your Way above).

Finis. Prepare feature is new to 2007 and performs several useful checks on document. Ostensibly to ready them for release but it’s convenient to make sure a document is clean. Located in the Office button, select Prepare (under Print). Properties, Encrypt, Restrict, and Digital Signature are similar enough to the Word 2003 versions. The others are new:

Inspect. This helps locate information you may not want released. Specifically, it locates comments, hidden text, track changes, comments, or document properties that might include e-mail addresses or names.

Mark as Final. This locks the file for changes. This is not a security feature and should not be considered as such. Rather, it lets users know it’s a final candidate and this is a convenient way of preventing changes.

Compatibility Checker. This checks for items that might be problems in earlier Word versions. If your organization or clients still use Word 2003 or earlier, this makes sure the document can be easily opened by them. It would note any features that those versions do not support such as some embedded ActiveX controls, themes, equations, and citations. Along this note, Office may impose additional restrictions. For example, if working in Excel 2007 and you create a spreadsheet with more than 65,536 rows, you will not be able to save it in the old .xls format since it can’t support the excessive number of rows.

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