1 The 4 Biggest Time-Saving Microsoft Word Features You’re Probably Not Using

Learning Microsoft Word can seem a daunting task. So many features! Where’s the best place to start?

If you want to boost your productivity in Microsoft Word fast, you really need to master these four features first. Learning how to leverage these can shave seconds or even minutes off repetitive daily tasks, which adds up to getting more work done daily (or even leaving the office at a decent hour!).

Here are the four best areas for you to spend a little self-education time, before you’re subjected to one of those legal technology audits you keep hearing about.

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5 7 Ways To Screw Up A Table of Authorities

When I first got my Roku box a few years back, I spent an embarrassing amount of time binge-watching the dizzying array of streaming video I suddenly had access to. One of my early obsessions was a video series on Chow.com’s Roku channel called “You’re Doing It All Wrong“. (I do love me some food porn.) Thanks to that series, I now know what’s wrong with most people’s mashed potatoes (not boiled long enough), how to pan fry bacon properly (look for the bubbles), and why sushi chefs laugh at me (only noobs dunk the entire roll in soy sauce and then cram it in their faces with chopsticks).

I’m pretty sure the owners of Chow.com have the phrase “You’re Doing It All Wrong” trademarked or something; otherwise, I’d steal that phrase for an article series. And I know just where I’d start: Tables of Authorities.

Microsoft Word’s Table of Authorities feature isn’t exactly known for its user-friendliness. Nobody’s ever said the word “automagically” about it. And more than one enterprising software vendor has found a lucrative niche making an easier-to-use interface for TOAs.

I’ve had to use this feature myself on several occasions recently, and I’ve rediscovered seven ways you can easily (and thoroughly) screw up a Table of Authorities. (Need a TOA refresher course? Click here to learn how to mark citations, then click here for instructions on building the TOA itself.)

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Reader Question: How to get footnote citations to show up in Table of Authorities

Julie contacted me recently with a real puzzler:

I am working in Microsoft Word 2010.  For some reason when I am marking a citation, it will not include the case from a footnote in the Table of Authorities.  It will pick up a statute or rule, but not [a case from] the footnote.  Any suggestions??

Ooooookaaaaay. Something’s really amiss here. And what made it more puzzling was, when I tried to replicate her problem on my own computer, mine worked just fine. (I actually kind of hate when that happens, because then I really feel stumped.)

Turns out, though, this a real problem that Microsoft knows about. Fortunately, it has a real solution.

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Easy-to-read file folder labels for trial exhibits using Mail Merge

One firm I’ve been working with has been in “trial mode” for a couple of weeks now. Thankfully, I wasn’t directly involved (I’ve seen the looks on the faces of the people who are, and I don’t want that), but I did pitch in where necessary. And “where necessary” included helping a secretary with making file folders for 100+ trial exhibits. The one requirement the paralegal had was the trial exhibit numbers had to be large and easy to read.

Thankfully, the trial exhibit list that was e-filed with the court was done in the form of a table. So that made it easy to use Mail Merge to create the labels, because we had a ready-to-use data source.

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How to recycle your [legal] briefs safely

In my observation, if there’s one thing you lawyers love, it’s repeating yourselves. No, not when you speak (except when you walk around the office repeating the same war story about your latest court appearance to anyone who’ll listen); it’s when you write. Y’all recycle so much old material from briefs and other documents, it puts Ed Begley, Jr. to shame.

Some of the problems with all that cutting and pasting are pretty obvious—another client’s name being left in (oops) or funky formatting that doesn’t match the new document. But others aren’t. What sort of evil stuff lurks in that text you just pasted over from your last magnum opus? And how’s it going to undermine your next court filing?


This post won LitigationWorld’s Pick of the Week Award 7/15/2014!
Click the image above for more details.

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Keeping Word Commands at Your Fingertips

When Microsoft Word 2007 came out, users lamented the introduction of the Ribbon. Replacing the familiar menu system of Word 2003 with a newfangled, visually-oriented system of buttons and drop-downs went over like the proverbial lead balloon. It all came down to one thing: "How am I ever going to find anything on here?"

Nobody wants to waste time scrolling through a menu system looking for commands or functions they use frequently. Here, I'll show you three methods for keeping your most common commands within easy reach so you can create documents faster and with less frustration.

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5 How to create numbered headings using Styles

I seem to make my best discoveries about Microsoft Office when I’m annoyed. (See my last post, for example.) It’s that kind of annoyance that says, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” For some reason or another, this time it was paragraph numbering. But not the normal kind where you have the paragraph number indented about half an inch on the same line with the start of the paragraph. The document I was working on (a will) had the paragraph number floating centered above the paragraph. While I was drafting the document, I just knew the attorney I was working for would be moving paragraphs all over the place, and I didn’t want to stop to renumber them when he did.


This post won BlawgWorld’s Pick of the Week Award 3/10/14!
Click the image above for more details.

I remembered one of the paralegals I work with telling me that it was possible to embed numbers in Styles. So I went nosing around in Styles, looking to modify my Heading 1 so that it had an automatically incrementing Arabic numeral and a period, like so:

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16 In praise of text expansion (or, how to keep from typing the same thing 100 times)

Here in the last several weeks, I've been busy. And when I say "busy", I'm not talking your run-of-the-mill "I have a nice steady flow of work" level of busy. I'm talking "so overloaded I'm farming out scut work to other people", "oh my gosh, I just had that piece of paper in my hand a moment ago", "I wonder if I can still get that Xanax prescription filled" level of busy. It was insane.

So naturally, I was looking for every time saver I could get my hands on. If something could save me even a few seconds (especially on a repetitive task), it was worth it.

One of the things I found myself doing was typing the same long complicated phrases over and over and over again. I don't know about you, but I don't exactly love typing. (As proof of that, I'm using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write this article. I'm all for letting the computer do the work.) And when my brain gets a little overloaded and the pace starts getting on my nerves, my already sketchy typing skills go to pot. So I have no patience whatsoever for typing the same long complicated phrase 100 times.

So if you find yourself stuck typing "Brief in Support of American Amalgamated Consolidated Widget Corporation's Second Amended Motion for Leave of Court to Conduct On-site Inspection" for the umpteenth time, I'm going to show you how to get out of all that repetitive typing. It's a concept called "text expansion", and you don't even need extra software to do it (although there is software that will do that).

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2 Reader Question: How to embed the current paragraph number in your text

One reader who works in insurance defense law (a woman after my own heart — so do I) asked me this question recently:

In a case where I am automatically numbering the beginning of each paragraph (sometimes up to 100)...and then have to refer to the same paragraph number in the text (e.g., 1. Deny the allegations contained in paragraph "1"), how can I get the number in the text to match the corresponding number of each specific paragraph so that if I have to delete a paragraph, I will not have to go into every paragraph to change the text to say responding to paragraph"2" to correspond with the actual numbered paragraph? I know it has something to do with using fields in the text.

Again, a woman after my own heart. She's trying to automate something to minimize the amount of repetitive editing she'll have to do as the document changes. I like people who think ahead like that.

And she's right: it does have "something to do with fields in the text." But which one is appropriate here? The answer may surprise you ... and you might find a use for it in your own documents, too.

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Reader Question: Copying WordPerfect footnotes to Microsoft Word

You know how I’m always telling you that the best way to get your old WordPerfect text into a new Microsoft Word document is to just copy it over? Well, that’s not always the case. Sometimes Microsoft Word doesn’t “translate” WordPerfect text into just the right Microsoft Word equivalent.

Take, for example, the problem posed by this reader:

When using footnotes in a document, if I copy footnotes from WordPerfect and insert them into a Word document, the numbers do not change. Is there any way to make the numbers follow the number sequence in the document. Sometimes there are as many a 100 footnotes with dozens of different numbers — which need to be dealt with individually. Is there any way to make the numbers change and follow sequence at one time? I’ve tried everything including Ctrl-A (in the footnote draft, in the body of the document), but nothing works.

It took me a few minutes of experimenting, but I came up (I think) with the perfect solution. It’s one you’ll need in your toolbox if you ever have to copy footnoted content from old briefs, etc.

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2 Why hanging indents are beautiful things

Okay, The Guru has a confession to make: I used to be afraid of hanging indents.

This, of course, is silly. Of all the things in the world there are to be afraid of — snakes, heights, public speaking, thermonuclear war, global economic meltdowns — hanging indents are pretty innocuous. But I did, until fairly recently, go through a period where I avoided doing hanging indents because I kept getting confused by them. (More on that later.)

Some of you are asking, “What is a hanging indent?” It’s a style of paragraph indentation that has the first line flush with the left margin but indents all of the subsequent lines in the paragraph, like so:


(If you had to write term papers in APA Style in college, you recognize the format.)

Now you’re asking, “So what’s so scary about a hanging indent?” and “Why should I care about ’em?” Let me explain.

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15 Printing Envelopes and Labels, Part 2: Labels

As I mentioned in the previous post on Envelopes, even though formatting and printing envelopes and labels is a really basic word processing function, Microsoft Word inexplicably hides it from users on the Mailings tab.

Fortunately, if you're using labels from a major label vendor like Avery, you don't have to bust out the ruler and define the label format from scratch. But knowing how to choose which label format to use can be a bit tricky.

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1 Reader Question: Cannot custom flag emails

A while back, one Legal Office Guru reader who’d just read my post, Make your Outlook e-mails un-ignorable, was having a curious problem: he couldn’t flag his e-mails. Well, that’s not entirely true. He could right-click on his e-mails and flag them, but he wasn’t getting all of the choices that I outlined in my post. As he described his problem:

I use Outlook 2010 and I like being able to Flag an email for a reminder on a specific day at a specific time. For some reason when I click on the red flag “Follow up” I only have one option “Flag Message” How do I set this up for Custom?

My first response was to do that really annoying thing that help desk people do: I asked him if he was sure he had followed the instructions. Yes, he had. So, the quest was on to figure out where the gap was between my instructions and his experience.
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24 Reader Question: Getting rid of hard line breaks in pasted text

Reader Benjamin e-mailed me recently with this request:

I've got text (imported badly - I don't have access to the original source) which is spaced badly in Microsoft Word 2010 — meaning I have to manually cursor + delete then space-bar to put it back together without the green wiggles.It's time consuming and I would like to know if there is an automated alternative. I'm sure I'm one of millions who are suffering with this. Can you help us?

He attached a video demonstrating his problem, which immediately made clear what he was up against:

When he says he's "one of millions who are suffering with this," I believe him. Because I'm one of them, too. And between the two of us, we might've come up with a good solution.

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13 How to keep two words together on a single line

Remember typewriters? (Those of you too young to remember those, just skip this part. Please.) Every time you heard that little ding when you approached the right-hand margin, you knew you needed to reach up, hit that bar over on the left side, and return the platen to the left margin to start a new line.

Yes, it was a pain in the neck compared to typing on a word processor. But at least then you had total control over where the line break was. These days? Not so much.

But you can still stop awkward breaks — hyphenated words or other groups of words that need to appear together on a single line — with a quick three-key combination.

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2 Reader Question: Cannot select single cell, row, or column

One reader wrote in recently that she was having a problem selecting cells in Microsoft Excel:

When in a spreadsheet and I click on a line it selects at least four lines.

In other words, she couldn’t select a single cell or just one row in the spreadsheet. It was as if her mouse cursor had a mind of its own!

Well, this was certainly a new one for me. I personally had never run across that particular problem, so I had no solution off the top of my head.

So what did I do? I went to Microsoft Answers (http://answers.microsoft.com) and did a little search. And not one but two possible solutions presented themselves.

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3 From the Comments: Cool TOA trick

One of the things I love most about doing this blog is what I learn from readers. People often chime in on the comments to suggest solutions to problems others are having or better ways of doing things.

One recent comment especially deserves its own spotlight.  Debbie Leonard Lovejoy stepped forward to help fellow commenter Ariel with a tricky formatting problem in a Table of Authorities post. Specifically, this is what Ariel wanted:

I’ve searched high and low for a way to automatically format the cases in the TOA so the case name up to the comma is on a line by itself and then the reporter information and year and the page number are on a second, indented line, but no luck. I know I can manually do this just before printing by editing the table but I lose that formatting when the table updates and would like a more permanent solution if one exists. Strangest thing is that on the “Table of Authorities” dialog box, the example table in the Print Preview box has it formatted the way I’d like (though I imagine that is more a result of limited space in that box than some taunting and unavailable formatting option). Any idea? Thanks!

I had nothing. The only thing I could suggest was to "edit the right indent of the paragraphs to make them wrap a lot sooner than they would otherwise (in other words, not so close to the page number on the right margin)." Close (sort of), but no cigar.

Here's Debbie's much better solution:

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When a tab is not just a tab, part 3: Center tabs

Okay, show of hands: How many of you remember being taught how to center text in typing class? (Alright, hands down. Those of you who responded with "Typing class? What's typing class?" have officially made me feel ancient.)

For you youngsters out there, here's how it went down: All of us typing students rolled a sheet of paper through the platen (look it up, kiddies) of the typewriter and spaced over to the center of the page 4.25" from each edge (using the tab key and space bar), calculated how many letters and spaces were in whatever phrase we wanted centered, divided by two, then backspaced from the center point by that many spaces.

Years later, it exhausts me just to describe it.

Fortunately, modern word processors like Microsoft Word make exercises like this obsolete. Oh, sure, you already know how to center text, right? But using center justification centers the text between the left and right margins. But what if you want to center text across another point on the page?

Answer: center tabs.

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9 How to set tabs (without tearing your hair out)

It ought to be pretty simple, really. Even though Microsoft Word, by default, sets left tabs every half inch (at least in the U.S. version – elsewhere may vary), sometimes you need something different. Even if only for a particular part of your document. So, how on earth do you set tabs in Microsoft Word?

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5 Reader Question: Underlining trailing spaces

Don’t you just hate it when you want Microsoft Word to do something really simple and obvious, like underline blank spaces, and it just refuses to do it? That’s the dilemma faced by reader who recently wrote me, really frustrated over a signature line:

From time to time, I am inserting a line for a signature block or for some other purpose and after clicking underline or using control u I get nothing but blank space. When I check the font dialog box it shows underline and the font color is black, what is the problem?

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