Category Archives for "Featured – Basic Word Skills"

19 Copying vertical columns of text in Word

If you’ve ever had information typed up like this:Information typed in tabbed columns… and only needed to copy the stuff out of one column, you’ll love this tip.

Say, for example, you needed to just get the dollar amounts and copy them someplace else.  If you’ve got a whole list of these, you might think you’ll either have to type this up again, or copy-and-paste each amount separately.

Au contraire. Trust me, you’ll love this trick!

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1 How to Keep Obscure (but Useful) Word Commands in Easy Reach

Believe it or not, even with as many commands as are on the Microsoft Word Ribbon, there are some features that are nowhere to be found. Rather than dig through layers of dialog boxes or try to remember obscure shortcut keys, why not add a few essential (for you) commands to the Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar? I’ll show you one example, but you can use this technique for any Word function.

Example Command: Adjust List Indents

Most legal users aren’t really happy with the default indentation of the paragraph numbering feature. Short of configuring your own paragraph numbering scheme, though, there doesn’t seem to be much of a way around it.

You can adjust the default List Paragraph Style’s indents on-the-fly by right-clicking on the paragraph number and choosing Adjust List Indents. But you’d have to know that feature’s there to use it.

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6 How To Add a Style to Quick Styles

Even those who have used Quick Styles frequently don’t know that there are lots more Styles available in Word. Getting one-click access to a Style, though, really requires that it be listed in the Quick Styles gallery (that list on the right-hand side of the Home tab).

If there’s a particular Style that you always want to be available within the Quick Styles gallery (especially one you just created for a particular purpose), here’s how to designate a Style as a Quick Style. Keep reading →

6 Creating new Styles in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word Styles are the most basic building blocks in Word. One of the first things you’ll need to learn after you master the interface and basic formatting is using the Quick Styles listed on the Home tab. Often, though, the Quick Styles don’t contain a particular Style your document needs.

If the default Microsoft Word Styles don’t fully meet your needs (for example, you need one for block quotes), you can create a new one. There are a couple of different ways to do this. I’ll start with what I think is the easiest one first. Keep reading →

1 Using the Clipboard to Multi-Paste

When you’re drafting a pleading (particularly an answer to a complaint or discovery) you probably find yourself using a few of the same phrases over and over. Rather than going back and recopying those snippets repeatedly (or worse, retyping them), use the Microsoft Word Clipboard to quickly access and paste them again and again. Keep reading →

10 Cutting and pasting from WordPerfect (or elsewhere)

We’ve all done it — there’s already a WordPerfect document that you need some text out of (a letter addressee, a section out of a brief, whatever), so you decide to cut-and-paste from WordPerfect into your current Word document.

And the formatting in your Word document goes totally … WAAAAAAHHHH!

Here’s how to avoid that:

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2 Reader Question: How to double indent faster

It was one of those emails that I knew I’d get sooner or later:

When indenting a paragraph for a quote in a motion for instance, is there a way to indent both the left and right margins of the paragraph using a keyboard shortcut? I seem to recall Ctrl+M in WordPerfect, but don’t know of a built-in shortcut for MS Word.

Yeah, I’ve kind of been bummed about that, too.

The short answer is, no. Word didn’t considerately offer up a built-in shortcut key that’ll automatically indent both the right and left margins for an extended quote. I do not know why. It is a mystery for the ages. (Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic.)

But where Microsoft has failed, you can succeed. Here are three suggestions I had:

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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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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 Part 1 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 (in the Ribbon versions, 2007 and later) and under the Tools menu in version 2003.

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.

Like before, we’ll cover the Ribbon-based versions of Word first, then cover versions 2002/2003.

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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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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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63 Printing Envelopes and Labels, Part 1: Envelopes

One of the most basic functions in Microsoft Word is printing envelopes and labels. You’d think that such a basic function would be pretty intuitive. It’s not. One of the most frequent questions I get from longtime WordPerfect users is, “Where on earth are the envelopes (or labels) in Word?”

But even for those who worked in Microsoft Word for years, this feature can be a little hard to find. Some of the problem stems from Microsoft’s habit of moving this feature around between versions of Word. (I think I even remember it being under the Format menu in one long-ago version. It’s moved twice since then!) So we’re going to look at the process in both the Ribbon-based version and the “classic” menu-based versions.

Along the way, I’m going to show you not only the “textbook” way of doing envelopes, but my own preferred method, which I think makes creating an on-the-fly envelope (on pre-printed letterhead) a lot easier (but that’s for you to judge).

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7 Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar

Want one-click access to the commands you use most in the ribbon versions of Microsoft Office? Then you need to be taking full advantage of the Quick Access Toolbar!

The Quick Access Toolbar really lives up to its name: it provides one-click access to virtually any command you want. All you have to do is customize it.

And one of the great things about the Quick Access Toolbar (or QAT) is that it’s virtually the same throughout Microsoft Office. Sure, the commands vary according to the application, but the way you update it is the same across the Office Suite.

Here are two ways to add your favorite commands to the QAT:

What commands would you want on your QAT?

11 When a tab is not just a tab, part 2: right tabs

Ever have a document that needs to have a paragraph like this?

Left and right justified text on the same line - with tables

I usually accomplish this trick (having left- and right-justified text on the same line) in Microsoft Word with Tables.  For me, tables make a lot of alignment issues a lot easier.  Here, I’ll turn on the gridlines (on the Table Tools | Layout tab that comes up whenever your cursor is in a table) and show you:

Left and right justified text on the same line - with table gridlines showing


Pretty straightforward if you’re use to Tables in Microsoft Word.  The left column is left-justified, and the right column is right-justified.  Easy-peasy … if you know how.

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9 When a tab is not just a tab, part 1: decimal tabs

We all know what a tab is, right?  It’s that key near the upper left-hand corner of the keyboard we press to indent the first line of a paragraph.

Sometimes, though, simply moving the cursor over half an inch isn’t what we want.

Take, for example, something like this:

Those numbers look okay — they seem to line up pretty well.  But how did this person get this result?  Let’s turn on Show/Hide (that paragraph symbol on the Home tab in the Paragraph section) to see the codes:

Ah, I see.  This person used Left Tabs (the default tabs you get when you hit the Tab key) to move the cursor to the left (signified by the left-pointing arrows above), then hit the space bar (the dots above) to get the numbers to line up.

But how well do they really line up?  Let’s turn on the gridlines (found on the View tab) to see:

Oooooh. Those numbers (and decimals) don’t line up so well after all.  But what else can you do?

Decimal tabs!

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26 What’s the deal with Word 2007/2010 line spacing?

If you’ve upgraded to one of the ribbon-interface versions of Microsoft Office recently, you may have noticed that every new document you create (as opposed to editing or making new documents from earlier ones) has this weird, more open line spacing.

What’s the story?

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37 Fixing funky character spacing in justified text in Microsoft Word

I have a confession to make: I love the look of fully-justified text. It’s just so darn … neat. It’s got those nice, straight margins on both sides, not that ragged right margin that looks like it could have been typed on a Selectric.  It makes a document looks so much more polished.

Except when this happens:

Example of a character spacing problem

When I first saw this in my draft, I just thought I’d made a typo — inserted a space in the middle of the word “and.” But when I went back to the document, it looked like this on the screen:

How the same text looks on the screen

“Well, that’s weird,” I thought. “What on earth could be causing that?”

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15 Customizing the Status Bar

There’s a whole host of ways you can make the various Microsoft Office applications easier to use. In fact, most users don’t take full advantage of the options for customizing these applications to make the Office suite work better for them.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the easiest customizations: the Status Bar. Look at the bottom of any Office application and you’ll see a bar just above the Windows Taskbar at the bottom (like this example from Word 2007):

Status Bar from Microsoft Word

(If you need to see the above a bit bigger, click on it for a full-sized version.  Go on — I’ll wait here.)

Most users don’t know they can change the information listed on the task bar in any Office application (except Outlook, unfortunately). And it’s really easy:

1) Right-click your mouse anywhere on the status bar.

2) Select the option(s) you want (check marks on this example from Word 2007 indicate the option is already selected and showing up on the Status Bar):

Customize Status Bar right-click menu from Microsoft Word

I recommend, for example, always turning on the Track Changes indicator, and I personally think the Word Count is a handy piece of information to have.  Feel free to experiment with adding or deleting features — you won’t mess up your document!

3) Once you’ve made your choices, click elsewhere on the screen to close the Customize Status Bar menu and save your changes.

That’s it! (That may be the easiest Word task you’ll do all day!)

Now, why is this important? Here are some scenarios to consider:

1) Someone’s sent you a document to review/revise and left Track Changes on, so when you start typing, Word starts redlining the document. With the status bar set to show the status of Track Changes, you can simply click on that section once to turn it off. That’s much simpler (and faster) than going to the Review tab, dropping down the Track Changes menu, and turning it off there.

2) You’ve imported some text from WordPerfect and notice that the headers and footers mysteriously change mid-document. Why? The status bar gives you a clue: the section numbers at the left keep changing. (Text imported from WordPerfect often embeds random section breaks into a document, which can affect the headers and footers.) How much time would you have otherwise spent trying to troubleshoot that problem?

3) Ever wanted to get a quick sum or count of highlighted cells in Excel without creating a formula? Change the status bar to show Count and Sum. You can also get quick calculations of Averages, Minimums and Maximums in the status bar.

So, what items would you want to see in the status bar? Tell me about ’em in the comments below.