Category Archives for "Reader Questions"

Formatting Autocorrect Entries

Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you, reader? Seriously, if it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t find out about all sorts of things in Microsoft Office.

Case in point: a reader contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me this:

We recently upgraded from Word 2007 to 2013. In 2007 I had set up an auto correct for the term Id. In 2013 I can’t get the AutoCorrect to underline the term. Any ideas? Sharon

Frankly, I never knew you could format AutoCorrect entries. So I took to the interwebs to investigate.

Sure enough, it’s possible to teach AutoCorrect to correct both the spelling and formatting of an entry. But there’s a trick to it.

Keep reading →

31 Reader Question: How to automatically number your discovery requests … in 5 keystrokes

If your law firm does litigation work, you’ve probably prepared lots of discovery. And you may have wondered if there’s any way you can (a) avoid typing the phrase “Interrogatory No. X” in Microsoft Word over and over again and (b) get that X to be an automatically incrementing number.

If so, the answer is, yes, you can!

One of the reasons I love reader questions is that the best ones get me flipping through my reference books, scouring the Internet, and testing, testing, testing, trying to find a solution to a problem I’ve been wondering about myself (but never got around to examining).

Such was the case with this reader question:

I’ve been searching for the best way to create auto numbering for discovery requests: dare I say in WordPerfect I had the most amazing macros that used “counter” and creating a set of discovery was a snap. I’ve struggled to find something workable in Word. Some people use Discovery Request No. X – Interrogatory; others use Interrogatories No. X, Requests for Production No. X, Requests for Admission No. X throughout a set of discovery. There has to be a way to do this in Word, and I’ve tried several different approaches, none of which worked out that well. Would you please steer me in the right direction? Thanks very, very much.

I tossed back a rather glib answer about using the AutoNumLgl field code to number the discovery requests, and she threw in this little wrinkle: her attorneys like to play mix-and-match with their discovery. In other words, they may put in a couple of interrogatories, then throw in a related request for production, then another interrogatory, then a request for admission that’s related to that interrogatory.

Um. Okay. So they’re going to need three numbering sequences operating independently. Back to the drawing board.

Keep reading →

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:

Keep reading →

Easier date entry in Excel

A local law office manager contacted me recently with this dilemma:

If I format the column as a date column so that my dates look like 05/12/16, all is well as long as I put in the slashes. I’ve got tons of dates to input and if I could simply put in 051216 and let IT put in the slashes, that would be wonderful – but when I do enter 051216, Excel changes it to 03/21/40. What’s it doing and how can I fix this?

Normally, speedy data entry isn’t a problem in Excel. As long as you set up the “where the cursor goes after you hit Enter” setting correctly, you can just type away.

Dates, however, are a bit of a pain in the … neck. As our hapless office manager has noted. Keep reading →

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??Julie

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.

Keep reading →

2 From the Comments: A Better Way to Embed Paragraph Numbers

Recently, I wrote about a technique that I’d stumbled across for embedding the current paragraph number within the text of a paragraph, like so:


However, one reader popped up in the comments with what looks like an easier solution:

There’s an easier way to do this! At least in Word 2007 and later. Rather than messing with fields, on the Ribbon you go to References>Cross-reference, select the paragraph you want, and voila! Instant reference. You can even have it insert the full context for your subparagraphs (e.g. para. 7(c)), rather than having to have 2 fields.bking

What do you think? Will this help you in your work? Let me know in the comments below.

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.

Keep reading →

How to start an autonumber sequence at >1

Recently, I’ve gotten several questions from users who love the paragraph autonumbering technique illustrated at my post “How to automatically number your discovery requests … in 5 keystrokes,” but they need to start the numbering sequence above “1”.

So, I’ve updated my original post at the bottom to show everyone how to use the “/r” switch to start the numbering sequence at 2, 3, or whatever number you need.

Click here, then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to check out this new trick!

24 Reader Question: Getting rid of hard line breaks in pasted text

Reader Benjamin e-mailed me recently from my Ask the Guru page 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?Benjamin

He attached a Screenr 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.

Keep reading →

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 ( and did a little search. And not one but two possible solutions presented themselves.

Keep reading →

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. 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:

Keep reading →

2 Reader Question Follow-Up: Synchronizing Outlook with SynchPst

You may remember the Reader Question from a few weeks back involving synchronizing Microsoft Outlook information between two computers. I posted a list of possible solutions courtesy of Outlookipedia (and the comments to the post also contained some great suggestions, including using IMAP rather than POP3 email).

I also continued to follow up with this reader behind the scenes to see if I could find a better solution for this dilemma. I’m happy to report we did.

The developers of SynchPst (one of the solutions listed in the Outlookipedia article) contacted me and, after some back-and-forth via emails among the three of us, they consented to allow this reader to try a copy of their software free.

Here’s the reader’s review (edited for length as indicated by the ellipses):

Keep reading →

4 Reader Question: Calculate difference between two dates in Microsoft Excel

A reader contacted me recently with a deceptively simple Microsoft Excel question: “How do I calculate the difference between two dates?”

I say “deceptively simple” because the answer depends upon the context, namely, whether the two dates being compared are actually embedded in cells within the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Keep reading →

Reader Question: The macro that won’t save

An attorney reader (whose employer is using Word 2003) contacted me about a curious macro problem:

I have created a macro for my signature for e-filing, etc., and it works in any document I open.  I want to create a couple of other macros to automate some typing I have to do in documents before saving them.  I have created the macros numerous times, and they work just fine to begin with, but they will not work once I have restarted the computer!  It’s like I can’t figure out how to save the new ones permanently.  I’ve been unable to make heads or tails of the help from Microsoft either.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of macros not saving, but this was a little different. After doing a bit of digging, I suggested these items for him to check:

Keep reading →

15 Reader Question: Synchronizing Microsoft Outlook inboxes

A reader with multiple email accounts and two different computers (both with Microsoft Outlook 2010) has a problem that anyone who occasionally does the “work from home” thing can probably relate to: he wants to receive all his emails on both computers. But how?

I have a laptop at home and a desktop in the office. Both these computers use Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010. … On a daily basis, I receive emails with attachments up to 20 MB in size.

… I am having difficulties in maintaining an up-to-date  status on both the above mentioned computers when moving between office and home and vice-versa.

Presently, I am depending on Outlook’s Import and Export feature to export mails to a portable hard disk before leaving office. When back at home, I export this data from the portable hard disk to my laptop. The next morning, I export from the laptop to the hard disk. On reaching office, I have to import from the hard disk to the desktop. Also, it takes 10 minutes for each export or import.

Needless to mention, the frustration that I will encounter, if someday I forget to export or import.

I am sure you will have a workaround for such a tedious problem and anticipate your guidance.

‘Indeed I do,’ I thought to myself. (And, yes, I think “tedious” is the perfect word to describe the export/import routine he’s shackled to!)

For years, I’ve had a similar problem — namely, needing to access my most recent messages via webmail and/or smartphone during the day while Outlook is periodically downloading messages on my main PC. But I’ve solved it through the years with one simple setting in Outlook.

Many Outlook users don’t know there is a setting available in each email account that instructs Outlook to leave new emails on the server for X days (you specify how many days). To change that setting on each Outlook 2010 computer, go to the File tab and click the Account Settings button. (In Outlook 2007, you’ll need to go to Tools | Account Settings; click here for instructions on 2003 and earlier versions.) You’ll see a list of all of the email accounts you’ve set up.

(And, yes, I have way too many email accounts.)

For each email account, click on the name of the account (click #1 above), then click Change … (click #2) to get to the Internet E-mail Settings dialog box. Once there, go to the Advanced tab:

Once I’d outlined that setup, I thought it was “problem solved” for my reader. No such luck. As it turns out, Outlook automagically (yes, I know that’s not a word) marks messages on the server to remind itself, “yes, I’ve already downloaded that,” which means the second installation of Outlook won’t download it whenever that one does Send/Receive.

So, I went back to the drawing board. After doing a little research, I came across an article on Outlookipedia that listed a number of applications that purport to synchronize your Outlook setup between, say, your desktop and your laptop (as in this reader’s case). Here’s an excerpt:

How do you sync Outlook between two or computers?

While there are many useful utilities and addins offered by Microsoft that are designed to help you better manage Outlook; Microsoft does not offer a built-in feature or addin that allows you to keep Outlook synchronized between two or more different computers. However, the demand for a utility to sync Outlook between two or more computers is so great that there are quite a few addins offered by 3rd party software developers that actually do this quite well.

It should also be mentioned that there are several manual methods that you could employee to synchronize Outlook between two or more computer, but they appear to be quite time consuming and error prone and thus we will not waste your time in mentioning them. As previously mentioned there are quite a few addins offered by 3rd party developers that automate this task for you.

(Excerpted from Synchronize Outlook between two computers on Outlookipedia)

Just reading through the list of applications and their descriptions, there’s quite a bit of variance in what they synchronize (email only, email and contacts, the entire .pst file, etc.) and how much manual intervention is involved (i.e., whether you have to initiate the synchronization on either end and what equipment is involved). For my part, I’m inclined to go with something that synchronizes automatically over the Internet, but that comes with its own security risks that only the individual user can weigh for him/herself.

Unfortunately, I can’t really test this myself, but our intrepid reader is going to download one or more of the third-party applications listed in this linked article and let me know in a couple of weeks or so how he fares. Stay tuned for an update or, if this is a problem you’re having, try one of these yourself and let me know what you think!

Got a question of your own? Ask it via my Ask the Guru page!

Edit: Read the follow-up to this post (with the results of this reader’s testing) here.

20 Reader Question: Type Once, Repeat Many?

Ever had one of those forms that repeats someone’s name or some other piece of information, um, repeatedly? Say, a will or a power of attorney or something similar?

If you’ve tried to make yourself a homegrown forms database, knowing that you’ll have to go in each time and fill in the variable information (name, he/she, his/her, son/daughter/children, etc.) in all (and I do mean all) the right places, then you can appreciate this reader’s dilemma:

Keep reading →

9 Reader question: Page number macro misfire

One reader recently took up my challenge to not run screaming from macros … and was a little disappointed in the results.

I defined a macro successfully [to insert “Page” and the page number], with a button on the Quick Access Tool Bar. It works until I log off. After re-entering and trying the macro, I get an error message “Run Time error 5941 The requested member of the collection does not exist.” Any suggestions?

A macro that only runs until you log off. Well, that’s a puzzler.

As I told him in our email exchange, I’ve noticed that in Word 2010, macros are sometimes spotty in picking up settings from actions you take in the Ribbon. (It used to work fine — not sure what’s changed.) I myself had a similar problem with a macro I tried to do for a watermark.

I suspected he was attempting to embed the page number command using Word’s Insert Page Number command from the Header/Footer Tools contextual ribbon menu:

The problem there is the contextual part. I think the macro was freaking out because it didn’t find the Header/Footer Tools menu from which to draw the Insert Page Number command, so it scrambled. (The whole “macro disappears when I log out” thing? I got no clue.)

So I suggested he program the “Insert Page Number” thing into his macro from the Quick Parts menu instead:

For you code jockeys out there, here’s how that works out:

Sub test()
' test Macro
Selection.TypeText Text:="Page "
Selection.Fields.Add Range:=Selection.Range, Type:=wdFieldEmpty, Text:= _
"PAGE \* Arabic ", PreserveFormatting:=True
End Sub

Reader’s response?

Worked perfectly.  Thanks again for your help.

Just what I like to hear!

Got a question of your own? Ask it via my Ask the Guru page!