I love Microsoft Word shortcuts, and I post them from time to time when I stumble across a new one. But how’s a body supposed to discover all the features of this gigantic application when so many of them aren’t even visible on the ribbon? Now and then I go online and browse around.
Half these tricks were new to me, even though most of them aren’t new to Word. I can’t decide which one I love best! Maybe number 10, although it’s galling that it’s been right there in plain sight all this time and I could have been using it.
Vote for your favorite in the comments—or share a good one of your own. And if you’ve known about these forever, go ahead and boast. Just please don’t make fun of me.[Note: My office uses Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 (Windows). If you’re on a Mac or an earlier version of Word or working in compatibility mode, you may have to search online for instructions.]
1. Shrink one page
What: Adjusts your entire document’s font size and spacing a wee bit to eliminate a last page that has only a line or two on it. (Obviously not appropriate for every document.)
How: This is one of those commands you have to dig for, but once it’s in Quick Access, you can use it with a single click. From Office Support: “In the Quick Access toolbar at the top [left] of the Word window, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar (the small down arrow) and choose More Commands. Under Choose Commands From, click All Commands. Scroll down through the list of commands until you find Shrink One Page. Click Shrink One Page to select it, and then click the Add button.” One click on the icon and you’re shrunk!
2. Clear all formatting
What: I find it clears most formatting, restoring text to the default size and removing color, bolding, italics, line spacing, tabs, etc.
How: Highlight the text you want to wipe clean and press Control+Shift+N. Alternative: click on the little eraser in the Font section of the Home tab.
3. Insert screenshot
What: Lets you choose from all your open screens and insert a screenshot into your Word doc.
How: Insert tab > Screenshot. You can edit and crop the picture once it’s there, using Picture Tools Format.
4. Scrolling zoom
What: Instantly enlarges or ensmalls the view of your Word doc.
How: Hold down the Control key while you move the scrolling button on your mouse. Whee! (Works in your browser, too.)
5. Make Word speak
What: Provides text-to-speech in a surprisingly not-too-weird voice for any chunk of text you highlight.
How: Another dive into the Quick Access Toolbar will set this up for easy use: “At the top [left] of the Word window, click Customize Quick Access Toolbar (the small down arrow) and choose More Commands. Under Choose Commands From, click All Commands. Scroll down through the list of commands until you find Speak. Click Speak to select it, and then click the Add button. Click OK.” To use the feature, highlight a passage in your document and click your new speech-bubble icon in the toolbar. (In Office 365, there’s a “Read Aloud” button on the Review tab.)
What: Keeps track of up to twenty-four passages or images you copied and stores them in a list you can view as you work. When you need one of them later, just click on it. It will paste itself into your doc wherever the cursor is. (This is different from Word’s “spike” feature, which allows you to copy multiple images and paste the whole batch at once in the order you collected them.)
How: On the Home tab, click on the little arrow in the lower right corner of the Clipboard panel. It will open the Clipboard, where you can view the last item you copied. Go ahead and copy something else. (I’ll wait.) See? Now there are two items in the Clipboard panel! Click on one of them. Bob’s your uncle.
(NB: I haven’t figured out yet how long they stay there. I closed one doc and opened another and they were there; I exited Word and came back and they were still there. Today I opened the document on a different computer and the Clipboard panel was bare.)
7. Paste without formats
What: Strips the font, color, and other formatting from text that you’re grabbing and pasting. The text will land in the style of the destination text.
How: After you copy something, put your cursor where you want to paste it and right-click. You’ll see Paste Options. To paste without the formatting, choose the icon for Keep Text Only. (And check out the other options while you’re there!)
8. Autohide ribbon
What: Sometimes, Word’s big ribbon gets in the way. Autohide gives you choices for how the ribbon behaves, such as how much of it shows and how to make it come and go.
How: Click on the icon in the far upper right corner of Word just to the left of the Minimize icon to see the choices.
What: Places a prefab or custom watermark on every page of your document.
How: Design tab > Page Background > Watermark. To add your own text or image and choose a color or font, select Custom Watermark.
10. Remove background
What: Allows you to crop the background from an image, allowing text to flow around it however you choose.
How: This is best illustrated. Here’s a handy photo of the Chicago Manual sitting on a gray background.
Going to the Format tab and clicking Remove Background produces this:
The best part: text can wrap tight around the shape of the new image. You can even fine-tune the distance between image and text: right-click the image and choose Wrap Text > Edit Wrap Points, then drag the points around.
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Carol Saller is editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A and author of The Subversive Copy Editor, now in its 2nd edition. Editor’s Corner posts at Shop Talk are her own opinions and not necessarily those of The Chicago Manual of Style or the University of Chicago Press. You can also find Carol online at Twitter (@SubvCopyEd) and www.carolsaller.com.
Top illustration: Karen Arnold, Dog Using Laptop Computer, courtesy Creative Commons.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition