Like most writers and editors I know, I work in Microsoft Word most of the time. And like most writers and editors I know, I have a love/hate relationship with the capital W Word program.
But today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to focus on the love side. So here are five tricks and tips that I love about Microsoft Word 2011, which is the version I use most often. If you know your Word, you will recognize that 2011 means I’m using a Mac, and some of the commands and functions work in slightly different ways than they do in PCs.
I’m not a computer whiz by any means, and I figure if I know about a trick or a technique, then everyone must know about it. But I’ve been surprised recently to discover that isn’t always the case. So, just in case my Word-loves might be unfamiliar to someone else, I’ll try to describe the path I’ve taken to get to me there. As we know, the path to true love isn’t always straight, and often multiple roads lead to the same place, but I’m just going to point out how I located my own heart’s desire.
1. I love what I call the “Show Me” function. I keep this turned on virtually all the time so that I can “see” spaces and other nonprinting characters, such as paragraph marks. Definitely helpful to tell if there are too few or too many spaces between words or sentences or to see how a stray tab mark might be causing weird spacing in a line. Easiest way to get to this function is to press Command 8, which will toggle the nonprinting characters in and out of view. But you also need to look at Preferences/View/Nonprinting Characters, where you will find boxes you can check or uncheck to let you know which nonprinting characters will show up.
2. I love the Zoom feature. My aging, often tired eyes thank me for not being too proud to zoom up to 200% or more when I need it. I keep the Zoom function on my toolbar, so I can reach it quickly and easily at any time. Go to the View menu and select Toolbar/Standard; the Zoom feature will appear on your menu bar. There is also a Zoom slider button in the bottom right corner, but I find this a little harder to control.
3. I love the AutoCorrect function. Go to the Tools menu and skip to the bottom of that drop-down box to bring up AutoCorrect options. This is where Word keeps track of its own sometimes quirky auto-corrections—such as replacing accidant with accident as you type. You can control those options here and also make up your own. I often use this function to make it easy to add in coding or odd phrases I need for a particular document. So if I’m working for a publisher who wants me to code all subheads with <H1>, then I will add an autocorrect so that I can type some easy key combination such as hhh1 and have Word convert that to <H1> for me with a click of the spacebar. My favorite autocorrect I’ve created: “eieio” gets me “emphasis in original.” Very handy.
4. I love the Edit Undo command. This is generally preset as a keyboard command: Command Z. If I accidentally erase a word or phrase, add in commas I decide I don’t need, or perform any function I change my mind about, I can hit Command Z and my last action will disappear. Poof. Like magic. I wish I had a Command Z for my whole life.
5. I love the View All Placeholders command. This one was harder to find and even harder to remember, but it allows me to temporarily disable hyperlinks so that I don’t get thrown out of my Word document and onto the Internet every time my cursor gets close to an embedded URL. Finally figuring out how to easily control this feature was like discovering one last chocolate hidden among the empty wrappers in the box. Go to View/Toolbars/Customize Toolbars and Menus. From there, choose the Commands menu. Back to View on the left, then scroll down to find the View Field Codes; now you can either drag that little icon to your toolbar or give it a keyboard command. When you click on the icon or use the keyboard command, the hyperlinks in your document will show up as field codes and you won’t automatically be dragged out of your work; click again and the hyperlink becomes active. This function also works if you have internal links, such as to a Table of Contents.
Loving Word is not always easy; it takes hard work and determination to make this relationship work. It’s usually easier to complain about its foibles and mysteries than to stand back and appreciate the way it can save me time and help me with tedious tasks. But today, Word, I salute you: Happy Valentine’s Day!