Style shortcuts leave formatting chores in the dust

Once your Word students have discovered the power and efficiency of Word styles, show them how to add speed to the mix by assigning shortcuts to frequently used styles.

When it comes to reformatting text quickly and consistently, nothing beats Word's style feature. Users can pull down the Style drop-down list and choose the style that includes the desired set of formats. Word will then instantly reformat the current paragraph. But when the Style list is full of entries and a document requires massive reformatting, this process can become tedious. So you might want to show your Word students how to fine-tune the feature to make it more efficient. By investing a few minutes up front, they can assign keyboard shortcuts to the styles they use most often. Then, they can apply necessary formats without slowing their typing. Let's run through the basic shortcut setup.
Word gives users a head start on style formatting by offering a number of prefab shortcuts. Your students may want to create a cheat sheet of these existing shortcuts to save time applying these basic styles:
Shortcut Applies this style
[Ctrl][Shift]N Normal
[Alt][Ctrl]1 Heading 1
[Alt][Ctrl]2 Heading 2
[Alt][Ctrl]3 Heading 3
[Ctrl][Shift]L List Bullet

Assigning a shortcut
You can assign a keyboard shortcut to a style via the Customize dialog box, but your students might find it more logical to handle the task within the Modify Style dialog box.
  • Begin by opening a document that includes a few styles (in addition to Word's default collection of Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and Normal, which already includes shortcuts).
  • Choose Style from the Format menu to display the Style dialog box, shown in Figure A.

Word will open this dialog box when you choose Style from the Format menu.

  • From the Styles list, select a style for your shortcut assignment and then click Modify.
  • When the Modify dialog box appears, click the Shortcut Key button, as we've done in Figure B.

Click the Shortcut Key button in the Modify Style dialog box to access these options.

  • Now, simply type the desired shortcut in the Press New Shortcut Key text box. As with other types of keyboard customization, Word will display a label indicating whether your shortcut is currently assigned. In Figure C, for example, we've entered the [Ctrl]B combination, so Word alerts us to the fact that the shortcut belongs to the Bold command. Your students can click Assign to override a current assignment, but that can lead to a certain amount of confusion. A better approach is to use a series of unassigned shortcuts for related tasks.

  • Word will let you know whether a shortcut is currently in use.

    • After you enter a shortcut in the Press New Shortcut Key text box, simply click Assign, then click Close.
    • Click OK to close the Modify Style dialog box, and then click Close to return to your document.

    We've skated right past the issue of templates in this basic discussion—in our scenario, Word will store the shortcut in the Normal template for global availability. But depending on the sophistication of your students, you may want to show them the Save Changes In drop-down list (in the Customize Keyboard dialog box) and explain that they can choose to save a shortcut in another active template or in the document itself.
    What other formatting shortcuts do you typically include in your Word training? Send us a note and let us know! To share your thoughts on this article, just post a comment below.


    Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

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