10 things I can never find in Word 2007

If you're not a big fan of the Word 2007 interface, you've come to the right place. Jody Gilbert ferrets out some of the features that used to be at your fingertips.

Have you warmed up to the Office 2007 interface by now? Me neither. I've tried to embrace the changes. I have. But the Ribbon still seems like a trip to Bizarro World.

I rely heavily on the long-standing keyboard shortcuts, which are my lifeline to familiar dialog boxes. But I still spend a lot of time wandering around searching for the tools to perform what used to be instantaneous actions in earlier versions. If you're in that boat, too, maybe this list will save you a little time.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF cheat sheet.

1: Apply a different template to a document

I get tons of Word documents that people have created using their own custom templates. I have to apply our Normal template to those docs to make sure they include our in-house styles. And where do you suppose the necessary options are for this formatting task? The Developer tab... of course!

  1. Click the Document Template button in the Templates group of the Developer tab. This will open the Templates And Add-Ins dialog box.
  2. Click Attach to open the Attach Template dialog box, where you can locate and select the template you want.
  3. Click Open to return to the Templates And Add-Ins dialog box. Select Automatically Update Document Styles (optionally) and click OK.

2: Convert text to a table and vice versa

Once upon a time, table options were consolidated on the Table menu. Now, the option to convert text to a table is on one tab; the option to convert a table to text is on another.

To convert text to a table:

  1. Select the text and click the Insert tab.
  2. In the Tables group, click the Table button and choose Convert Text To Table from the drop-down list.
  3. In the Convert Text To Table dialog box, choose the desired options and click OK.

To convert all or part of a table to text:

  1. Select the table or table rows you want to convert.
  2. Click the Layout tab under Table Tools and click Convert To Text in the Data group (Figure A).
  3. In the Convert Table To Text dialog box, select the desired options and click OK.

Figure A

3: Set AutoFormat and AutoCorrect options

AutoFormat can be useful, whether you run it on a finished document to polish things up or you use it to fix things (such as fractions and hyperlinks) as you type them. But those are options you definitely want to configure yourself so there are no surprises. The same goes for AutoCorrect. Setting up these features the way you want requires a trip to the Word Options pane:

  1. Click the Office button and click Word Options.
  2. In the left pane of the Word Options window, click Proofing and then click AutoCorrect Options in the right pane.
  3. In the AutoCorrect dialog box (Figure B), click on the tab whose options you want to set — AutoFormat, AutoFormat As You Type, or AutoCorrect. Then, select the desired check boxes and click OK.

Figure B

4: Insert a comment

If you've used Word's Ribbon for a while, you may have developed the habit of going to the Insert tab for its weirdly diverse assortment of insertable things — cover pages, equations, hyperlinks, cross-references. So you might think there's an option there for inserting a comment. Nope. Different tab. Here's how to add a comment to a document:

  1. Click the Review tab.
  2. In the Comments group, click New Comment.

5: Insert a field

This might be the winner in the contest for the most insanely obscure and counterintuitive Word 2007 feature. Yes, you insert fields via the Insert tab. Whew. But you could spend an entire workday wandering among the groups trying to find some clue that points you to the Field dialog box. For some reason, fields are lumped in with Building Blocks:

Click the Quick Parts button in the Text group of the Insert tab.

At the bottom of the drop-down list, you'll see the Field command. Choose it to open the Field dialog box (Figure C). Now you can specify the desired field and its options just as you did in earlier versions.

Figure C

6: Draw a text box

When you want to insert a plain text box, there's no Drawing toolbar button to click and drag. The button lives in the Shapes palette and appears as an option on the Text Box drop-down list. First, you need to click the Insert tab. Then, you can use one of these approaches:

  1. Click Shapes in the Illustrations group to display the Shapes palette (Figure D). You may spot the Text Box button in your Recently Used Shape section. If not, it's the first item under Basic Shapes.
  2. You can also click the Text Box button in the Text group of the Insert tab and choose Draw Text Box from the drop-down list. Word will turn the mouse pointer into a drawing pointer.
  3. Another alternative exists if you select a text box that's already in your document. If you click Format under Text Box Tools, Word will display a Text Box button in the Text group, at left end of the Ribbon.

Figure D

7: Access document properties

Document properties are bits of metadata that can help you organize and find various documents. Adding details like a category, summary, and keywords can save you and your colleagues a lot of time down the road, but locating the Properties dialog box takes some digging:

  1. Click the Office button and choose Prepare (Figure E).
  2. Word will then display the Document Information Panel with fields for some basic properties, such as Title, Subject, Status, and Comments.
  3. Click the Document Properties drop-down arrow and choose Advanced Properties to open the familiar Document Properties dialog box with additional options.

Figure E

8: Insert a section break

You can insert a page break using the button in the Pages group of the Insert tab. But if you want a section break, you have to go to the Page Layout tab:

  1. In the Page Setup group of the Page Layout tab, click the Breaks button (Figure F).
  2. Choose the type of break you want from the list of options.

Figure F

9: Turn off Snap To Grid

When you need to move objects around in a document, Snap To Grid can be great for lining things up. But I'm generally happier positioning things where I want, without grid constraints. You can temporarily override Snap To Grid by holding down [Alt] while you drag an object into place. But that gets old if you do a lot of dragging.

Word still offers a Snap To Grid check box so you can toggle the behavior off if you want. But the option is now tucked away — and it's not even available unless you have an object selected. Here's how to find it:

  1. Click on an object or shape in your document.
  2. Click the Format tab under Drawing Tools.
  3. In the Arrange Group, click Align and choose Grid Options from the drop-down list.
  4. Under Show Grid, deselect Snap Objects To Grid When The Gridlines Are Not Displayed (Figure G) and click OK.

Figure G

10: Change case

Word's Change Case feature has long been one of its handiest devices. It's not smart enough to apply true title case (where articles and prepositions are left uncapitalized), but it will still save you a significant amount of time. If you're a keyboard shortcut person, you can still use [Shift][F3] to toggle selected text from one style of capitalization to the next. But to select an option from a list, you'll need to locate the right button:

  1. In the Home tab, click the Change Case button in the Font group. Word will display what's billed as a Change Case "gallery" (Figure H), although it doesn't give you a live preview of your selection as other galleries do.
  2. The options are identical to the ones in earlier versions, except that we now have the more honest and accurate Capitalize Each Word instead of Title Case. Same thing. As soon as you choose an option, Word will apply the change.

Figure H

Additional resources

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that you can add some of this stuff to the Quick Access Toolbar. In addition, Microsoft and other vendors offer various tools to help make the Word 2007 interface more tolerable if you're attached to earlier versions.

I was somewhat awestruck when Microsoft Office Labs turned the process of learning to use the Office 2007/2010 Ribbon tools into a game. I'm inclined to think that if users need that kind of cajoling, the interface might be the Emperor's New Clothes. But maybe that's just me being cranky.

Here are some tools you or your users might find helpful:

What drives you crazy?

Are there certain features that routinely trip you up in Word 2007? Are you forever searching for options you used to know by heart in earlier versions? Share your biggest peeves 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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