Software

10 Word defaults you can customize to work the way YOU want

Change a few key default settings in Word and you won't have to make the same tweaks over and over.

Word does a good job of assuming how the average user works, but some of Word's default settings can be annoying and inefficient. Some users don't know they can permanently change these settings, so they continue to reset them for each new document or just struggle along. Users should consider resetting the following defaults to work more productively. Of course, there are more defaults to set; feel free to share your suggestions in the discussion below.

1: Line spacing

The default line spacing setting in Word 2007 and 2010 is 1.15, not 1, as it is in 2003. Microsoft believes 1.15 is more readable online. If you're not generating Web content, adjust the style(s) you use in Word's template (Normal.dotx), as follows:

  1. Click the Home tab.
  2. Right-click Normal in the Styles Quick gallery and choose Modify.
  3. Choose Paragraph from the Format list.
  4. In the Spacing section, change the At setting from 1.15 to 1, as shown in Figure A.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Check the New Documents Based On This Template option.
  7. Click OK.

Figure A

This change will adjust all Word styles based on Normal, so be sure that's what you want.

2: Smart quotes

If you generate Web content or other published material, you probably have to undo Word's smart quotes in favor of straight quotes. You can do so quickly enough by pressing [Ctrl]+Z, but that becomes tedious after a while and you might forget. If you use straight quotes more than smart quotes, disable smart quotes as follows:

  1. Click the File menu and choose Options under Help. In Word 2007, click the Office button and click Word Options. In Word 2003, choose Auto Correct Options from the Tools menu and skip to step 4.
  2. Choose Proofing in the left pane.
  3. Click AutoCorrect Options in the AutoCorrect Options section.
  4. Click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.
  5. Deselect the Straight Quotes With Smart Quotes option in the Replace As You Type section, shown in Figure B.
  6. Click OK.

Figure B

Disable smart quotes for all new documents.

3: Paste special

Word's paste special feature retains the source formatting. If you're pasting from foreign sources, you probably reformat it once it's in your Word document. If you do this a lot, change the Paste Special default as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options.
  2. Select Advanced in the left pane.
  3. In the Cut, Copy, and Paste section, choose Use Destination Styles from the Pasting Between Documents When Style Definitions Conflict drop-down.
  4. Choose Keep Text Only from the Pasting From Other Programs drop-down, as shown in Figure C.
  5. Click OK.

Figure C

Several paste settings make this a flexible feature; choose the setting that's most efficient for you.
This feature is significantly different in Word 2003. From the Tools menu, choose Options, and click the Edit tab. In the Cut And Paste section, click the Settings button to display the options shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Figure D

Word 2003 is more specific, but it allows some control.

4: File location

Word saves your documents in My Documents. If you find yourself resetting the save location a lot, reset the default as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click the Word Options button. In Word 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu.
  2. Select Save in the left pane. In Word 2003, click the File Locations tab.
  3. Specify the new folder in the Default File Location field shown in Figure E. Or click Browse and locate it that way. In Word 2003, highlight the Documents item and click Modify. Use the Modify Location dialog to specify the new folder and click OK.
  4. Click OK.

Figure E

Word will save documents to the specified folder instead of My Documents.

5: Spacing between paragraphs

When you press [Enter], Word increases the line spacing to add a bit more white space between paragraphs. This extra space isn't the same as a blank line, so you can't delete it by pressing Backspace. To eliminate this extra spacing, do the following:

  1. Click the Home tab. In Word 2003, select Paragraph from the Format menu.
  2. Click the Paragraph group's dialog launcher (the small arrow in the lower-right corner). In Word 2003, click the Indents And Spacing tab.
  3. Check the Don't Add Space Between Paragraphs Of The Same Style option.
  4. Click Set As Default, as shown in Figure F. (Not available in Word 2003, but you can change this format for the current document.)
  5. Click OK.

Figure F

Eliminate the additional white space between paragraphs.

6: Mini toolbar

When you select text, Word displays the mini toolbar, which hosts several formatting options. Even though it's dimmed, it still annoys some users. You can press [Esc] to hide it or you can permanently disable it, as follows:

  1. Click the File menu and choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options.
  2. Choose General in the left pane (if necessary).
  3. In the User Interface Options section, uncheck the Show Mini Toolbar On Selection option, shown in Figure G.
  4. Click OK.

Figure G

Uncheck this option to disable the mini toolbar.

7: Drawing canvas

Word's drawing canvas is a distinct layer for drawing. Objects placed in a canvas have an absolute position and remain together as a group. Most users find the canvas layer difficult to work with and frankly, most users don't need it. If you're still using Word 2003, disable the canvas layer as follows:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Click the General tab.
  3. Uncheck Automatically Create Drawing Canvas When Inserting AutoShapes in the General Options section.
  4. Click OK.

Word 2007 and 2010 disables the canvas layer by default. If you happen to be working with the drawing canvas enabled, disable it as follows:

  1. Click the File menu and then choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options.
  2. In the left pane, choose Advanced.
  3. In the Editing section, uncheck the Automatically Create Drawing Canvas When Inserting AutoShapes option, shown in Figure H.
  4. Click OK.

Figure H

The drawing canvas is annoying enough that Microsoft finally disabled it by default in the Ribbon versions.

8: Normal.dotx

Word bases new documents on Normal.dotx, but the template's settings might not fit your needs. If you have just a few changes, customize Normal.dotx. A common customization is to change the font and size. To make the change at the template level, do the following:

  1. Open a new document and click the Home tab.
  2. Click the Font group's dialog launcher (the arrow in the bottom-right corner). In Word 2003, choose Font from the Format menu.
  3. Make the necessary font changes. For instance, you might choose Arial, 12.
  4. Before closing the dialog, click the Set As Default button. In Word 2003, click Default.
  5. In the resulting confirmation dialog, select the option to set the default for all documents based on the Normal template, as shown in Figure I.
  6. Click OK twice.

Figure I

Make a font change at the template level.

Other template customizations you might want to make include margins and styles. Use a custom template, rather than Normal.dotx, to meet requirements that are more complex.

9: Word selection

When you select part of a word and then part of the next, Word selects the whole word for you -- whether you meant to or not. To disable this selection option, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu.
  2. Choose Advanced in the left pane. In Word 2003, click the Edit tab.
  3. In the Editing Options section, deselect the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word option, as shown in Figure J.
  4. Click OK.

Figure J

Ridding yourself of this annoying selection behavior is easy.

10: Spelling, grammar, and formatting

Word identifies misspelled words, grammatical errors, and formatting inconsistencies, as you type:

  • A red line indicates a word not found in the dictionary (possibly misspelled).
  • A green line indicates a possible grammatical error.
  • A wavy blue line indicates an inconsistent format.

I recommend that you get used to the display and not disable these features -- they're a helpful indication that something might be wrong. On the other hand, if you find them distracting, you can disable them. To disable the red and green lines, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and then choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu.
  2. Select Proofing in the left pane. In Word 2003, click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  3. In the When Correcting Grammar and Spelling In Word section, uncheck the first three options: Check Spelling As You Type, Use Contextual Spelling, and Mark Grammar Errors As You Type, as shown in Figure K. (There's no contextual spelling option in Word 2003.)
  4. Click OK.

Figure K

You can disable Word's spelling and grammar indicators.

To rid documents of the wavy blue line, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and then choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu.
  2. Select Advanced in the left Pane. In Word 2003, click the Edit tab.
  3. In the Editing Options section, uncheck the Mark Formatting Inconsistencies option under Keep Track Of Formatting. In Word 2003, deselect the Mark Formatting Inconsistencies check box in the Editing Options section.
  4. Click OK.

Even the most competent users make an occasional error and these features identify potential problems. Adjusting to them will probably serve most users better than turning them off.

Other defaults?

What default settings do you change to get Word to work the way you want it to? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.

More on Word

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

56 comments
BobLevin
BobLevin

Okay, I have one thing with Word that I don't understand why it is doing. I opened the program and my previous documents opened in good fashion. Since Windows 8 no longer supports the Briefcase feature, I created a folder for shortcuts to documents that I use and work in often. Opened one Word document from that shortcut folder and it opened separately with an icon that is of the same type of Word document, but appears smaller and up in the top left corner of a the icon, as if stuck on a tiny page by comparison. Can send you a screenshot if you wish. It does not matter if I open the file directly from the primary document folder or the shortcut folder, both open separately. Would prefer everything open in one place if possible, but I can life with it if you don't think it's a problem??? Bob

BobLevin
BobLevin

Susan, I guess I've misidentified the a problem that I thought was being caused by the "spacing between paragraphs" box being unchecked that was previously causing an extra line spacing between line hard breaks. It is unchecked and working as intended for now. Maybe the program was corrupted and just acting crazy until I reinstalled it. Hope to stay in touch with you as a resource to help protect my communications from the jackals. Best wishes; Bob

BobLevin
BobLevin

Susan, I'm a former FBI Whistleblower and have had my electronic media and communications targeted since 2000 for an estimated loss to date of nearly 6k. 

This morning after a repair attempt failed, I uninstalled and reloaded Office Ultimate 2007 and am in Word 2007 using safe mode at this moment. My new office PC is using Windows 8.1 64 bit. When I opened the Word program, the first new blank document showed a check mark in the box to prevent unwanted, "5: Spacing between paragraphs", "Figure 7", but when I opened my master stationery document, the box was unchecked, which has been a recurring problem. 

I've done everything to try and keep the box checked and saved it as a default, but it seems my existing Word file documents are still demonstrating the recurring problem.

What could be causing that setting to not stay as I want it to? All help greatly appreciated. Am setting up my Outlook next, hope it won't start crashing again, and I might be responding from my smartphone for a time.

AKA Eggplant
AKA Eggplant

I'm a bit stuck as I have successfully changed the default save location to my F drive in word, excel etc but when I want to open a file it still defaults to the C drive My documents?  I have looked EVERYWHERE and can't figure out how to change the open file location?  Thanks for any help at all :-)

NurseNancyAK
NurseNancyAK

Question:  The mini tool bar on the left side of a window document that allows you to browse, search, find has several options to click on.  How can I remove one of them.  It defaults to "field" and I must have a hot-key stroke for that and I unintentionally hit the combination often while typing (medical transcription) and it shoots me all over the place. Is there a way to edit this little mini, vertical tool bar and remove the field option?

suroora
suroora

I use styles a lot but there's something in Word 2010 that's driving me nuts! Word tracks changes to styles and I can't turn it off. For example, I have a style Book Info, which is set to italics. I changed one word in the text to regular, and Word created a new style Book Info + Regular. In Word 2003, you could turn this off through Options, but I can't find a way to do it in Word 2010. Help!

rwbrick1
rwbrick1

I change some of the options, then in a few days or weeks my Word2000 changes them back.  Anybody know why Word does this and how to stop it?

Peter_Pan_7
Peter_Pan_7

@emmausdan : Hey man, maybe it is not explicit but the way to implement any of these tips under Word 2010 is always the first statement made by the author. So in your case, you mostly have to go to the File tab and look for relevant options. @shane van: have a look via Google and you will easily find two or three 2003 menus interfaces for Office 2007/2010 that are free or commercial alternatives. They install as a specific tab in the ribbon. Then you can manage 2007/2010 operations with 2003 menus options. Enjoy! Cheers from France

richard.east
richard.east

I cannoty agree more with Owen.. The number of mis-spelt mails I recieve is amazing... and there are too many people who do not seem to know, or care about the difference between their and there. I don't mind too much when the offending items come from abroad but when they originate from the UK or other Engish as a first language countries it makes me want to scream!!

emmausdan
emmausdan

None of these tips describe how they are done in Word 2010. Does TechRepublic think no one is using Word 2010?

shane van
shane van

How about tip number 1 - how to get rid of the ribbon control and go back to efficient menus and tool bars? My thoughts on this productivity bleeding technology are here: onsolution.com.au/blog/2012/hate-ribbon-control/ Yes the title is a bit of a give away.

jonc2011
jonc2011

There are many that could be added. Importantly imo, while modifying your file locations (tip 4), it is worth changing the locations where templates are stored to one which you regularly back up (eg, in your data partition). Also export your ribbon/quick access toolbar to a backup location, so you can reinstall it on a new hard-drive or computer. File/Options/Customize Ribbon/Import-Export/Export (or import) all customizations, Turn off Mini Toolbar and Live Preview File Options/General to get rid of these options which can get in the way when you try to edit. You can achieve the same as the mini toolbar by clicking right on a selection. Alzie - just print the article as a pdf with any one of a number of free or paid pdf printers. Or drag your pointer over the whole article and comments, copy to clipboard and paste into your word processor.

draack
draack

I am one of those people who really prefer to set my own defaults, as are most of you, so finding the intricacies of how Word will "let you" change things is helpful. Thanks! What I can't find, however, is a way to change the default tab stop to be .25" instead of .5". Yes, I realize I can set hard tab stops, but my prior experience tells me this is not necessarily relative to whatever the current margins are. Has anyone had experience with that?

Alzie
Alzie

This is a handy list, I'd appreciate a PDF version, possibly with some of the commentator's ideas added to it. Cheers

Owen Glendower
Owen Glendower

"Many of these, especially the line spacing default thing, have bugged me for years." Note that you can specify dimensions using typographic measures like picas and points. Specifically, line spacing in points allows finer control. In Word 2003, for example, even the "single" line spacing is a bit airy for some documents. If you're using 12-point type, try 13-point or 12-point line spacing. This can be especially handy for those documents which are just one or two lines too long. Just select all the type and set the line spacing.

LesNewsom
LesNewsom

Anyone who has been using Microsoft Office through the iterations since '95 should not find anything in this list extrememly helpful. If people are really wasting their time repeatedly making changes from the default settings, it is because they have never ventured into the menus to find these settings. It is not magic, it is just a program. And, like many other programs, you can modify some of the underlying basics to suit your needs...you just need to know that you can, then look for it instead of wasting your time changing the same thing everyday. This little article belongs in the "Word for Dummies" corner, not on TechRepublic. Now, if you want to share a script on how to change the red and green underlines for folks who are colorblind, THAT would be a great article.

bmwjason
bmwjason

I use "outline" mode/view a lot. I'd like the view to be longer/wider, I've never successfully found a way t do this. Any clues? Jason

paulroyer
paulroyer

I tried hint number one and it didn't hold across documents until I updated the Normal template. I'll bet that's true with all the hints.

bob.kowalczyk
bob.kowalczyk

Many of these, especially the line spacing default thing, have bugged me for years.

ken
ken

I'm using Office 2007 and tried to change the default font from Calibri to Arial as per Tip#8 and set it as Default. Yet it reverts to Calibri in the already open document and also when I open a new document. Any other settings I need to look for?

Labatryth
Labatryth

Word is awesome, but I often have to move between two word-processing formats for my mobile writing needs. Word has a lot of neat features but some things, like smart quotes, just make my job more difficult because I have to remove them later. They throw out some serious formatting trash if I paste Word's contents into a text document on my Mac. I know they serve to make the printout of stories and documents look better, but it's nice to know they can be turned off. As for Word's extra line-spacing, I actually find that useful, but strict professors and teachers might prefer 1.0. Overall this article has been very helpful to me, for there were some things it covered that I wasn't even sure Word was doing in the background. I always love reading the article here. Keep up the amazing work Susan!

jdavis
jdavis

One of the "features" I hate is Word automatically changing the style of the first line of a document to a heading. That is, when I type a single line at the beginning of a document then hit enter twice, the style of that first line automatically changes to a heading. This most often happens to me when composing an email. Does anyone know of a way to disable this?

Owen Glendower
Owen Glendower

"4. Grammar check and Spell check. USE THEM. Most documents and emails that I see do not pass the English legibility test, and many of those come from highly paid executives! It does not matter if English is your first or second language, most people fail the reading, riting, rithmatic test when it comes to grammar and spelling. 5. Refer point 4. I cannot stress this enough." Speaking as a former English teacher, editor, and tech writer, agree 100%...but TURN OFF the "as you type" option. CONCENTRATE ON YOUR WRITING. Run these functions AFTER you've composed your message.

jkennel
jkennel

If you desire Line Spacing to be turned off globally, meaning in every document hereafter, RIGHT CLICK on a paragraph and choose Paragraph from the shortcut menu. This will take you into the same dialog box as demonstrated in #1, but through a different door. Change the Line Spacing to SINGLE and click the DEFAULT button at the bottom. This Default button will make changes to the Normal.dotx template from which all blank, new documents are created. You may see the same Default button in the FONT dialog box. If you don't like the settings for font or size in the new 2010 versions, Right Click on the paragraph and choose FONT from the shortcut menu. Make any desired changes for permanent font look and choose Default. This will change the default in all new documents from now on. If you change your mind, this cannot be undone, but rather, make changes again and click the Default button again.

hafizadam
hafizadam

how about bulleting? sometimes Word automatically inert bullet whenever we put das or number in front of a paragraph.

viggenboy
viggenboy

How do I change the colour of the proofing underlines? The choice of red/green always annoys me and shows a complete lack of awareness of an issue that affects 10% of the male population to some extent

palfree
palfree

Several years ago I took the easy road with Word. Switched to Open Office. My hair is growing back now. Thanks, Oracle.

nholford
nholford

I use the Publish to Word feature of Powerpoint a lot to create lecture handout materials. But the default table font is too big (I'd prefer Ariel 8) and size of PPT objects in the table is too small (I'd prefer about 50% bigger with a smaller left hand column width). Can anyone suggest how to change the defaults for Publish to Word from Powerpoint

nick
nick

Nice to get confirmation that what I do is "recommended". I only missed out on one of those. Also. 1. Set your default paper size and margins. 2. Spend some time setting up your own Styles. (Title, headings, bullets - whatever you use). If you aren't using Styles you are not using Word efficiently. 3. Spell checker. For me override the default US spelling and make Australia home. 4. Grammar check and Spell check. USE THEM. Most documents and emails that I see do not pass the English legibility test, and many of those come from highly paid executives! It does not matter if English is your first or second language, most people fail the reading, riting, rithmatic test when it comes to grammar and spelling. 5. Refer point 4. I cannot stress this enough.

karlyoung
karlyoung

It's amazing how much time we waste repeating the same adjustments over and over again, normally because we "don't have time" to change them! Good list Susan, many thanks!

paul
paul

Has anyone found a way of ensuring that bullet points do not indent by default - and then with a nest bullet point it indents a specific space every time (I lik first level bullet points at the margin; second level 0.7 in and then multiples. Can#t set it up automatically - have to adjust every time

ssharkins
ssharkins

Instructions for Word 2003, where relevant and provided.

nick
nick

I claim prior rights to Owen. He commented on my comment. And I got all of your jokes. "recieve" 'i before e except after C, when the sound of the word is ee." "receive" "cannoty" ha ha - good one "do not seem to know, 'n'or care" Engish - chuckle "countries" when you meant country's. Pure gold.

SirWizard
SirWizard

You're assuming your fellow English writers spell better than in days of yore. No, they don't know the right way to write like a word-wright.

ssharkins
ssharkins

The instructions are for Word 2010. Instructions for Word 2007 and 2003 are included when significantly different.

wittmav
wittmav

Visit http://www.cutepdf.com/products/cutepdf/writer.asp and download the open source program Cute PDF writer (silly name; great little program). Install it and it will become an option under Printers. Click the article to generate a print out and then choose CutePDF as the printer. You'll generate a PDF of the page(s). I do this for all web pages I wish to print - and generally never really "print" them.

nick
nick

No problem. Copy and paste into word set the formatting. Save as PDF. You will have learnt another word feature also.

lshortt
lshortt

I've had Word since 2000, but rarely use it compared to Excel... even Access. Which is where I spend a LOT of time researching options and customizing. I find many articles like this very useful (or I don't OPEN them!). The font, margins & line spacing defaults have annoyed me forever... once a month, and when I'm busy. Here was a quick walk-through, all laid out for me. Done (x 2 laptops together). Awesome.

nick
nick

per Jodie's comment also click the "automatically update styles" check box after making the changes.

jody.burton
jody.burton

Right-click the Normal font on the Ribbon, then select modify. Change the font, point size, etc. Next, click the radio button at the bottom of that dialog box that says, "New documents based on this template." Click OK. I use Word 2010, but I think it should be the same for 2007.

nick
nick

I have never seen this. "type enter twice" - perhaps you need to change this habit and set your paragraph style to have space after the text rather than needing multiple carriage returns.

nick
nick

Nice to hear from you

jkennel
jkennel

This depends if you want to turn them off permanently or only for the current document. If you wish to disable this permanently, click on FILE / Options / Proofing / AutoCorrect Options. In this dialog box, choose the AutoFormat as You Type tab. Uncheck Bulleted lists from here. This will turn off automatic bullets globally and permanently. If Word makes bullets automatically and you only want to stop them for the time being, backspace when you know the bullet will begin and Word will stop making bullets at that specific spot in your document. Later on in your document, if you begin a list again, Word will, again, present a list.

jkennel
jkennel

On the REVIEW ribbon, there is an arrow on the TRACK CHANGES button. Under this, you can choose CHANGE TRACKING OPTIONS. This will allow you to change the colors, but just for that document. I don't see where this can be changed globally.

SirWizard
SirWizard

In Word 2003, open your default Normal.dot template and add or define List Bullet, List Bullet 2, and List Bullet 3 styles (those should be enough.) If you don't have a convenient toolbar button for accessing the styles, from the menu, click Format > Styles and Formatting as a starting point to access styles. You can set the bullet symbol and the amount of indentation for each level of bullet. Set the bullet format first, before bothering with any formats for the tab or paragraph indent. You set the tab and indents within the bullet dialog box, and the tab/paragraph formats will follow automatically. Depending on the font size and type, I usually set the first bullet level with no indent for the bullet and perhaps 0.35 indent for the text, then I set the second level bullet indented 0.35 and the text 0.7, third level 0.7 and 1.05. You can use different numbers such as 0.25 or 0.375 as your base indent, For Word 2007 or 2010, I'm sure there are similar style settings you can use for the Normal.dotx template, but I avoid the Ribbon like the plague that it is, so I can't give specific details where you set the styles.

SirWizard
SirWizard

It's a sing-song rule that almost works: I before E, except after C, Or when sounded as A, As in neighbor or weigh. But that doesn't really cover it if you seize weird leisure.

jkennel
jkennel

As in the original article, the author showed how to modify a style. Bullets are formatted by a style. In the Quick Style list, RIGH CLICK on LIST PARAGRAPH. Click on the Format button at the bottom of the dialog box and choose Paragraph. Change the indent from 0.5 to 0. If you click on the DEFAULT button at the bottom of the dialog box, it will change this setting in Normal.dotx for all documents here to come.