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Software

Five tips for making Word 2007 Building Blocks more useful

Building Blocks are the new AutoText... kinda. These tips will help you bridge that functionality gap.

One of the things I hate about Word 2007 is its Publisher-ization, with all those prefab design elements. Themes, Quick Parts, gallery after gallery of canned components. Yecchh. And having set myself against those features, I have churlishly avoided them.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite tools in earlier versions, AutoText, was co-opted by Word 2007's Building Blocks gallery. So I've had to wrestle that particular feature into submission just to recapture a little bit of AutoText convenience. Here are a few of the things I've discovered that make Building Blocks functionality more sensible.

1: Import your AutoText entries from Word 2003

The obvious first step, if you're coming from a Word 2003 environment and have a bunch of AutoText entries, is to import them into Word 2007. In a typical situation, those entries are stored in your Word 2003 Normal.dot template. To port them over, copy that Normal.dot file to the folder C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Document Building Blocks. (The path may be different depending on the system/installation. But you can find the folder by entering %appdata%\Microsoft\Document Building Blocks in the Run dialog box.)

Once you've copied Normal.dot into the Document Building Blocks folder, rename the file AutoText.dot. Word 2007 will load those entries into the Building Blocks gallery the next time you launch Word.

Note: If you did an in-place upgrade from 2003 to 2007, the installer will pull in your old Normal.dot template with a name like Normal11.dot. In that case, that's the file you'll want to move to the Documents Building Blocks folder and rename.

2: Put the AutoText button on the Quick Access Toolbar

You can insert one of your imported AutoText entries (or any other Building Block) by clicking Quick Parts in the Text group on the Insert tab, choosing Building Blocks Organizer, selecting the item, and clicking Insert. But for quicker access to your AutoText entries, it makes better sense to add a button to the Quick Access Toolbar:

  1. Click the Office button and click Word Options.
  2. Click Customize and choose Commands Not In The Ribbon from the Choose Commands From drop-down list.
  3. Select AutoText and click Add.

Once the button is on the Quick Access Toolbar, you can click it to open the AutoText gallery. If you want to insert the item in a particular spot, right-click on it. You'll get a shortcut menu with alternate locations, like the footer or the end of the document.

3: Forget the AutoText button; use [F3]

If you know the name of your AutoText entry, just click where you want to insert that element, type a space and the name, and hit [F3]. Just like the old days. But I did encounter a weirdness here: AutoText entries in earlier versions couldn't have spaces in their names. Building Block entries can. So when I typed ASAP 1 and pressed [F3] to insert a built-in Building Block watermark, Word inserted one of my AutoText entries that was named 1. (Stupid name, right? But the element was a custom-formatted text box containing the number 1, so it made sense at the time.) Just something to keep in mind.

4: Save time creating new entries

AutoText entries are the Swiss Army knife of insertion shortcuts — you can save anything — pieces of text, pages of text, tables, pictures, fields, AutoShapes — and instantly reproduce them by inserting them as needed. Building Blocks work pretty much the same way. Select whatever you want to turn into a Building Block and press [Alt][F3]. Word will open a dialog box with various options (such as Name, Category, and Description). If you want the item in your AutoText gallery, be sure you choose AutoText from the Gallery drop-down list.

5: Assign a shortcut to an item

If you frequently need to enter a certain AutoText entry, you may want to create a keyboard shortcut for it:

  1. Click the Office button and click Word Options | Customize.
  2. Next to Keyboard Shortcuts, click the Customize button.
  3. Scroll down the Categories list box and choose AutoText.
  4. Select the AutoText entry and type your shortcut in the Press New Shortcut Key text box.
  5. Click Assign | Close | OK.


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About

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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