Software

10+ lesser-known shortcuts for formatting Word text

Some common Word formatting tasks don't come with handy built-in toolbar buttons -- and that's when knowing a few shortcuts can be a real timesaver.

Your users probably have a few favorite keyboard shortcuts for formatting text - like Ctrl + B for applying boldface, Ctrl + I for applying italics, Ctrl + U for underlining, and maybe Ctrl + L to left-align text. But Word provides buttons for those tasks on the Formatting toolbar, so any efficiency gains are kind of a toss-up.

The real convenience lies in knowing some more obscure keyboard shortcuts - ones that have no default button equivalents and that can save users from having to scrounge around dialog boxes looking for the appropriate options. Here are some shortcuts that are especially good for users to have under their belt.

Note: This article originally appeared in our 10 Things blog.  A comprehensive list of 80 Word shortcuts is available as a PDF in the TechRepublic Downloads Library.

The shortcuts

Keystroke Function
Ctrl + Shift + D Double underline the selected text
Ctrl + ] Increase the size of selected text by 1 point
Ctrl + [ Decrease the size of selected text by 1 point
Ctrl + Shift + A Make selected text all caps
Ctrl + = Toggle subscripting for selected text
Ctrl + + Toggle superscripting for selected text
Ctrl + Shift + Q Apply Symbol font to selected text
Ctrl + Shift + N Apply Normal style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Alt + 1 Apply Heading 1 style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Alt + 2 Apply Heading 2 style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Alt + 3 Apply Heading 3 style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Shift + L Apply List Bullet style
Ctrl + 0 (zero) Apply or remove space above current paragraph

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.

48 comments
larsonjs
larsonjs

Some of the best tips I've seen on word in a long time. Thanks!

IvanIV
IvanIV

What a waste of damn time.

barb5749
barb5749

Was looking for how to change line spacing in Word 2007?

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

Excellent! I LOVE keyboard shortcuts ... anything to enable a user to keep from continually switching from keyboard to mouse is truly useful.

BizIntelligence
BizIntelligence

We can also increase/decrease the selected text size by following shortcuts Increase ---------- Ctrl + Shift + > Decrease ---------- Ctrl + Shift +

alclar2468
alclar2468

do not but custom ribbonizer or a competitor called ribbon customizer - junk.

jtorres
jtorres

I like the shortcuts and use them. there's a ton more in Word's help file. My question is, how does using lots of shortcuts contribute to formatting corruption in documents? I heard that it's better to only use styles.

heqoheleth
heqoheleth

Is there a shortcut for inserting leading dots/periods; i.e., an entry on the left side of a column, a page number on the right side, separated by a string of dots or periods? Ex. Health Care..............43

rhuston
rhuston

I love these shortcuts...great article. I wonder if there's a way to revert to the 'look and feel' of Office 2002 in Office 2007. Most of my old favorite menu bars are gone (in Office 2007) in favor of Microsoft's default new-version-paradigm: change it for the sake of changing it. I've spent countless hours of aggravation searching high and low for ways to do what I already knew how to do in Office 2002.

aavogadro6022e20
aavogadro6022e20

Thank you very much for these shortcuts. They are very useful. Also, for viewers reading this comment, read the other comments as they also have other useful key combinations not mentioned here.

ThomasBP
ThomasBP

Another practical thing is CTRL-Q for resetting any paragraph formatting back to that of the style, similarly CTRL-SPACE for resetting any character formatting back to that of the style. These come in handy when too many users have fiddled around with the formatting buttons and you need a document to have a consistent style...

suzanne.ogden
suzanne.ogden

Many of these are new to me - so thank you. Anyone have a shortcut to "recovering" control of the cursor? I think my rollerball is starting to fail because every now and then I lose control of the cursor. It drops to the taskbar, a weird symbol appears and I can't get control back unless I turn the computer off at the power switch. Of course, I've always got 3 or 4 windows open doing stuff and sometimes I lose the work when I have to shut down. Any ideas welcomed.

scratchbaker
scratchbaker

Shift+F3 toggles highlighted text between all lower case, Initial Cap, and ALL UPPER CASE. More versatile than CTRL+Shift+A. CTRL+Shift+Enter inserts a paragraph marker above and outside of a table at the top of a page. CTRL+Shift+Spacebar inserts a space between characters that will keep them together regardless of line breaks.

Nell_Smith
Nell_Smith

... This one comes all the way from Office 4.3 and still works in all versions of Word, although in my experience it's surprisingly little known. If you use tables a lot and find clicking+dragging and/or SHIFT+cursor keys to be an awkward way to select an entire table, with ALL of its necessary formatting but NO unwanted extraneous data, try simply placing the cursor anywhere within the table then pressing ALT+SHIFT+NUMPAD 5 (NOT the keyboard 5 - it won't work). Hey presto - entire table, with all its hidden formatting (even if you're not viewing it already) instantly highlighted! Hope this is useful. Cheers, Nell Smith

jmciuffini
jmciuffini

Thanks for the shortcuts! Most needed is a 'text fill' that fills text to the margin boundaries. Take a message that is no more than half the margin width and [insert shortcut here ] and the text is filled across the paragraph margins.

cfraser21
cfraser21

Try Ctrl+Shift+A to notice that it is nearly a toggle. IF you use it to capitalize a selection, you can later use it to return that selection to its original case. I prefer using Shift+F3. It changes case more intelligently - upper/lower/lower with proper caps.

JustDave
JustDave

For those of us who spend time in Word, "Thank you!"

howletrc
howletrc

..time that is damned should be wasted!

james.jackson
james.jackson

Why did the line spacing change in Word? Symptoms You might experience any of the following line spacing issues: Increased spacing between paragraphs. More space than expected between lines in a paragraph. Unexpected spacing on a page. Cause Microsoft Office Word 2007 introduces a newly designed default template for creating documents. The new template uses fonts that were designed with readability in mind. According to a blog that was active during Word 2007 development, "the new fonts used in Word are based on the ClearType technology that provides a crisper, more easily read display of the fonts on most modern monitors." Calibri is the new default font for body text, and "to complement the look of Calibri, Cambria was selected for use in headings." The default template for creating new documents in Word 2007 also uses "looser" line spacing and introduces extra space between paragraphs. The looser line spacing is actually only 15 percent greater than single spacing (it is not double spacing, or even 1.5 line spacing). Its purpose is to introduce more white space in blocks of text, which makes the text easier to read. Because many Word users press ENTER twice after every paragraph, the Word 2007 default settings build in that extra space. Customers need to press ENTER only one time to add space between paragraphs. 1.0 line spacing, no blank line between paragraphs 1.15 line spacing and a blank line between paragraphs Resolution Open the document that you want to look like a Word 2003 document. On the Home tab, in the Styles group, click Change Styles. Point to Style Set, and click Word 2003. On the Home tab, in the Styles group, click Change Styles. Point to Fonts and under Built-in, click Office Classic. If you want to create all documents with the Word 2003 style set and fonts, in the Styles group, click Change Styles, and then click Set as Default. All future documents will open with the Word 2003 default style set and fonts. Note If you want to use the updated Word 2007 formatting, switch to the Word 2007 style set and the Office font set. You can switch back to your custom default settings later by clicking Reset to Quick Styles from Template (in the Styles group, click Change Styles, point to Style Sets, and then click Reset to Quick Styles from Template).

david.hanshumaker
david.hanshumaker

There is a slight difference in what ctrl + ] and ctrl + shift + > do. As the tip says ctrl + ] increases the size 1 point, while the ctrl + shift + > will increase it to the next size shown if one were to click on the drop down arrow to select a font size. Thus, these increases are usually 2 points, but work up to 8, 12, an 24 points.

JodyGilbert
JodyGilbert

It's not the shortcuts that are the issue -- they're just applying manual formatting that you would otherwise apply through a dialog box. But the issue of applying manual formats (choosing a font and a point size, making it bold or italic, setting an indent, adjusting line spacing...) versus using styles is significant. Not so much a matter of formatting corruption (I'm not even sure what that might be!) -- but when you apply formatting using styles, you avoid problems with inconsistencies and can save yourself a TON of time. --Jody

candzgramma
candzgramma

Set your tabs with leading dots through the Format tabs function. Format, Tabs, set tab distance, i.e., 5.6" for a right side column, select tab leader ..., click okay. If you are not using styles, you can simply select the paragraph where you set the tabs, click on the paintbrush icon and select the next line of text to paint the formatting. Double click on the paintbrush to hold the formatting for several paragraphs or lines of text. Double-click will hold the formatting of the selected paragraph until you turn it off. You can also paste the formatting by using Ctrl-shift c to pick up the formatting and Ctrl-shift v to paste it. But your best bet is still to use a style to hold all the formatting for that type of paragraph, perhaps a TOC style tag? Susan Hill

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

You can only customize the 2007 menus by rewriting the XML that defines their look and feel. As I understand it. Just stay with 2003. Les.

wordsmart
wordsmart

And where would you put all the new features in Word and the rest of the Office suite? With previous versions of Word, I would spend days adding all my custom macros to each machine that I used for more than a day or two. Now things like Headings 1, 2 and 3 are right there in front of me. But I would like to remove all the buttons that I never use. Occasionally I do turn off the ribbon and use the Quick Access Toolbar, the buttons in which look like they did in previous versions. My only complaint there is that there aren't buttons for PhotoDraw, MapPoint, Visio, and SQL Server. I do like having the export to PDF button right there in front of me. David

alclar2468
alclar2468

www.addintools.com; select "Classic Menu for Office 2007." Trial is free; cost $30 - but worth it to save your sanity. Don't buy the custom ribbonizer from this site. Also, don't buy another product, ribbon customizer - it's a lot of grief.

jtorres
jtorres

We've had more than a year to learn to use it. But, if you must, do a search for "Office 2007 old menus". There's a ton of add-ins you can purchase to get the old look back.

vjanecky
vjanecky

If you go to www.mrexcel.com I believe there is a link to an add-in which would revert your Excel menu back to more of a "classic view" with the menu's we all know and love. I am yet to see anything for Word or any of the other Office applications.

Fairbs
Fairbs

If you can hold down the Alt key and press tab you should be able to 'tab' through your open applications. Then in the ap, hold down Alt and press f (for file). This should open the file menu. Then pressing one of the underlined letters should make that action happen. You can do most tasks w/o the mouse if you know the shortcuts. PS Buy a new mouse.

Ron_007
Ron_007

I'll be using that one a lot! Here are a few more: http://pubs.logicalexpressions.com/pub0009/LPMArticle.asp?ID=137 - This is the ULTIMATE MS Word (2003 and earlier) Shortcuts list. A Word table, 20 pages long that you can sort by column heading. http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/abstract.aspx?docid=269937&promo=110000 - 18 Word Table Tips (it doesn't include yours) http://downloads.techrepublic.com.com/abstract.aspx?docid=173989 - Word 2003 shortcuts, 2 page pdf with 80 common shortcuts (plus there are links to lots more tips at the bottom of the doc) http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/abstract.aspx?docid=254187&promo=100511 - 34 Mouse Tricks http://www.chriswoodman.co.uk/Shortcut%20Organizer.htm - Shortcut Organizer is a tool I haven't had a chance to try, it claims it does something that word forgot to do, collects all available shortcuts into one dialog. Have fun

Rick_from_BC
Rick_from_BC

Need a couple pages of text to play with, and hate Latin? in previous versions of Word, both Mac and PC, type the following on a new line and hit the [return] key: =rand() You get several paragraphs of "the quick brown fox ..." If you type "=rand(7,4) I think you get either 7 paragraphs of 4 sentences or 4 paras of 7 sentences. In Word 2007, you get repeating chunks of what looks like a Help document. Handy for trying out the shortcuts revealed here.

N4AOF
N4AOF

Hush.... We're not supposed to know that you can set most fonts to any size you like even if it isn't one of the choices MS decreed in the drop down menu. The lads in Redmond would go crazy if they thought customers were out here using 10.5 point Times New Roman with a line spacing of 0.95 and other interesting settings. If they ever find out, they will figure out some way to remove that functionality from the next version.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. for documents in a working environment is going to cost you a lot of time and you deserve a lot of grief from your colleagues. I cannot stress the efficiency of using styles over manual formatting. So styles have upfront costs, but once they are defined and in a template the savings are significant. My gripes about Office 2007 (and I think that I may have posted them here) are: - the Word ribbon puts both styles and manual formatting on the same tab. Why? I want one or the other, why would I want to use both? - typical MS inconsideration for their customers; in 2003 they had a style of type 'Paragraph'. It was slightly misnamed because it acted not just as a paragraph style, but also as a 'Character' style. In 2007 someone decided to 'fix' this. How? My solution would be to rename it to describe it as a 'Para/Char' style. Nope they fixed it, so that it no longer acts like a 'Character' style. So what does that mean when I import templates from 2003 into 2007 .. they no longer work. Genius!!! Once you get used to the ribbon interface it is actually quiet easy to use, BUT the fact that MS decided that you have to have it laid out the way they decided (because MS KNOWS what's best for everyone) I see no point in moving from 2003 to 2007. Any customization you did to make your life more efficient with 2003, will disappear. MS reasoning behind the 2007 UI is because customers were complaining that they found it difficult to locate features in 2003. The 2007 ribbon is supposed to make those features easier to find. Instead of 'fixing' the UI, what the customers should be taught is how to customize their office menus so as to put the features that they want in places where they expect to find them. The 'Tools->Customize' command should be the first that you use when you open an MS Office product. Go find the commands that are most useful to you and put them where you can easily find them. In Office 2007, MS did the opposite. They removed the 'Customize' option. Again, Genius!!! All IMMHO of course, Les.

jruby
jruby

I think heqoheleth was looking for a *shortcut*.

N4AOF
N4AOF

Occasionally I see someone who says they like Word 2007 because of the "new" features, but I always look to see if they say which "new" features they are so fond of. So far, every time someone brags about some "new" feature in Word 2007 it turns out that they are talking about a feature that was already available in Word 2003 and often available even earlier than that. David says he likes the "new" feature of being able to apply heading styles -- But heading styles (and any other style you can think of) were already available in Word 2003 (and I think earlier, but I know they were available in Word 2003). And, at least in the previous version you had a choice whether or not to have the styles taking up space on the toolbar, unlike 2007 that won't let you customize the interface to make the tools you use easier to get to.

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

With previous versions of Word, there was no need to "spend days" adding custom macros to new machines. They were stored in Normal.dot. All you had to do, and all I do do (not to be confused w/ do-do), is keep Normal.dot w/ your data so it gets backed up regularly, and "point" Word to it via Tools -> Options - File Locations. Make a copy of it on a flash drive. Then, whenever you work on another machine for any length of time, copy Normal.dot to that system and point Word to it again. Voila! Not only your macros, but your custom toolbars are instantly accessible. Accomplishing the same thing in Excel was not as easy, but still doable without "spending days". It is that functionality that I fear may have been lost in Office 2007, so I won't be upgrading.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

buys the latest and greatest version as soon as it comes out. Our agency just switched a couple months ago.

vjanecky
vjanecky

Forgot to mention that there is a price for that add-in. I want to say its like $20.

Ron_007
Ron_007

Word 2007 added another secret random text generator: =lorem() which generates the following pseudo latin text: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Maecenas porttitor congue massa. Fusce posuere, magna sed pulvinar ultricies, purus lectus malesuada libero, sit amet commodo magna eros quis urna. Nunc viverra imperdiet enim. Fusce est. Vivamus a tellus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Proin pharetra nonummy pede. Mauris et orci.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

But as usual, MS releases a product with enhancements, but still retains all the bugs from the previous version. What I find most embarrassing for MS, is that only a select few of the MS Office products carry the ribbon menu. Outlook for example does not appear to be any different to 2003 version. Same with Project and Visio. Why would I shell out $ for a product that I already appear to own? Les.

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

... as to your gripes, except that I see no reason to use 2003, since there I found that MS, in it's infinite "wisdom", decided to split the Help system into TWO windows, one of which can not be minimized, only resized or docked, which means its always either in the way or decreasing your work space. Has Office 2007 added any truly useful features, like being able to record macros in ALL of its programs, including Access and Outlook? or incorporating customization (macros & toolbars) for ALL of its programs into a single, portable file, like Normal.dot? When that happens, I may be inclined to upgrade. Until then, I'm sticking w/ Office 2000.

draack
draack

Please don't anyone flame me, but those kinds of things are precisely why I soooo miss WordPerfect. It worked the way *I* wanted to work, instead of *me* working the way I was *allowed* to work. Plus I could troubleshoot a document down to the code level. I really do miss it!

jruby
jruby

That toggles the ribbons on and off. This doesn't restore the familiar menus, but it does get the screen real estate back. Jim

mwb78
mwb78

In any of the programs you can always minimize the ribbon. The tool to do that is found in a few different places, such as the drop-down menu at the end of the Quick Access Toolbar. But the easiest way for me is to double-click any tab on the Ribbon. When the Ribbon is minimized, you see only the tab names. This ends up looking just like an old command menu. And you regain the screen space occupied by the Ribbon. To use the tools on the Ribbon, simply click a tab name and that Ribbon expands. Choose your tool and the Ribbon minimizes again when you're done. If you decide you no longer want the Ribbon minimized, simply double-click a tab again or reverse the customize selection on the Quick Access Toolbar.

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