5 easy Word tips that every user should know

Susan Harkins shares five easy-to-implement tips that will simplify your Microsoft Word tasks.

Even new users catch on to Word's easy-to-use interface and can start entering and formatting text quickly. As you learn, you'll stumble upon shortcuts that make your daily work even easier. Here are five tips that I use frequently when working in Word. None of these tips are new, which is why I'm always surprised to hear a user exclaim that they're unfamiliar -- they are so much a part of my Word sense that I forget that others might not know about them.

1. Highlight a sentence with one quick click

Sometimes you need to edit an entire sentence -- you might want to move it or apply formatting. Regardless of why you need to, you want the process to be easy and simple. Clicking and dragging to highlight the sentence can be awkward, but there's a simple way to select an entire sentence. Hold down the [Ctrl] key and click any word in the sentence, and Word will respond by selecting the entire sentence for you! Similarly, if you want to select an entire paragraph, click anywhere in the paragraph three times. If you double-click without engaging the [Ctrl] key, Word selects the clicked word. And here's one last quick selection tip: to select a single line, move the mouse into the left margin until it turns into a large arrow. Then, click to the left of the line. Figure A shows the result of using this method.

Figure A

Figure A
Select a single line of text by clicking in the left margin.

2. Enter text anywhere

If you've tried to enter text in the center of a blank page, you've probably been a bit frustrated. All the head scratching in the world won't help! You can click a blank spot, but Word won't let you enter text. When this happens, you might resort to returning to the top of the blank page and pressing Enter several times to move down the page. That works, but it's unnecessary. All you have to do is double-click a spot, and then Word will let you enter text. I admit, it's a bit obscure and not terribly intuitive, but one double-click is all it takes. Word will automatically insert all the necessary hard returns and tabs for you.

3. Change case

You can specify case while you're typing, but you can also easily change case after the fact. There are two ways -- either way, you'll need to select the text you want to change first. Then, click the Change Case option in the Font group (on the Home tab), and choose from one of the options shown in Figure B. However, there's a quicker way: if you want to bypass the ribbon, select the text and press [Shift]+[F3] to cycle through proper, upper, and lower, in that order.

Figure B

Figure B
Change case for the selected text.

4. Quickly change formatting or styles

Changing a document's formatting or style can be an exercise in patience. It's tedious work, and you might miss something! Instead of working your way through the document manually, use Word's Replace feature to make those changes for you. It's not any more difficult to implement than the first three tips -- you just have to know the right options. For example, you might use Replace to change all the italicized to bold, as follows:

  1. Select the text you want to change. You can select a single sentence, a paragraph, a block of paragraphs, or even the entire document.
  2. Click Replace in the Editing group (on the Home tab).
  3. Click inside the Find What control (don't skip this step).
  4. Click More (if necessary) to access the Search Options.
  5. Then, click the Format drop-down and choose Font.
  6. Next, indicate the Format you want to change. In this case, you'd select Italics (Figure C) and click OK.
    Figure C
    Figure C
  7. Word will display the selected format under the Find What control (Figure D).
    Figure D
    Figure D
  8. Next, click inside the Replace With control (don't skip this step).
  9. From the Format drop-down, click Font.
  10. Choose the formatting you want to change the italicized text to -- in this case, you'd select Bold and then click OK. Similarly to the Italic format in step 4, Word will display the Bold format under the Replace With control.
  11. Now, you're ready to click Replace Next or Replace All.

If you want to replace a style, use the same instructions, but instead of clicking Font in steps 5 and 8, choose Style. When you do, Word will display the Find Style dialog so you can specify the style you're replacing and the new style. If this technique doesn't work for you, revisit steps 3 and 7; you must click inside those controls before selecting the existing and new font formats.

5. Retrace your editing steps

Whether you edit while entering text or after you've already entered pages worth, you can appreciate this last tip: press [Shift]+[F5] to cycle through your previous edits. This shortcut will even remember your last edit when you reopen a document (if you saved that edit). Simply open the document, press [Shift]+[F5] and Word will move the cursor to the last edit you saved before editing the document. This shortcut is (sometimes) a good way to quickly return to where you left off working -- but remember, it isn't quite the same thing. Your last saved edit might be several paragraphs or even pages away from where you were last working. Fortunately, Word 2013's new Resume Reading feature (also available in PowerPoint 2013) makes this unpredictable use unnecessary.

Word refers to this functionality as the Go Back command. Don't confuse it with Word's Undo command -- [Ctrl]+[Z] -- as they're not the same thing. Word's Go Back feature remembers the last four edits, while the Undo feature is limited only by memory. They don't perform similarly either. Go Back moves the cursor to the previous edit, while Undo actually makes changes to your document by reversing what you've done.

What other common tips do you recommend for Microsoft Word? Share your favorite in the discussion thread below.