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How to assign a keyboard shortcut to blocks of content for easy input in Word

If you have several pre-defined blocks of content in Microsoft Word, you can avoid the busy Quick Parts gallery by assigning keyboard shortcuts.

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In the article How to add an automated signature to a Microsoft Word document, I showed you how to use Quick Parts in Word to insert a graphic of your signature. If you're not familiar with this feature, it lets you save reusable content—text, graphics, and formatting—so that you can insert these pieces into documents, saving a lot of time and eliminating typos.

Manually inserting a Quick Parts item, or block, via the interface is easy and quick but using a shortcut keystroke is sometimes easier. Assign shortcuts when you use an item often or if you use several frequently. In this article, I'll show you how to assign a keyboard shortcut to a Quick Parts item. This feature is part of the larger Building Blocks feature, so throughout this article, I will use the term block

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I'm using Microsoft 365, but you can use older versions. There's no demonstration file because you won't need one. Custom shortcuts aren't supported by the browser edition. 

How to add blocks of reusable content to Quick Parts in Word

If you already know how to create a block, you can probably skip this section, but you will need one in the next section. Let's use CBSi's address to illustrate how to add a block. First, enter the address and add a bit of formatting—make the company name bold, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

word-shortcut-a.jpg

  Enter the text and formatting.

Select all three lines of the address and continue as follows:

  1. Click the Insert tab and then click Quick Parts in the Text group.
  2. Choose Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.
  3. In the resulting dialog, Word will assign the first line in the selection as the item's name. When applying this to your own work, choose meaningful and short names. The other settings depend on your situation. For instance, you might save different addresses to different templates. For now, retain the default settings (Figure B).
  4. Click OK.

Figure B

word-shortcut-b.jpg

  Create the block. 

To insert the address, click Quick Parts in the Text group and choose the address item from the gallery, as shown in Figure C. That's only a couple of clicks, so why create a shortcut at all?

Figure C

word-shortcut-c.jpg

  Insert from the gallery.

In our simple example, the address thumbnail is at the top of the gallery. Once you decide you like this feature, you will add more. At some point, finding the exact thumbnail among the dozen or more items you have will slow you down. The second reason is, in all that thumbnail confusion, you might select the wrong one and not catch it. Now that we have the address block, let's assign a keyboard shortcut to avoid both potential pitfalls.

How to assign the shortcut

There are a lot of steps to assigning a keyboard shortcut, but it isn't difficult. Mostly, you're digging through the interface to find the options. If you have a lot of reusable content blocks, you'll find the effort worth it. First, let's pull up the Customize Keyboard dialog as follows:

  1. Click the File menu and choose Options from the left pane.
  2. In the resulting dialog, choose Customize Ribbon in the left pane, which will update the dialog.
  3. At the bottom of the left list, click Customize.

Now you're in the Customize Keyboard dialog, where you'll assign the shortcut as follows:

  1. In the Categories list to the left, select Building Blocks. It's at the bottom of the list. Remember, Quick Parts is part of the Building Blocks feature and if you review Figure B, you'll see that you saved the item to a building blocks file.
  2. Choosing Building Blocks updates the list to the right. The block you just added will be in that list. Find it and select it.
  3. Click inside the Press new shortcut key control and press the keys you want as your shortcut. As you can see in Figure D, I pressed Ctrl+Shift+a (a for address). If your shortcut is already in use, Word will warn you in the Current keys control (to the left). When this happens, you have to make a choice: overwrite the existing shortcut or try a different set of keys. We won't change the Normal.dotm setting in the Save changes in dropdown, but if you're working with templates, you can save the shortcut to a specific template file, which is helpful.
  4. Click Assign, Close and then OK.

Figure D

word-shortcut-d.jpg

  Enter the keys you want to use in the shortcut combination.

Anytime you want to enter the address, press Ctrl+Shift+a and bypass the interface. As I mentioned earlier, if you only have a few blocks to enter, using the shortcut isn't easier than the interface. Shortcuts are helpful when you have several or you prefer them over the interface—many users still prefer keyboard shortcuts over grabbing the mouse.

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