There are a number of ways to open a Word file. Use Open from the File menu, tab or Office button, click the Open icon, or even double-click an item in Windows Explorer to launch Word and the file. Then, there are the not-so-intuitive methods such as using the Most Recently Used list or opening a file from the Start menu.

Using Open, you can open several documents with one effort. First, open the Open dialog box by choosing Open from the File menu or tab (2010) or by clicking the Office button (in 2007). Once this dialog box is open, there are two ways to specify multiple files:

  • Adjacent files: To select contiguous files, click a file, hold down the [Shift] key, and then click a second file. Word will select both of the clicked files and all the files in-between.
  • Nonadjacent files: To select non-contiguous files, hold down [Ctrl] while clicking each file you want to open.

You can even use a combination of the two selection methods to specify both contiguous and non-contiguous blocks of files at the same time. For instance, to create the selection block shown below, you’d do the following:

  1. Click the file named 501.
  2. Hold down [Shift] and click 615.
  3. Release [Shift] and press [Ctrl].
  4. Click files 616 and 715.
  5. Click file 726.
  6. Press [Shift], but don’t release [Ctrl]–hold them both down.
  7. Click file 790.

Sometimes it’s easier to select all the files by selecting [Ctrl]+A and then remove just one or a few files from the group by holding down [Ctrl] and clicking the files you don’t want to open. In addition, you can use this multiple file selection technique to open multiple files from Windows Explorer.

This isn’t just a Word tip—this file opening trick works in most Office applications. I think most users are familiar with the techniques for selecting multiple items, but you might not realize that you can use it to open several files at the same time.