By default, Word’s formatting codes aren’t visible while you work, and most of us like it that way. When you need to see the codes, choose Options from the Tools menu and click the View tab (the default). In the Formatting Marks section, tick off the appropriate option(s): Tab Characters, Spaces, Paragraph Marks, Hidden Text, Optional Hyphens, and All. Displaying codes is helpful when the layout you’re attempting just isn’t working. You find and delete an inappropriate code and the document takes shape — usually.

Regular formats, such as font, margins, alignment, and so on, are all over the place. Some formats belong to the text, others the paragraph, and still others, the entire document. You can view them in the appropriate format dialog box by choosing the appropriate command from the Format menu.

Sometimes that route takes several clicks and boxes. The setup is inefficient if you want to view or change several formats at the same time. A quicker way is to press Shift+F1 or choose Reveal Formatting from the Format menu. Doing so opens the Reveal Formatting task pane. Make changes via the task pane:

  • Click the blue underlined options to display its corresponding dialog box.
  • Assign surrounding formats to selected text by choosing Apply Formatting Of Surrounding Text from the Selected Text control’s drop-down list (at the top of the pane). This is simpler than using the Format Painter, if the task pane’s already open.
  • In the Options section at the bottom of the pane, click the Show All Formatting Marks to enable or disable formatting codes with a quick click.

Thanks to John Bartow for this great tip. Everything’s right there, just a click away—puts an end to layers of menus and dialog boxes. I can easily see myself working with this task pane open a lot.

This feature seems to be obsolete in Word 2007 because all the formatting options are available via the Ribbon in the Home group.