Two tricks for instant access to Word documents

Tech support often seems to be mostly a matter of solving problems and saving users from themselves and their inexplicable actions. But sometimes, you get to play the hero and share some tips that boost user productivity and win you a few points. These two Word tricks fall into that category. Easy to explain. Instant gratification.

Creating a document shortcut

Document shortcuts offer users a fast way to open a document and jump straight to a specified location. To create a document shortcut, follow these steps:

  1. Highlight some text to serve as a target in the document and click the Copy button.
  2. Minimize the Word window or drag it out of the way so you can see the Windows desktop, right-click on the desktop, and choose Paste Shortcut (Figure A). You'll probably want to change the default shortcut name (Figure B) to something more meaningful.
  3. Close the document, clicking Yes to save your changes. When you double-click on the desktop shortcut, Word will open the associated document, navigate to your target text, and select it.

Figure A

Figure B

Incidentally, if you're worried that your users might move or rename a document and "break" their shortcuts, don't be: Word bookmarks the target text so the shortcut will work even with a name change or relocation -- as long as the document stays on the same drive.

Adding a Work menu

One of the oldest -- and most obscure -- features supported by Word is the Work menu. Hidden in the Customize dialog box until you drag it out of there and put it on a toolbar or the menu bar, the Work menu is basically a Word-specific "Favorites" list that holds as many as nine document shortcuts. It's a handy place for users to store documents that require fairly regular access. To put the Work menu in place, follow these steps:

  1. Choose View | Toolbars | Customize.
  2. Select the Commands tab, scroll to the bottom of the Categories list box, and choose Built-in Menus.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Commands list box and select Work (Figure C).
  4. Drag the Work item to a convenient spot on a toolbar or onto the menu bar and drop it there. Click Close.

Figure C

When you pull down the Work menu, you'll see one item: Add To Work Menu. To place the current document on the list, just choose this command. Word will add the document below any others listed. Because real estate is limited, if you add a 10th item, Word will boot the first document you added off the bottom of the menu.

Unlike with the previous tip, the documents have to remain in their original location (and with the same name); changing either will break the shortcut. Here's a bonus tip you may or may not want your users to know about: If they want to remove a document from their Work menu, they can press Ctrl+Alt and hyphen. The pointer will change to a minus sign, and they can use it to pull down the menu and select the item they want to get rid of. BUT: This shortcut will remove any command from any menu, so it needs to be used with some care.

Word 2007

I've been scouring the Word 2007 interface, help files, and online information sources, but to no avail: There appears to be no analogue for the Work menu in Word 2007. I can suggest a couple of fairly lame workarounds, but neither offers the simplicity or convenience of the Work menu.

Lame workaround #1: Use the Pin icon on the Recent Document list (which appears on the right side of the Office menu) to pin a document to that list. You'll want to set the number of displayed documents sufficiently high to accommodate any pinned items as well as provide a decent number of slots for plain old recently opened documents. To set that number, choose Word Options from the Office menu, click Advanced, and go to the Display section. You can enter a value up to 50, depending on how many documents you want to see on the list.

Unfortunately, pinning documents doesn't pin them in a fixed place on the list. New recently viewed docs will appear at the top, bumping your pinned items down. On the other hand, once they get displaced all the way to the bottom, they'll stay there. I'll probably open my key documents in succession and pin them to the list so that they're consolidated, then let them get jostled to the bottom so that at least they're all in one spot.

Lame workaround #2: Record or write a macro that opens a document you want to have accessible -- one you would have put on the Work menu. You can then place a button that runs that macro on the Quick Access Toolbar. You'll need to create macros and buttons for all the documents you want to have handy. Pretty clunky.

There has to be a better way, perhaps via some bit of programmatic cleverness or one of the proliferating add-ons designed to expand Office 2007 customization options. (See Bill Coan's excellent review of two of these products on the Word MVP site.)

If you have a better solution, please share it here.