Improve Your Productivity with Microsoft Word

In January I introduced five tech resolutions for 2016. Among them was a resolution to make better use of software you already own. This month’s article is dedicated to helping you discover productivity tricks within Microsoft Word, a software tool I’m confident many readers use regularly.



When you think of Microsoft Word you likely regard it as a simple word processing application that you use to create basic letters and reports.  You might be surprised to learn that Microsoft Word has well over 1,000 built-in features awaiting your discovery.  Below you’ll be introduced to some of my favorite features and shortcuts that keep me productive.


Format Paint. As a marketing professional, I use Word every day to create custom outreach letters, design brochures, templates, and blog content. When designing, the format paint feature saves me a lot of time especially when I have a variety of text formats like headings, subtitles, and body text that I wish to keep consistent throughout my document. Maintaining format consistency can be tedious if you perform this task manually. Often users will write down the font name, font size, and font color then manually change each value per selection of text they want changed. With format paint you simply select a section of text that you’ve preformatted (such as a heading), click the format paint button, then select the word, sentence or body of text you want to match that format. Word will automatically apply all format details to your selection. You’ll find the format painter feature on the home tab of the ribbon. (If you have formats you use regularly, save them as default styles within your Style menu also available on the home tab of the ribbon. This will keep those commonly used format sets available to you every time you create a new document.)


Find and Replace. You know a great way to save time when creating documents is to reuse past files. This is handy when you have a standard form or letter that you use repeatedly, but this practice can lead to some embarrassing moments if you fail to update any key template information with customized data.  Often sales contracts are great documents to create from a template. You probably have documents like this already in use in your office. It’s likely you prefill your templates with generic data like “customer name” as a placeholder for areas in your contract where the customer name should go. You can use Word’s built in “find and replace” feature to locate all areas of your document that contain “customer name” and replace it with your customer’s actual name with just one action. The Find and Replace feature is found on the Home menu of the ribbon on the far right side under editing. Look for the down arrow next to the Find feature. Select Advanced, then in the menu that follows select Replace. Enter your template’s filler text in the “find what” field and your customer’s name in the “replace with” field. Select “replace all” and Word will do the rest. No more scrolling through documents looking for all the fields that require an update.


Compare Documents. Have you ever found yourself comparing two Word documents? Perhaps you printed one or both of them to aid in the task. With Word’s Compare feature (located on the review tab)   you can direct Word to display two documents side by side. Word will display the two documents next to each other at identical size enabling you to easily look back and forth between them. Turn on Synchronous Scrolling and navigate through both documents at the same the same pace.


Add-ins. The best way I find to stay productive is to minimize the amount of time I spend switching between applications. As a blogger I used to find myself switching back and forth between Word and a web browser to research, fact check and find images to add to my content. Merely opening a web browser would introduce distractions that negatively impacted my productivity. Have you ever opened a web browser for work and thought, “Since I’m here, I may as well check my social accounts?”  Guilty. This is why I use add-ins to keep me productive. My favorites are Wikipedia and Imagr. Wikipedia allows me to open a Wikipedia window in the right sidebar of my word document. I can select a word from the body of my text and the Wikipedia add-in will conduct a search and return relevant results to me without ever taking me away from my document. Imagr performs similarly but returns relevant images from Flickr that can I can use within my document. The Add-In Store is available on the Insert menu of the ribbon bar. The store offers a variety of add-ins to meet your specific needs.


This is just a very small sample of the array of tricks available in this powerful word processing application. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “there has to be a better way,” when it comes to a tedious or monotonous task you perform regularly within Microsoft Word, chances are good there is!

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