Tips and Tricks – Microsoft Word Best of Automation and Time Savers

The most recent Afinety University Tips & Tricks webinar focused on Microsoft Word Automation tools. The Tips and Tricks webinar series is designed for attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants looking to increase their proficiency in Microsoft Word and other common law firm software programs. This series is led by Diana Baker, who has over 20 years of experience working in the legal field. Below, we’ve highlighted important tips and takeaways for increasing your efficiency using Automation tools.

Viewing Microsoft Word Documents

When viewing documents in Microsoft Word, especially lengthy documents, it can be helpful to have the option to view the different properties and styles associated with the specific text. There are a few features that can be helpful when viewing and working through a document.

One option is to work in Reveal Formatting. Reveal formatting allows users to view the current font and paragraph formatting. To access reveal formatting, hit “SHIFT + F1”. Once opened, select the text in the working document to see the properties of the specific, selected text.

Another recommendation is to turn on “Show/Hide”, which can be accessed on the Home ribbon under the Paragraph group. Working with Show/Hide turned on will display nonprinting characters like hard returns, line breaks, section breaks, tabs, spaces, hard hyphens, and hard spaces.

Users can also use the Navigation Pane to view their document based on either heading styles or page. To browse by headings or page, go to the View ribbon and check the Navigation Pane within the Show group. Then, either select “browse the heading” or “browse the pages” based on your preference.

The third option to view your document is to show the Style Area. The Style Area is a quick and easy way to see the specific styles associated with each paragraph. Before working in Style Area, the document must be in “Draft View”. To turn on “Draft View” go to the View ribbon and click on Draft.  Next, go to the File tab, Options, Advanced and under Display, specify a measurement in Style Area width, (such as .7). Once done, the style names will appear to the left of the paragraphs.

Creating Customizations

Some find it helpful to create a custom ribbon tab or customize the quick access toolbar to increase efficiency while working through their documents by having fast access to the unique tools they use most.

Users can create a custom ribbon tab by selecting specific commands to include. To do so, right click on the blank gray area to the right of the existing ribbons and choose Customize the Ribbon. On the right side of the panel, select New Tab, rename the tab, select OK. Later, there is always the option to add commands to this custom ribbon tab on the “customize ribbon” screen. Select commands from the “choose commands from”, hit add and then OK.

Users also have the option to customize the Quick Access Toolbar (“QAT”) by adding buttons. The QAT can be displayed above or below the ribbon. To display below the ribbon, select the drop-down arrow at the end of the QAT and choose “Show Below the Ribbon”. Displaying the QAT / below the ribbon may make it easier to view the full toolbar.

In addition to customizing the QAT and creating a custom ribbon tab, users can also customize shortcut keys. Customizing specific shortcut keys, unique to personal preference will improve efficiency in formatting a document. To begin assigning a shortcut key to a feature, click the File tab, Options, Customize Ribbon, and Keyboard shortcuts: Customize located at bottom of the Customize Ribbon dialog box.  From there, select the category of the feature from the categories list box and the commands for the category display in the commands box. Once the command is selected, place your cursor in the shortcut key text box and combine SHIFT, CTRL, ALT with other keys to make the shortcut key. Choose “Assign” and close out from the customize keyboard box.

Automating Word

Auto Text is a Microsoft Word feature which allows users to quickly insert selections of text into a document. This text is stored as an AutoText in a Word Template and can be inserted at any time into other documents. AutoText is often used to add boilerplate language in their documents, like discovery language, for example.

Before creating an AutoText entry, it is recommended to add the Auto Text button to the QAT. (see above) Once complete, begin creating an AutoText entry by typing the text or opening the document that contains the text to be used as AutoText. Again, make sure “show / hide” is turned on while working. Select this text and include the paragraph mark at the end of the text to include paragraph formatting. Click on the AutoText button and with the selected text, choose “Save Selection to Auto Text Gallery”. Choose a name for this auto text entry within the “Create New Building Block” dialog box.  A tip when naming these entries is to start with so that it is unique. In the “Create New Building Block” dialog box, choose the gallery and category this AutoText entry should be saved to. Now, this AutoText entry can be inserted to a document at any time!

To insert an AutoText entry into a current document, place your cursor in the spot where the AutoText entry should be inserted and type the unique name given to the Auto Text entry and press “enter” once the smart tag pops up.  Or, select the AutoText button from the QAT and locate the AutoText entry from the list.

AutoCorrect is another Microsoft Word feature that is similar to AutoText. AutoCorrect can be used to correct mistyped words or insert a word into a document, the typed text is automatically replaced with the AutoCorrect entry. AutoCorrect can be helpful when inserting a long firm name or client’s name and prevents any spelling errors.

First, select the word or phrase to create the AutoCorrect entry with and then choose File and then Options. From there, select Proofing and “AutoCorrect Options”. The AutoCorrect dialog box will open, and the selected text appears in the “with” text box. Type the text to replace in the “replace” box. Choose “OK” and the entry will be added to the AutoCorrect list.

Quick Parts / Building Blocks

Microsoft Word’s Quick Parts feature allows users to save selected text or graphics and place them into documents without having to retype, this includes AutoText and other document properties like author and fields. Once Quick Parts are created, they can be used again and again.

Building Blocks are a part of Quick Parts that are reusable document pieces like headers, borders, table of contents, title pages, and more. All of these are stored in “galleries.” To create a new building block, type and select all the contents to be included. From the Insert ribbon, within the Text group, select the Explore Quick Parts drop-down and click the Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery. Complete the options in the create new building block dialog box including Name, Category, Gallery, Description, Save in and Options. The Building Blocks Organizer can be used to preview and insert these building blocks into the document.

Microsoft Word has many valuable features and with these additional tips and tricks, users can increase efficiency and overall save time. For more tips and tricks recaps and on demand replays – check it out here!