MS Word hacks: 6 ways to supercharge this everyday tool

Most teachers remain unaware of the true power of Microsoft Word. Grainne Hallahan offers up six ways to improve your document-creating skills

computer

From spaghetti measuring holes on pasta scoops, to rotating the ring pull round on a can of drink to hold your straw – there are loads of everyday items we fail to get the most out of because we’re unaware of their full functionality.

And just as it is true for the overlooked holes designed to rest spoons on saucepans, so is it also true for poor misunderstood Microsoft Word. The chances are that you’ve not realised the full genius of this humble computer program – but that’s about to change.

Here are my six top hacks:

1. Converting PDFs

If you have a PDF that you’d like to convert to a Word doc, then this trick I learned on Twitter from Amy Forrester that will come to your rescue.

 


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2. Avoid weird re-formatting

When you have a Word document that you want to continue working on, opening it up in different versions of Word when you move from different computers can result in the document reformatting and your text boxes moving all over the place. 

So often you’ll email a Word document with the caveat that it might look different on their version of Microsoft Office.

Get around this problem by using Google Docs and sending a link allowing them to either view, comment, or edit. Strictly speaking, Google Docs and Word are two different programs, but you can open all Word documents in Google Docs. 

3. Personalise autocorrect

Because I never, ever meant to write ‘ducking’ I changed my autocorrect settings to reflect my more colourful language. This is also super useful for more work-related reasons: MAD became Mother, any distance and g@ automatically fills in my whole email address. No doubt you're already seeing the time-saving possibilities this could lead to.

Plugging in these text shortcuts can be done not just in Word, but in all your Microsoft Office applications too. Brilliant. 

To input them, go to File - Options - Proofing, and then select AutoCorrect Options.

Then you have a table with two columns, shortcut on one side, and the word you want to replace on the other.

4. Change from upper to lowercase (and back again)

Chunks of text in uppercase that you want to change to lowercase is often a problem when you’re trying to copy and paste text from other sources, but thankfully it can be easily fixed.

All you have to do is highlight the text, and hit shift and F3. Bish, bash, bosh.

5. Switch to PowerPoint and ditch Word

This is a bit of a weird Word/Powerpoint crossover suggestion – but it makes sense, trust me.

Anyone who has tried to input image boxes and text boxes into Word, and then quickly found their heart rate rising to dangerous levels and their fingers itching to lob the computer out of the window, will appreciate this hack.

My tip? Give up. Don’t even bother. And instead of making it in Word, use PowerPoint, and then print the single slide. It is so much easier to move the boxes around, and you won’t find all the text vanishing just because you resize the box by 2mm.

6. Use Word to make an analytical point 

If you have a long document, and you want to find a specific part of that document, instead of scanning through it, make use of the ‘Find’ function with Ctrl+F.

Obvious? Maybe. But for teachers who are illustrating a point about a document – perhaps English teachers who are looking at the motif of "darkness" in Macbeth – you can copy and paste the entire script into Word, and then use the Find tool to show the students how frequently darkness (and it will find derivatives of it too) occur. Whenever I've showed this to a class they've always been left amazed by the simple wizardry of it. 

Got any more useful Word hacks to share? Let us know below.

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