I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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You cannot converse if you cannot listen, and you cannot sustain a conversation if participants cannot be somewhat fair and respectful to one another. These same traits, of course, are morality's minimal requirements.

Edmund Blair Bolles


<May 2017>




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Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 4:38 PM Pacific

  02:35 PM

Another quick post about Word, primarily for my own benefit (when I forget this later).

Word has several options for how you can paste text:

They are (in order):
  • Keep Source Formatting. This option keeps the original formatting (both character and paragraph formatting), but converts it to direct formatting.

  • Merge Formatting. This option copies basic character formatting (bold, italics, underline) as direct formatting, but does not copy any paragraph formatting.

  • Use Destination Styles. This option copies the text and applies styles that are in the target document. (This option appears only if there matching styles in the target doc.)

  • Keep Text Only. This option copies the text as plain text, with no formatting.
I need the last one (paste plain text) more often than any of the others, so I want it on a keyboard shortcut. You can do this by recording a macro of yourself using the Keep Text Only option. But I realized there's an even easier way—just assign a keyboard shortcut to the built-in PasteTextOnly command.

I keep forgetting that most anything Word can do has a command. If a gesture requires just one command, you can assign a keyboard shortcut directly to it. Maybe writing this out will help me remember.

Update I added a video!

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  12:01 AM

This is another in a series of blog posts about how I configure Microsoft Word, which I add here primarily for my own reference.

I often use the Style pane, and within that pane, I often want to change the styles that are displayed. Sometimes I want to see all the styles; sometimes just the styles that are defined in the current document; sometimes just the styles currently in use.

You can change this display by using a dialog box. In the Styles pane, click the Options link, and then use the dropdown lists to select which styles to display and how they're ordered, like this:

But that can get to be an annoying number of clicks if you're switching between these display options frequently. So, macros to the rescue. I recorded myself making one of these changes, then created a couple of variations to give me the different displays I want. Here are the macros I currently use, where the sub name is (I hope) self-explanatory:
Sub SetStylesPaneToAllAlphabetical()
ActiveDocument.FormattingShowFilter = wdShowFilterStylesAll
ActiveDocument.StyleSortMethod = wdStyleSortByName
End Sub

Sub SetStylesPaneToInCurrentDocument()
ActiveDocument.FormattingShowFilter = wdShowFilterStylesAvailable
ActiveDocument.StyleSortMethod = wdStyleSortByName
End Sub

Sub SetStylesPaneToInUse()
ActiveDocument.FormattingShowFilter = wdShowFilterStylesInUse
ActiveDocument.StyleSortMethod = wdStyleSortByName
End Sub
To complete the picture, I map the macros to these keyboard shortcuts:


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  11:13 PM

I just installed Word 2013 and was disappointed to note that some of the long-standing keyboard shortcuts no longer work. For example, I've been using Alt+V,A for years (decades?) to invoke an ancient menu command to toggle between hiding and showing revision marks. Even when they introduced the ribbon and the menus went away, a lot of those old menu-command shortcuts still worked. And some still do; but this particular one no longer does, darn it.

I spent a little while trying to map keystrokes to the show-revision and hide-revision commands in the Review tab. Either I'm not finding them or (as I believe) there's no longer a single command to toggle show/hide of rev marks in the way I've come to rely on.

So, macro time. Using the macro recorder and some editing, I created the following macro and then mapped Alt+V,A to it. Macros are stored in Normal.dotm, so as long as that remains available I should be good. (Right?) However, I'll have to update Normal.dotm on each machine on which I install Word 2013.

Update 2016-03-06: For the "hide revisions" section, I changed wdRevisionsViewOriginal to wdRevisionsViewFinal. This macro always shows the "final" version, but toggles whether rev marks are displayed.

Perhaps there's an easier mapping for this functionality. If this macro thing doesn't work out, I'll investigate further.
Sub ShowOrHideShowRevisions()
If ActiveWindow.View.RevisionsFilter.Markup = wdRevisionsMarkupNone Then
' Hide revisions
With ActiveWindow.View.RevisionsFilter
.Markup = wdRevisionsMarkupAll
.View = wdRevisionsViewFinal
End With
' Show revisions
With ActiveWindow.View.RevisionsFilter
.Markup = wdRevisionsMarkupNone
.View = wdRevisionsViewFinal
.View = wdRevisionsViewOriginal
End With
End If
End Sub

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  04:55 PM

This is a blog post just to record the key remappings I do in Microsoft Word 2010. (It is probably not of interest to most people.)

I've found that it speeds up revisions tremendously to map keyboard shortcuts to the commands in Word that you use to find, accept, and reject revisions and comments. As a bonus, I don't like that the traditional Find key in Word 2010 is mapped to some sort of Navigation pane (where traditional Find is available under Advanced Find). So I map Ctrl+F as well. As I say, this is primarily for my own reference.

TaskCommandKey mapping
Display Find/Replace dialog boxEditFindCtrl+F
Find next revision or commentNextChangeOrCommentCtrl+Shift+F
Accept current changeAcceptChangesSelectedCtrl+Shift+A
Reject current changeRejectChangesSelectedCtrl+Shift+R

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  12:10 AM

It's always a little startling to me to watch over someone's shoulder when I'm helping them do something in Word. Seeing someone very carefully move the mouse pointer over to the little diskette (!) icon in order to save, or hearing them howl when the computer freezes, or hitting Enter to add a blank paragraph for vertical spacing — well, I think I know how Drivers Ed teachers must feel. So here are a few tips that cannot help but make someone take better advantage of the astounding capabilities of Word. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these are some of the skills that determine whether you're a power user of Word.

0. Save early and often

This is a sort of pre-tip. Everyone has lost work in Word because Word froze or because the computer locked up. Talk about losing productivity. Learn to do this:
  • As soon as you've created a new document, save it. When it's still blank. Do not wait till you've written "enough."

  • Learn the keyboard shortcuts for saving: Shift+F12, Ctrl+S, and Alt+F,S. (Three of them! Your choice!) This makes it as trivially easy to save.

  • Save every time you pause. Basically, I reflexively save whenever I stop typing.
Adopting these habits does not mean that you'll never, ever lose work. But the amount of work you'll lose is measured in minutes (or seconds), not hours.

1. Learn keyboard shortcuts

Using the mouse slows you down. There, I said it. In fact, I'm going to say that most anything you do in Word using the mouse, I can probably do faster using the keyboard. Tips:
  • Word has tons and tons of built-in keystrokes for commands that are on the ribbon, status bar, etc. (list, list, more lists ...)

  • Many (most?) of the keyboard shortcuts that defined menu paths in Word 2003 and earlier (e.g., Alt+F,S to save) still work in ribbon-based versions of Word. (See also: Instructions on how to use the keyboard with the ribbon.)

  • You can map and remap any arbitrary keystroke to any command in Word. The only real trick is in knowing which of the hundreds of commands you need. (Instructions; don't forget to click Assign.)

  • You can record macros (see below) and map them to a keystroke.
Really, there's no excuse not to have a large repertoire of keystrokes for commands that you use all the time.

2. Learn to work with "hidden" characters on

Word can display characters that aren't normally visible, including spaces, tabs, and paragraphs marks. (And a few others.) Like this:

It's incredibly useful to know where these characters are. For example, it's a way to solve problems with weird formatting; is that blank space between two paragraphs the result of a paragraph-formatting setting or just a stray paragraph mark? Is that two spaces after that period or just one? Is there a tab in front of that paragraph or just spaces? For another example, because paragraph formatting is also "stored" in the "paragraph mark," being able to copy a paragraph mark and paste it elsewhere proves to be an easy to way to transfer formatting.

People unused to these marks find them distracting. Two pieces of advice. One is that it's possible to get used to them. (I almost always work with those characters showing.) Two is that you can easily toggle them off and on using Ctrl+Shift+8.

3. Learn to work with revision marks

Revision marks and comments are one of the crowning glories of using Word as an authoring tool. (In contrast to editing HTML directly, for example.) You should know how to do this:
  • Use Ctrl+Shift+E to turn revisions on and off. (Equivalent of Review tab > Track Changes > Track Changes [On|Off])

  • Use Alt+V,A to hide and show revision marks. (Equivalent of Review tab > Final)

  • Set your name/initials so that comments that you add include your ID.

4. Learn how to format correctly

(I'm a little hesitant about the term "correctly" here, but I'll go with it.) If you want blank spaces between paragraphs, the olde-tyme, typewriter-like way to do it is to insert a blank paragraph, i.e., an extra return. The preferred way to do it, however, is to format the paragraph to include extra space before and/or after:

Similarly, the way to indent a paragraph is not to use a tab, but to set its indentation (or its first-line indentation):

Doing things the typewriter way just means someone (perhaps you) is going to have to go in there and clean up the mess later, when someone decides that nope, you want different spacing in the document. Or no spacing. (Tip: Search for ^p^p and replace it with ^p)

In both cases, and others like this, the really correct way to do this is to create a style that has the characteristics you need and apply that (see below). However, to use styles effectively, you do need to have a good grasp of how to use the formatting features of Word.

5. Learn to use styles

One of the changes introduced with the ribbon in Word 2007 was to put styles right in your face — in fact, to make them as prominent as other formatting options:

This is good, because, basically, you should use styles instead of manual font or paragraph formatting. I have belabored the many advantages of using styles before, but here's a summary:
  • Formatting cleanliness.
  • Ease of global changes.
  • Reusable formatting within and between documents.
  • Semantic tagging of content (searchable by style).
When I teach the styles class, I tell the students that if they intend to share a document or reopen it later — ever — they should use styles. Unless you're writing a letter to your mother, use styles. If you're creating anything in Word that has a professional purpose — memo, report, documentation, term paper, book manuscript, resume — use styles.

Some tips and things to know about styles:
  • Style definitions can "cascade", via the Style based on settings when you create a new style:

    For example, if you create a new style based on Normal, and then you change the font for Normal, the font for the new style will change as well. Very powerful feature.

  • Ctrl+Shift+S opens the Apply Styles window. This lets you apply styles easily using the keyboard. (Creating a style name alias, such as "n" for Normal) can really speed the process of applying the style.)

  • Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S opens (actually, toggles) the Styles pane.

  • You can copy a paragraph style by copying the paragraph mark for that paragraph. (Obviously, you must show hidden characters as described above.)

  • You can assign keyboard shortcuts to styles.

  • Word can mark formatting consistencies (for example, characters formatting manually instead of via a style) using a blue squiggly line.

  • When you create or modify a style, you can save the definition either in the current document or in the Normal template (somewhat coyly referred to as New documents based on this template). Saving them in the Normal template means that the style is available for every document you work with. (More on the Normal template below.)

  • You can copy styles from other Word docs or templates by using the Organizer. (See also: official documentation.)

  • You can search, apply, and modify styles using macros. (See below.)
Combine styles with the Normal template (see next point), and you already have saved yourself hours of work in formatting your documents.

There are many tutorials: here's a sampling. Or if you're in the Seattle area, come take our class. :-)

6. Understand how to use the Normal template

The Normal template (Normal.dotm in the %APPDATA%/Microsoft/Templates folder) is the global repository for styles and macros for your copy of Word. The fundamental thing to understand, productivity-wise, is that Normal.dotm is always attached to your current document. And, of course, you can use the Normal template to define a layout and default formatting for any documents that you create for which you don't specify an alternative template. Things you should know:
  • Macros are stored in the template.

  • You can save new styles in the Normal template, and thereafter they're always available — use the New documents based on this template settings (see previous).

  • You can modify the styles in the Normal template, which constitutes a global change to that style. Don't like Word 2011's default font of 11-point Calibri for Normal? Change it permanently in the Normal template. Want to add an alias for Heading 1, or change the font or size? Do it in Normal.

  • You cannot remove base styles, like Normal, Heading 1-9, etc. However, you can remove styles that you yourself have added to Normal.

  • If you manage to corrupt or delete Normal.dotm, Word will auto-magically create a new one that has Word's default settings in it. (Altho of course any custom changes or macros you had added to the previous version will be gone.)

7. Learn to use macros

Macros are for automating tasks in Word. Virtually everything you do in Word — type, format, save, search, etc. — is implemented under the covers by executing Word commands, and macros let you string together these commands together to carry out complex and/or repetitive tasks. Basically, if you find yourself doing something repeatedly — especially in more than one document — you should create a macro.

Macros are written in the programming language called VBA ("Visual Basic for Automation"). This isn't a hard language to learn; the trick is actually in understanding the Word object model — the objects that you manipulate in order to insert text, move three paragraphs down, find all words that contain a particular string, or whatever. This is not a trivial task, I will readily acknowledge. Still, every power user of Word should be comfortable working with macros, to wit:
  • You should understand how to record macros, which is a simple way to string together the commands without knowing how to program. And it doubles as a very effective learning tool for understanding how to program Word.

  • You should understand how to open the macro editor and paste in macro code that someone else wrote. IOW, you should know how to add a macro to your document or template.

  • You should understand how to map a macro to a keystroke. (See earlier.)
For more info, search for Word macros.

More Reading

I hope this has been helpful. If you need some more info, try these sources:

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  05:11 PM

As a kind of public service, Jeff Atwood occasionally posts information about Keystrokes You Probably Didn't Know About (#, #, #, #). Reviewing lists like that, you'd think that there's a keystroke for everything you'd ever want to do in any program.

Sadly, no.

I mostly write and edit (as opposed to code), and I spend most of my work life in Microsoft Word. For maximum speed, I eschew the mouse, so I'm always looking for ways to do things from the keyboard. I have long since become familiar with existing shortcut keys for common tasks.[1] But there are still tasks I do all the time for which, oddly, no shortcut key exists among the thousands already there. What I do, then, is map a keystroke to the command I need.

Example: I work with Word's revision marks all the time. Word provides a shortcut key (CTRL+SHIFT+E) to toggle revision marks on and off, sweet. But I also need to be able to find the next revision and then accept it or reject it. There are menu commands and toolbar buttons to do this (ie, mouse gestures), but AFAIK, no keystrokes.

For anything that has a menu command in Word, you can create your own shortcut key. Let's say you want to create a shortcut key for the gesture to go to the next revision mark in the document. Do this:
  1. Click Tools > Customize.
  2. Click Keyboard.
  3. In the Categories list, click Edit.
  4. In the Commands list, click NextChangeOrComment.
  5. Put the focus in the Press new shortcut key box, and then ... uh ... press the new shortcut key you want to use. (I map lots of stuff to CTRL+SHIFT+x -- for example, I mapped NextChangeOrComment (ie, find next revision) to CTRL+SHIFT+F).
  6. Click Assign. (If you don't do this, all is for naught).
  7. Repeat for any other keystrokes you want to map to commands. e.g. mapping CTRL+SHIFT+A to the AcceptChangesSelected command.
  8. All done? Click Close.
There are a finite number of keystrokes available, of course, so I sometimes choose to override a default keystroke that I will never use. Say, la "V".

If the thing you have to do has no corresponding Word command -- that is, there's no way to do it directly from the menu -- then you can record a macro: Tools > Macros > Record New Macro. This starts the recorder, and every text-oriented keystroke and every Word command is recorded. (The macro recorder is smart enough not to record keystrokes in a dialog box and other irrelevancies.) Finish the task, click the End Recording glyph, and you're probably close to done. The macro recorder turns your actions into VBA script. I often have to go in and tweak the script (for example, because I recorded myself hitting about 12 wrong keys), but 4 out of 5 Word users say this is a 462% improvement over writing the VBA from scratch. While you're testing your new macro, please enjoy the excellent debugger built into VBA.

When you're done recording and tweaking the macro, map a keystroke to it as above. (Scroll down in the Categories list till you get to Macros.)

I have a yellow sticky note that I keep handy that lists all the keystrokes I've mapped, coz there's lots of them. And I've gotten so used to them that I instinctively use them in all programs, which can result in, you know, a disappointing experience. So sometime soon I'll tell you about the macros I use when writing HTML (!) in Visual Studio (!).

PS Your mappings are stored in the Word style sheet (e.g. Normal.dot). Be aware that anything that affects the file (deletion, say) will undo your mappings. Hey, is there a macro that you can use to redo your mappings? Hmmm ...

[1] More often than you'd think, I'll be working side-by-side with someone with me driving the keyboard, and I'll do something from the keyboard and they'll say "Hey, how'd you do that?"

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