Power Tips for Using Word

This blog post was inspired by a Facebook post made by my friend (and colleague in the Boston University Certificate in Genealogy Program) Julie Michutka about styles in Microsoft Word. Even as a Mac user, I understand that Word provides a great deal of functionality that isn’t offered by other word processors, and is very useful for genealogical writing. Here are five tops to help you use Word smarter. Note: These options may not be available to those operating older versions of Word.

1. Styles List
We know that styles are a much better way to format a document than individual commands. Styles help maintain consistency throughout a document. This comes in very handy when working with a document that is longer than just a few pages. On the Home tab, click on the Styles Pane to open a list of styles. The default list is Recommended styles, but other options include Styles in use, In current document, or All styles. This allows you to quickly apply styles, especially those you have used before. At the bottom of the pane are two boxes that can be selected. Selecting Show styles guides will change the list to Styles in use and add color codes. These codes will also appear on the left side of the document, showing you which styles are used on each line of the document. Selecting the Show direct formatting Guide will highlight sections of text that have been manually formatted.

2. Use Word as a Whiteboard
We often think of writing in a Word document as beginning at the top of the document and typing text in from top to bottom. You might occasionally insert text boxes to put callout text in the document. But there are other ways to write more creatively.

You can use a Word document as a digital whiteboard. You can type anywhere on the page simply by double-clicking wherever you want to write. It is not necessary to put line or paragraph breaks, spaces or tabs to type text in multiple areas.

3. Multiple Views
When working with a long document, there may be times when you want to view different parts of it at the same time. This is especially important in writing compiled genealogy, where you might want to see the entry for someone in a child list, and their own sketch later in the document as an adult with his/her own family. Instead of scrolling back and forth, you can easily see different sections of the document at the same document. There are two options for doing this.

By going to the View tab and selecting New Window, Word will open a second window for the same document. Any changes in one window will appear in the other window as well. Closing one of the windows does not lose the changes, as you are working in a single document from two different access points. If you like, you can continue to open up additional windows for multiple access points. Once you have the different windows open, select Arrange All to organize them on your desktop.

If you don’t have a large monitor, you can access a different part of a document in the same window. Just select Split on the View tab. This will split the window into two panes, and you can scroll each pane independently. Once again, it is two views into the same document, so changes made in one pane will appear in the other. To go back to a single pane, go back to the View tab. The Split button now says Remove split. Select it and the split disappears. Mac users can also access this functionality in the Window option on the menu bar.

4. Smart Lookup
Sometimes when we are writing we transcribe words or phrases that we might not understand, or we need more information about. Perhaps we want to elaborate a bit for the benefit of the reader. Our habit, of course, is to open our internet browser and go to our favorite search engine to see what we can find. Word offers you the opportunity to look right from Word.

Select a string of text, then control-click (Mac) or right click (Windows). In newer versions of Word, you will see an option for Smart Lookup. Select that option, and you will get internet search results in a pane on the right side of the Word window. You will also have an option to Search with Google or Search with Bing. Selecting those options will open your internet browser with search results for the term. Older versions offer only the search options.

5. Customize Your Ribbon
Word comes with eight standard tabs: Home, Insert, Design, Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View. Each tab comes with a standard set of command buttons. But these are not the only buttons available.

Mac users with Word 2016 should go to the menu bar and select Word>Preferences. Then choose Ribbon and Toolbar.

Office 365 users and Windows users with Word 2016 should go to the File tab and select Options then choose Customize Ribbon.

The box on the left will show you  list of command buttons that can be added to any of the tabs. To make it easier, the best choice is to select from the dropdown box Commands Not in the Ribbon. This will display only the command buttons that are not already on a tab. Simply choose the command and select the tab you would like to add it to, then click the right arrow. You can also delete commands from tabs that you never use, if you want to make more room on the tab for other commands.

If there are tabs you don’t use, such as mailings, you can remove the tab from view by unchecking the box next to the tab name. You can also create your own tabs and give them whatever name you like.

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