Customizing Microsoft Word

When you first install Microsoft Word, it’s set up for the “generic” user–someone who employs only the most basic features of this powerful program. For example, it displays the Standard and Formatting toolbars but not the AutoText or Reviewing toolbars. But if you’re editing or typesetting in Word, you’re not a generic user–far from it. You could probably *use* the AutoText and Reviewing toolbars. And maybe that Standard toolbar doesn’t do much of anything for you. Don’t be afraid to set up Word so that you can work as efficiently as possible. Here are some tips on how to do that:

1. During a typical workday, notice which features of Word you use the most. You might even make a list and put a check mark next to a feature each time you use it. Then count up the check marks for each feature at the end of the day.

2. If you’re using menus or toolbars to access these features, learn and then use their keyboard shortcuts (see “Keyboard Shortcuts” in Word’s Help file). Over the course of a year, this will save you an enormous amount of time because you won’t be reaching for the mouse every thirty seconds. If the features don’t have keyboard shortcuts, make your own, as explained in the Readers Write column of the June 13, 2001, Editorium Update, which you can read here:

3. Explore Word’s toolbars by clicking the “View” menu and then “Toolbars.” Some of these (Control Toolbox, Visual Basic) may be completely meaningless to you. Others, however (Clipboard, Tables and Borders), you may find very useful.

4. Rearrange menu items and toolbar buttons in ways that make sense to you. Don’t settle for Word’s out-of-the-box arrangement. Word was *made* to be customized! Go ahead–pull off those buttons you never use. Move buttons from one toolbar to another. If you know that never in your life are you going to use the Letter Wizard, why keep it on your “Tools” menu? Get rid of it! Make your Word window as sleek and efficient as the cockpit of a jet. You can read the basic instructions for customizing toolbars and menus in the past two issues of Editorium Update, here:

5. Go spelunking. Use Word’s menus to explore features you may not have seen before. Check out Document Map, Change Case, Word Count, Track Changes, and (if you’re a keyboard junkie) Full Screen View. Some of these features will make you smile. When they do, remember where they are (make another list) or put them on menus and toolbars where you can find them again.

6. If you’ve recorded certain macros that you use a lot, make them easily accessible with keyboard shortcuts, toolbar buttons, and menu items.

If the idea of changing toolbars and menus scares you, just be sure to back up your Normal template (, which resides in your Templates folder). Then, if you need to, you can go back to your original configuration by replacing your new Normal template (where your customizations are stored) with your old, generic one. You can also keep your customizations (and macros) in your own add-in template, as explained here:

Remember, too, that just because you remove a feature from a toolbar or menu doesn’t mean it’s really gone. You can always put it back if you need to. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explain how to create your own toolbars and menus (not just modify existing ones) and add or remove features. I’ll also show you the secret repository for *all* of Word’s features–many of which are not on *any* menu, toolbar, or keyboard shortcut. If you’re interested in customizing Word, you won’t want to miss that.

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