Word timesaving tips: Random text, quick definitions, formatting tricks and more

Make it easier to format and read long documents (and shorter ones) with these tips.

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Rob Schultz

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Microsoft Word has many, many tricks up its sleeve. The seven here will help you through some common snags in complex documents. Have a favorite we missed? Tell us about it in the comments.

Quickly change Line Spacing

You can change the line spacing on a single paragraph, page, or the entire document in two easy keystrokes. Place your cursor anywhere on the target paragraphs, then press:

Ctrl+1 to change the line spacing to single spaced.

Ctrl+2 to change the line spacing to double spaced.

Ctrl+5 to change the line spacing to 1.5 (or one and a half spaced).

Note: You must use the numbers above the alphabet keys. This shortcut does not recognize the numeric keypad.

Rand command

1. To generate random text for tutorials (like this one), graphic designs and other projects, place your cursor at the beginning of a new paragraph and type =Rand(2,3) then press Enter. The first number determines the number of paragraphs, and the second number determines the number of sentences in each paragraph. For example, the following two paragraphs were generated using the =Rand(2,3) command.

Video provides a powerful way to help you prove your point. When you click Online Video, you can paste in the embed code for the video you want to add. You can also type a keyword to search online for the video that best fits your document.

To make your document look professionally produced, Word provides header, footer, cover page, and text box designs that complement each other. For example, you can add a matching cover page, header, and sidebar. Click Insert and then choose the elements you want from the different galleries.

2. You can also insert the random text in Latin; for example, =Lorem(2,2) looks like the text below:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Maecenas porttitor congue massa.

Fusce posuere, magna sed pulvinar ultricies, purus lectus malesuada libero, sit amet commodo magna eros quis urna. Nunc viverra imperdiet enim.

01 create random text with the rand command JD Sartain

Create random text with the rand command.

Quick definitions

You need synonyms to avoid repetition in your writing, but synonyms can easily stray from the precise definition. The Define feature defines words for you in just two clicks.

1. Place your cursor on any word in your document and right-click once.

2. In the drop-down menu that appears, click Define.

3. A panel on the right opens and displays the selected word with its definition.

If the panel fails to open, then you have not yet selected a dictionary app from the Office Apps Store. From the Insert tab, click the Store button. Choose Reference under Category on the Apps for Office screen. Browse through the Reference apps and select a dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster. The screen for the selected app appears. Click the Trust It button and Microsoft downloads the app to your hard drive. Now, when you right-click a word, then click Define, the Merriam-Webster dictionary appears onscreen in the right panel with the definition of the selected word.

02 use the define feature for quick definitions JD Sartain

Use the Define feature for quick definitions.

Expand/Collapse paragraphs

Expanding and collapsing paragraphs make it easier to browse through long documents. For example, it’s easier to skim a document if all the text below the headers is collapsed. It’s also easier to read onscreen documents if the paragraphs that you’ve already read are collapsed. For extremely long documents, especially technical documents and reference materials, collapsed paragraphs are less intimidating for your readers and colleagues.

To set up this feature, you create headings that define sections of paragraphs that can be expanded or collapsed.

1. Type a few paragraphs (or use the =Rand command to create some random text). Enter a header over the first two paragraphs, then select it, and choose Heading1 from the Styles group under the Home tab.

2. Enter a few more paragraphs, add another header, then choose Heading1 again. Place your cursor on the first heading. Notice that a solid triangle appears. This symbol means this paragraph is collapsible.

3. Right-click on the first header, select Expand/Collapse > Collapse Heading and the paragraph disappears. Notice the triangle is now clear, which means there are collapsed paragraphs beneath this header.

4-5. Any subheadings (such as Heading 2, 3, 4, etc.) under Heading One will also collapse when the main Heading1 collapses.

03 collapseexpand paragraphs JD Sartain

Collapse/Expand paragraphs.

Quick Underlines

When you want to run a line across the page, you don't need to press and hold the hyphen or asterisk key and then add or subtract characters until you fill the line. Instead, type a sentence, press Enter, then do one of the following procedures:

Press the hyphen/dash (-) key three times, then press Enter to draw a .75 point underline.

Press the underscore ( _ ) key three times, then press Enter to draw a 1.5 point underline.

Press the tilde (~) key three times, then press Enter to draw a zigzag underline.

Press the asterisk/star (*) key three times, then press Enter to draw a dotted underline.

Press the equal (=) key three times, then press Enter to draw a double underline.

04 quick and easy underlines JD Sartain 
Quick and easy underlines

Easy tricks to rearrange lists

If you have a numbered or bulleted list of items and suddenly decide that number 2 should be number 5 and number 4 should be number 2, most people just cut and paste the listed items until they are rearranged in the proper order. For a short list, no problem. But if you’re working with a long list, this can be a real headache.

1. Position your cursor anywhere on the phrase,

2. Press Alt+Shift and hold, then press the up/down arrows to move the phrase up or down on the list.

3. Now all you have to do is renumber the list.

4. Bullet lists are easier because you don’t have to reorder the numbers once the list is reorganized.

05 quick easy trick to rearrange lists JD Sartain

05 Easy tricks to rearrange lists.

Vertical Selection feature

The Vertical Selection feature is a handy tool for making quick changes to a vertical column of characters—for example, adding or removing an attribute such as bold or italics, changing the color, font, and/or size of the numbers, bullets, or text.

You can delete the selected vertical text without also deleting the rest of the text beside it. For example, you can delete the numbers in a list, but not the list.

1. Press the Alt key, then click on the first character in the list or paragraph and drag the highlight down and over through the characters you want to modify, then make the changes.

Note, however, that you cannot sort the vertical characters separately from the adjacent text. You cannot change the design of a bullet through the Insert > Symbol menu, but you can change it through the Font menu or the Bullet menu (with some limitations).

For example, if you select Home > Paragraph > Bullet Library > Define New Bullet > Symbol, then select a “symbol” bullet from the list, only the first item in the list is affected.

2. If, however, you choose a bullet from the font option (Home > Paragraph > Bullet Library > Define New Bullet > Font)...

3-4. ...or select a picture from the Picture option (Home > Paragraph > Bullet Library > Define New Bullet > Picture), the new bullet displays on all the listed items.

5-6. You can also select the Numbering Library, and choose a nice number format for your list such as all lowercase letters or roman numerals.

06 use the vertical selection to edit vertical characters JD Sartain

Use the Vertical Selection feature to edit vertical characters.

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