Word Tips to Make Your Life Easier

Updated April 28, 2009
Prepared by Mary Whisner & Cheryl Nyberg

Microsoft Word is a complex and powerful application. This guide does not come close to covering all the tricks – there are whole books for that, not to mention Word’s own help screens (Ask the paperclip!) and Support Knowledge Base. Instead, this guide just gives you some of our favorite tips.

Versions of Word

We created this guide in 2006-07, when we were using Word 2003 on PCs running Windows. Some tips (like those for organizing your files) apply to any platform. We've updated many of the other tips to include instructions for Word 2007 on PCs and Word 2008 for Mac.


 

Paste Special

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to cut and paste from LexisNexis or a website into your Word document without all the formatting?  You can!

Word 2007: In the home ribbon, Paste is at far left. Use the drop-down menu to choose Paste Special.

Word 2008 for Mac: Edit > Paste Special.

Word 2003: Go to the toolbar, click on Edit, click on Paste Special, click on Unformatted Text. 

But that’s a lot of mousing. You can set up a keyboard shortcut.

Microsoft gives you instructions to make CTRL-V be your shortcut for Paste Special. But then you can’t use CTRL-V for those occasions when you want the other formatting. So I set it up so that CTRL-V is the regular paste and ALT-V is Paste Special. Here’s how:

How to create a macro in Word 2003 so ALT-V is Paste Special
  1. On the Tools menu, point to Macro, and then click Macros to display the Macros dialog box.
  2. In the Macro name box, type PasteUnformattedText.
  3. Make sure that All active templates and documents is displayed in the Macros in list, and then click Create. The Microsoft Visual Basic Editor is displayed. [This looks like programming, but don't worry about it.]
  4. Directly above the End Sub statement in the PasteUnformattedText subroutine [your cursor will be right here], type the following:
    • Selection.PasteSpecial DataType:=wdPasteText
  5. On the File menu, click Close and Return to Microsoft Word.

Now you need to instruct Word to run the PasteUnformattedText macro each time you press the ALT+V keyboard shortcut.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Customize.
  2. Click the Keyboard button.
  3. Make sure the Save changes in box displays Normal.dot.
  4. In the Categories list, click Macros.
  5. In the Macros list, click PasteUnformattedText.
  6. Click in the Press new shortcut key box, press ALT and V at the same time. The Press new shortcut key box displays Alt+V.
  7. Click Assign.
  8. Click Close and then click Close again.

 

Section Sign (§), Paragraph Sign (¶), and Other Symbols

(Examples use §.)

Word 2007:

Long way: Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters > choose § > Insert > Close

Short ways:

Keyboard Shortcut. Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters > choose § > Shortcut Key. Then make up a key combination you can remember. (We use ctrl-8.) > Assign > Close.

Set up AutoCorrect.  Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters > choose § > AutoCorrect. Then make up a string of letters (e.g., "sec." or "s*") that you can type and have replaced with § > Add > Close.

Word 2003:

Long way: Insert > Symbol > Special Characters tab  > Choose § > Click on Insert > Close.

Keyboard Shortcut. Insert > Symbol > Special Characters tab  > Choose § > Click on Shortcut Key > Enter ALT-8 (or whatever you’ll be able to remember). > Click Assign > Close

Word 2008 for Mac:

Long way: Insert > Symbol > Special Characters > choose § > Insert > Close

Short ways:

Keyboard shortcut:

  • Default is Option+6.
  • You can change it to something else if you want. Insert > Symbol > Special Characters > choose § > Keyboard Shortcut > enter new keystrokes > Assign > OK

AutoCorrect: Insert > Symbol > Special Characters > choose § > AutoCorrect > enter letters you can remember (e.g., "sec." or "s*") > Add > OK


 

Tracking Changes

Word 2003:

Turning it on: Tools, Track Changes (or: CTRL-SHIFT-E).

Important: After you are through editing, you need to get rid of those tracked changes, or else anyone who gets your document as an attachment will see them. Microsoft has a very helpful article that explains it.


 

Organize Your Files

Instead of saving all your documents in the My Documents folder with short, blah file names like “Letter,” “Memo,” and “Draft 2,” consider some of the following ideas.

Create a new folder for each class or major project

  • Health Law Seminar Paper
  • Job Hunting
  • Payment Systems
  • PILA

Use descriptive file names

  • Health Law Seminar Paper
    • Brainstorming notes re topics
    • Draft – Section I – overview – oct 23
    • Draft – Section I – overview – with ed’s notes – oct 26
    • Draft – Section III – due process issue – oct 27
    • Outline – oct 11
    • Outline revised – oct 18
    • Research notes re legis hist of SD abortion statute
    • Research notes re SCt caselaw
    • Topic proposal
  • Job Hunting
    • chart listing letters sent, interviews, etc.
    • job ad – starbucks law dept
    • job hunting journal
    • jones jones & jones cover letter
    • jones jones & jones notes after interview
    • jones jones & jones thank you note to Lee Jones
    • networking notes
    • resume 1 business & commercial – june 2006
    • resume 1 business & commercial – revised oct 1 2006
    • resume 2 litigation
    • smith & smith cover letter

Use dates in file names for notes or minutes

  • Civ Pro 2006 – 0928
  • Civ Pro 2006 – 0929
  • Civ Pro 2006 – 1015
  • Civ Pro 2006 – 1016
  • Contracts 2006 – 0928

Add a word or two to help with retrieval later

  • Civ Pro 2006 – 0928 – Penoyer
  • Civ Pro 2006 – 0929 – Penoyer still
  • Civ Pro 2006 – 1015 – Int’l Shoe
  • Civ Pro 2006 – 1016 – personal jurisdiction summary

 

Turn Off Automatic Formatting

Word is set up to do a lot automatically. For instance, if you start a line with a number, it assumes that you want the next line to be numbered too. But that can drive you crazy if you don’t want it.

Word 2003:

  1. Go to Tools.
  2. Choose Autocorrect Options.
  3. Choose AutoFormat tab.
  4. Uncheck what you don’t want (e.g., Automatic Bulleted Lists).

I like to uncheck “Ordinals (1st) with superscript,” because I don’t like  1st Cir., 9th Cir., etc. (The Bluebook also doesn’t like it.)

Using AutoCorrect & AutoText

Word automatically corrects some common typos. For instance, if you type “acheive,” Word corrects it to “achieve.” This is a good thing – unless you’re trying to write about someone whose name is “Moeny” and Word keeps changing it to “Money.”

You can take words out of the AutoCorrect list.

  1. Go to Tools.
  2. Choose Autocorrect Options.
  3. Choose AutoCorrect tab.
  4. Scroll through the list, highlight the problem replacement, and click Delete.

You can also add words to the AutoCorrect list. For instance, I often type “appeallate” for “appellate” and “Wetlaw” for “Westlaw.” So I’ve added those problem words to my AutoCorrect list.

Similarly, you can add phrases to the AutoText list. For instance, if you type “personal jurisdiction” or “W.H. (Joe) Knight” a lot, you can set it up so that when you start typing the first letters, Word will give you prompt for the whole thing and all you have to do is press Enter.

  1. Go to Tools.
  2. Choose Autocorrect Options.
  3. Choose AutoText tab.
  4. Type in the word or phrase you want to add.

 

Hyperlinks

Most Word users have already discovered how easy it is to copy and paste website Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) into Word documents. A link in the document appears in blue (or another color of your choosing) and can be activated by using the Control + Enter combination.

Did you know that you can embed hyperlinks in a Word document? Embedding the link allows the text in the document to flow naturally and avoids the disruption caused by those mostly unreadable URLs.

To embed a hyperlink:

  1. Highlight the word or phrase that you want to turn into a link
  2. Click on the globe icon
    OR
    Select Insert > Hyperlink
  3. Paste the URL

You can also:

  • change the color and style of hyperlinks, including the color of a link that you have visited (Format > Styles and Formatting > Pick Formatting to Apply > New Style)
  • create links to other documents and files on your computer, such as Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint slideshows, and Word documents (Insert > Hyperlink >browse the file directory to locate the item you want)
  • stop automatic formatting of URLs as live links (Tools > Auto Correct Options > Auto Format > deselect "Internet and network paths with hyperlinks)

What about creating links in a Word document to cases, law review articles, and other items on LexisNexis and Westlaw? Copying and pasting a link resulting from a search may not work because the contents of databases change. Both services provide options for creating stable URLs to retrieve documents.

LexisNexis

When you have retrieved the desired document in LexisNexis, you can use the Copy w/ Cite feature.

  1. Highlight the citation, a sentence, paragraph, or whatever part of the document that you want to insert into your Word document
  2. Click on the Copy w/Cite link.
  3. Review the contents of the pop-up block to verify that you have selected the text you want.
  4. Confirm that the box labeled Copy Reference as Hyperlink is checked.
  5. Click on .
  6. Paste the selected text (with its embedded hyperlink) into your Word document.

You can read more about this feature in the LexisNexis for Law Schools Knowledge Base.

Westlaw

Westlaw's Law School website describes a software program called WestCiteLink "that automatically finds the legal citations in your word-processing documents and links them to the full text documents on Westlaw." This free program works with Word 97 and newer versions (as well as several versions of WordPerfect).

After you download and install the program on your computer, a (Auto-Mark Citations) icon will appear in your word processor toolbar. To use WestCiteLink:

  1. Open the document that contains the citations to which you want to link.
  2. Click on the  icon.
  3. WestCiteLink will
    1. scan your document for legal citations
    2. create a table of authorities of recognized citations in a grey box at the top of the document (along with the page numbers on which the case citations appear)
    3. embed hyperlinks to those documents on Westlaw

You can even bypass the the sign-on page! Consult the User Manual for more information.

LexisNexis offers a similar service--called LEXLink--in its Citation Tools package. Consult the Knowledge Base for more information.


Footnote Tricks

Insert a footnote

Word 2007:

  • References > Insert Footnote
  • Alt-Ctrl-F

Word 2003:

  • Insert > Reference > Footnote
  • Alt-Ctrl-F

Word 2008 for Mac:

  • Insert > Footnote > Footnote
  • Command+Option+F

Renumber footnotes when you move them around

That's easy: it's done automatically.

Renumber cross-references in footnotes

That's trickier, but it can be done.

Suppose you have a lot of references to something you cited in footnote three ("See Ramasastry, supra note 3, at 7."), and you add a new footnote at the beginning so footnote three is now footnote four. It would be a nuisance to redo all the cross-references, right?

Here's what you do:

When you create the cross reference, type "See Ramasastry, supra note" and then ...

Word 2007:  

  • Insert > Links > Cross-reference > Footnote > choose the footnote > Insert > Close.
  • Now if you move your footnotes around, update the numbering: put your cursor in the footnotes area, Ctrl-A (select all) > F9.
  • You can also tell Word to update fields before printing. Office Button > Print > Options > Update fields before printing. (You don't have to print -- using Print Preview will also renumber cross-references.)

Word 2003: 

  • Insert > Reference > Cross-Reference > Footnote > choose the footnote > Insert > Close.
  • Now if you move your footnotes around, update the numbering: put your cursor in the footnotes area, Ctrl-A (select all) > F9.
  • You can also tell Word to update fields before printing. Tools > Options > Print tab > check Update Fields. (You don't have to print -- using Print Preview will also renumber cross-references.)

Word 2008 for Mac:

  • Insert > Cross-reference > Footnote > choose the footnote >
  • Now if you move your footnotes around, update the numbering: Word > Preferences > Print > Update Fields > OK. (You don't have to print -- using Print Preview will also renumber cross-references.)
  • (According to the Help screen, F9 should update fields the way it does in the other two versions, but it didn't work for me.)

 


 

Headings

You can use Word’s built-in headings to make a mass of notes (or a long paper) easier to navigate.

Suppose you have a lot of notes:

You can change those regular-font headings to Word headings

In Word 2007,

  • Home tab, choose Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.; or
  • Ctrl-alt-1 for Heading 1, ctrl-alt-2 for Heading 2, etc.

In Word 2003,

  • Pull-down menu (to left of font name); or
  • Ctrl-alt-1 for Heading 1, ctrl-alt-2 for Heading 2, etc.

In Word 2008 for Mac, you can format the headings with Command-Option-1, Command-Option-2, etc. Or you can use the pull-down menu to the left of the font name.

 

Already your document is looking better. But there’s more!

Using Headings to Create a Table of Contents

Now move the cursor to the start of your document.

In Word 2007, References tab > Table of Contents

In Word 2003, choose Insert >  Reference >  Index and Tables … and then choose the Table of Contents tab.

In Word 2008 for Mac, Insert > Index and Tables … and then choose the Table of Contents tab.

Based on your headings, Word will produce something like this:

That Table of Contents is a little outline in itself. And each of those entries is a hyperlink, so you can go right to the section of your notes that you need.


 

Bulleted or Numbered Lists

Bulleted or numbered lists can help you organize your notes and thoughts. For example:

 

Or, if you prefer a more traditional outline:

To start a new line without a new bullet, press shift-return (instead of return).

 

The toolbars have icons for starting bulleted lists or outlines. And there are icons for decreasing or increasing the indents -- and hence changing the level of an outline.

Word also offers several keyboard shortcuts for working with lists.

To turn off Word’s automatic bullets and numbers, choose Tools > Autocorrect Options … >  Autoformat tab. Then deselect Automatic Bulleted Lists.


 

Using Tables

Tables can help you organize your notes (and your thoughts). For example, if you are trying to review a quarter’s worth of cases, you might create a chart like this:

Word makes it easy to sort tables in different ways. For instance, by choosing Table >  Sort you can sort by topic (and within topic, by year) or by case name.

 

Some useful options:

  • When you set up your table, choose AutoFit to Contents. That way, the columns with lots of text will be wider than the columns with little text.
  • When you have a top row with headings, move your cursor to that row, then choose Table, Heading Rows Repeat. That way, if your table is longer than one page, you’ll have the headings on each page.
  • If you don’t want a line or two of text to be at the bottom of one page with the rest of your comments on the top of the next page, choose Table, Table Properties, Row, and uncheck Allow row to break across pages.

  •  

    Other Sites Offering Word Tips

    Microsoft Office Word, with help and tips for multiple versions (Word 2000, Word 2002, Word 2003 & Word 2007). Select your version and then search for "hyperlinks" OR browse the version-specific Help and How-to section for "Word and the Web," then look for the Hyperlinks heading.

    Microsoft Office 2007 Training Series

    Georgetown Law Information Systems Technology online tutorials for Word.

    Legal Andrew, Harness the Power of Word Cross-References for Mammoth Documents.

    Purdue University Calumet, Office 2007 guides.

    Are you aware of other good sites with word tips for the legal community? Send a suggested link to the reference librarians.