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14 handy tips for Microsoft Word 2010

Who doesn't use Microsoft Word? The word processing software is one of the most popular and well-known programs worldwide, having been with us in some incarnation or other since 1983. It's used in office workplaces, schools, universities, hospitals, and homes. Such a widespread tool should be easy to master, you'd think. But no – there are some quirky things that Microsoft Word does that frustrate people the world over daily. And there are other things that you want Word to do that can seem impossible to those who aren’t well acquainted with the program’s intricacies. Countless hours can quickly swirl down the drain if you get stuck trying to figure out how to describe the problem so you can search for an answer, let alone actually solve it.

So with that in mind, we’ve compiled this series of tips for those still using Microsoft Word 2010 (those who haven’t felt the need to upgrade to Word 2013, or just don’t want anything to do with Microsoft’s latest cloud-centric version of Word).

You’ll find 14 essential tricks for Word 2010 here – some of which apply to Word 2013, as well – aimed at those less familiar with the ins-and-outs of the program. We'll show you how to turn off spell-check and grammar-check, for example, and we'll explain how to remove the line that appears when you type one too many hyphens in a row – without ripping your hair out.

Many of these tricks will become second nature after you practice them a few times. In the long run, they could potentially save you hundreds of hours of work, thousands of keystrokes, and they’ll help you avoid a whole heap of agitation in general.

We’ll be bringing you much more in the way of Office 2010 tips throughout this week and next week, by the way, from basic tips to advanced, so keep your eyes peeled on ITProPortal if you’re a big user of the suite.

Open the Office window on two different views

Here's a tip that applies to both Word and Excel in slightly different ways. By splitting the document window into two separate panes you can view and edit two widely-separated parts of a document at the same time. That means you can work on the first chapter of your novel in the top pane and the last chapter in the bottom pane, and jump between them simply by clicking the mouse – or by tapping F6 to cycle between the two panes, the ribbon, and the status bar.

Word even lets you change the zoom level in the two panes, as shown in the above image, so that you can view multiple pages in one pane while viewing full-size text in the other. You can split the window by dragging the splitter bar at the very top of the vertical scroll bar, or open the View tab on the Ribbon and select Split (or Remove Split to restore a single window). Excel has a similar split-window feature but unfortunately doesn't let you choose different zoom levels in each pane.

Move or hide shapes in a Word document

Here's a tip that's probably familiar to PowerPoint users, but may be new to many Word or Excel users. When you insert multiple shapes in a Word document or Excel worksheet, the easiest way to move them forward or backward in relation to each other is to use the Selection Pane on the Drawing Tools tab in the Ribbon. The Drawing Tools tab only appears when you're working with a graphic. The Selection Pane also makes it easy to select a shape that's hidden behind another shape – just select it from the list on the page, and then use the arrows at the foot of the pane to move it forward or backward. A similar pane makes it easy to manoeuvre shapes in PowerPoint.

Combine portrait and landscape pages in a Word document

Microsoft Word expects you to organise your documents in a highly structured but not very intuitive way. If you want to format most of a document in portrait mode, but one or two pages in portrait, you can't simply change the orientation of the current page. Instead you need to insert a section break before and after the text you want to format in landscape mode, and then apply landscape orientation to the section that you created. Place the insertion point at the point where you want landscape orientation to begin. On the Page Layout tab, choose Breaks, then under Section Breaks, choose New Page. Then move the insertion point to the end of the text you want to format in landscape, and insert the same kind of break. Then put the insertion point anywhere between the two breaks; return to the Page Layout tab, and click the down-pointing arrow at the lower right of the Page Setup group. In the Page Setup dialog, on the Margins tab, select Landscape orientation, then go to the "Apply to" dropdown and select This Section.

How to fight back when Word draws a line across the page

Maybe it's happened to you. It's certainly happened to someone you know. You're typing in Word, and you type a series of dashes or hyphens – and suddenly Word's AutoFormat feature inserts a horizontal line across the page, and you can't get rid of it. You can't select it; you can't delete it. Some victims of this feature simply abandon the document with the line and start a new one instead. Here's how to get rid of that line. Word has inserted a border at the bottom of the current paragraph. To remove it, click inside the paragraph; go to the Home tab and click on the Borders icon at the lower right of the Paragraph group. On the pop-up menu, the first item – Bottom Border – will be selected. Click on No Border, and the border will disappear. You can prevent these borders from appearing by going to File, Options, AutoCorrect Options, then choose the AutoFormat as You Type tab, and in the section "Apply as you type," remove the checkmark next to Border Lines.

Drag document sections in Word's navigation pane

In Word's navigation pane, you can move sections of a document to a different place in the file simply by dragging their headings up and down the pane. You can also right click the heading and choose other actions from the menu, including deleting the whole section.

Browsing search results in Word

As you’re doubtless aware, Word's Find feature displays every instance of the text that you search, together with a few words of context, in boxes in the navigation pane. Of course, you can click in one of the boxes to select any one instance of the text – but what you may not know is that you can use the long-standing Shift-F4 keyboard shortcut to jump from one search hit to another even after you close the navigation pane.

Close Word panes from the keyboard

Wan to close a pane using the keyboard? Press F6 to jump from the editing window to the pane (you may need to press more than once to reach the pane), then press Ctrl-Space to open a menu. From the menu, choose Close. Of course, that’s a rather clunky process to say the least, but expert users can record this series of actions as a macro and assign the macro to a single keystroke.

Recover unsaved documents

It was with Office 2010 that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint were all given a new feature which automatically saved documents that you’d neglected to save when you closed them. To open the last automated backup of such a document, click File, Recent, Recover Unsaved Documents, and then choose the document from a standard File/Open dialog box.

Create a default header or default page numbering

If you want all your documents to include page numbering by default, Word doesn't make it obvious how to do so – but it’s not too tricky, fortunately. Open your default template, Normal.dotm, go to the Insert tab, choose Page Number, and choose a location and format for the page numbering. Close and save Normal.dotm, and all your new documents will use the page numbering you specified. But what if you want no page number on the first page of your document, or a number in a different location? Read on to the next tip.

Create default page numbering that starts on the second page

Use this trick if, after setting up default page numbering in Word using the previous tip, you decide that you do not want a page number to appear on the first page of your documents, but you do want it to appear on all other pages. Open Normal.dotm, go to the Page Layout tab. In the Page Setup group, click on the More Arrow (the diagonal arrow at the lower right of the group) to open the Page Setup dialog. Once that's opened, go to the Layout tab, and under Headers and Footers, add a check box next to Different First Page, and click OK. Finally, close Normal.dotm. Any new document you create will have no page numbering on the first page, but will start page numbering on the second page.

Bonus tip: If you want a page number on the first page, but in a different position from the numbering that you already created for all later pages, then follow the instructions above, but after clicking OK in the Page Setup dialog, go to the Insert tab on the Ribbon, choose Page Number, and choose a position and format for the page number. The choices you make here will only apply to the first page of all new documents.

Change layout defaults in Word

You can change default layout settings like this: Press Alt-O, then P to open the Paragraph dialog (or click the More Arrow in the Paragraph group on the Home tab). Set spacing and other options, and click Save as Default. Go to the Page Layout tab, click the More Arrow in the Page Setup group to open the Page Setup dialog. Set margins and other page layout settings, and click Save as Default.

Put the AutoFormat command on the Quick Access Toolbar

If you're a long-time Word user, you may remember the AutoFormat command from the “good old days” of Word. This was a great timesaver when someone sent you a badly formatted document, such as an email message with a paragraph break at the end of every line, that you needed to turn into an easily editable Word document. When Microsoft introduced the Ribbon interface with Office 2007, the AutoFormat command wasn't on it, but you can make it return. You can add it to the Quick Access Toolbar that appears above the Ribbon's tabs by clicking on the down arrow at the right-hand end of the Quick Access Toolbar, and then clicking on More Commands. In the dropdown menu under "Choose commands from," select Commands Not in the Ribbon. From the list that appears, click on AutoFormat, then the Add button, and then OK. Follow a similar procedure to put any other command that you want to access swiftly on the Quick Access Toolbar.

Make Word warn you when you save or print a file with tracked revisions

If you ever use revision tracking in your Word documents, you've probably made the mistake of sending out a document with your revisions still present in your file, and easily visible to anyone who turns on the option to display revisions and changes. Word 2010 was the first version of the program in which Microsoft finally added a dignity-saving security option that warns you whenever you try to save or print a document that contains revision information, or when you try to email it from Word's menus. To turn on this warning, go to the File menu, then Options, then Trust Centre. Click on Trust Centre Settings..., then Privacy Settings, and add a checkmark next to "Warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains tracked changes or comments."

Turn off Word's red and green squiggly lines

This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, and indeed Word 2013. If you don't want to see Word put red squiggly lines under words that aren't in its dictionary, and you don't want green squiggly lines under phrases that don't match Word's grammatical rules, navigate to File, Options, Proofing, and clear the checkbox next to "Check spelling as you type" (that gets rid of the red squiggly lines) and "Mark grammar errors as you type" (that gets rid of the green ones). You'll now need to get into the habit of starting a spell check by pressing F7 or going to the Review tab and clicking Spelling & Grammar. If you don't want Word to check grammar while it checks spelling, clear the checkbox in the Proofing menu next to (you guessed it) "Check grammar with spelling."